And The Pre-roll Stands Alone?

With the buzz about all things video, it's hard to ignore the hyper-focus on pre-roll spots. Pre-roll makes up a small percentage of the available interactive video inventory, and it's the simplest way to utilize the Internet for sight, sound and motion.

It's easy to see why. Pre-roll is the most like traditional TV commercials, but with increased accountability, a more engaged user due to its on-demand format, and a handy "interactive" component. Advertisers get it. Broadcast buying groups get it. So we're done, right? Sadly, I can't retire just yet, so here's some of the low-hanging video 2.0s I'm tracking.

Pre-Roll V2.0--Rich Media Companion Banners. Results to date show that video works effectively in pre-roll placements, and we know rich media units are more successful than basic banners at engaging users, allowing them to further explore a conversation with a brand. I am shocked to see how reluctant publishers are to allow rich media within the video companion ad unit. "Nobody is asking for this" is not an acceptable reason to ignore a solution that will be an obvious improvement to the current model.

I've heard the editorial arguments around expandable units covering video content and the concern of distracting "flashy" units, but how is this different from the accepted rich media placements? If the units are truly user-initiated, then it ties back to the entire on-demand model that consumers have embraced. If I want to watch a video clip, I'll do it when I want. If I want to change my mind and learn a little bit about something that just caught my eye, I'll do it. If not, I won't. (Wow, it's scary how today's media consumption model is so toddler-esque. Oh, well. I'm all for regression in some ways. I still run with scissors.)

In-Banner Video V2.0--How can we improve on this? Aside from layering all the contextual, behavioral, geo, demo, search-focused, registration-based and you-name-it targetability on an in-banner video buy, is this tapped out?

User-generated video (Advertiser Beta)--How can we leverage the enormous amount of user-generated video content for our advertisers? Beyond pre-roll, I mean? I acknowledge that this presents a host of legal issues for most advertisers, but it's a welcome challenge to present more solutions that allow advertiser to control the environment enough to feel comfortable, without totally destroying the user's sense of creativity.

Advertainment (National release)-- Advertisers and creative agencies have the unparalleled opportunity here to become the content producers. (Come on, who hasn't wanted to create their own TV show???) Whether a brand partners with a known publisher to craft a hybrid of entertainment and brand education, or strikes off to become the next Mark Burnett themselves, there really are no limits here. Webisodes. "Planted," branded, user-generated content. Video Podcasts. Episodic Downloadable Video games.

I'm as much to blame for embracing pre-roll and evangelizing it to all my clients. But I also realize that as soon as a brand gets comfortable with pre-roll as part of its media mix, it's time to push them right back out of the comfort zone with Video 2.0. It's our job, as the leaders in strategic digital thinking, to take video to the next level. The best thing we can do now is to continue to challenge the formats that have shown sparkles of success, and see what we just might come up with.

Scratch and Sniff video? OK, they aren't all good ideas.

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