The Tale Of The Tape: In-Page Vs. In-Stream

Decisions, decisions. Paper or plastic? Coffee or tea? Yankees or Mets?

For advertisers preparing to launch an online video campaign, add a new one to the list: in-page or in-stream.

With the buzz surrounding online video, advertisers need to separate the wheat from the chaff. Once a decision is made to include video in an online media plan, it's time to decide which format will most effectively support the communication.


The term "in-page video" refers to video ads within a graphical unit (banner ad) on the Web page. In-page video advertising offers flexibility, direct response elements, inventory and reporting, but it's easily ignored, and there are a lot of wasted impressions.

Pros: In-page is the best approach for advertisers looking to combine the elements of an online direct response campaign with video. Registration fields, games, clickable graphics, and custom implementations of user interaction--the building blocks of interactive banners--all can be deployed within the creative of an in-page ad unit with video.

Since in-page video can play in virtually any shape, size or duration and can incorporate user interactivity, the flexibility of in-page video can be a distinct advantage when the creative makes use of video that's outside of the standard 320x240 box. It's also more cost-effective, with a ton of available inventory (billions of available graphical impressions on top Web sites and networks), easier to implement from a technical standpoint--publishers have standard sizes and processes-- and more easily tracked and reported.   

Cons: On the downside, if users aren't expecting video or don't want to watch video, they may not have their audio turned on, or they may be engaged with other tasks, so it's easy for them to ignore the in-page video ad.

An in-page buy typically leaves a lot of wasted impressions on the table, especially with click-to-play as well as roll-overs, where only a small percentage of users actually initiate the video. When buying impressions, advertisers are not going to see a high ratio of impressions delivered to video ads served and seen by users.


The term "in-stream video" refers to video ads that are inserted in the stream of online video content (pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll, within the player). The advantages of in-stream video are the benefits of the television-like format combined with the advanced measurement and targeting capabilities of online. The cons include lack of flexibility and expense.

Pros: In-stream is the way to go for marketers looking to get a brand boost with engaged consumers. Users have chosen to watch the video content, so their audio is on and they're less likely to be distracted. Users are accustomed to the television format with ads inserted in the content, so it doesn't feel out-of-place. And, since this format is online, marketers can take advantage of the technical campaign features that are lacking with TV--precise measurement, user targeting (behavioral, contextual), frequency capping, real-time campaign optimization, companion ads for additional interactivity, etc.

Since most video publishers do not allow users to skip the video ads, marketers get an approximately 1:1 impression to video play ratio, avoiding wasted impressions.

Cons: Since in-stream is a relatively new format for most publishers, there's a lack of definitive standards among multiple placements, creating more work for agencies. There is less in-stream video inventory available per publisher making the real estate more expensive and unless an in-stream network is incorporated, many buys may be required to fully deliver a large budget. Lastly, because it such a new format, there currently isn't a lot of flexibility in the size, shape or duration of ads and the tracking tools are less developed than for standard graphical units.

And the Winner ...

It really boils down to the goals of the campaign (branding or direct response), the budget, and the desired user experience. Both formats are extremely effective compared to standard graphical units. And both formats have significant advantages over television.

By the way, it's paper, coffee--and the Mets.

Correction: Due to an editing error, the "Video Insider" column for June 5 was originally published without its final paragraph. Click here to read the complete article.  

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