In my last column, I speculated that a Google acquisition of blinkx could give the search giant a huge boost in video search. In turn, better video search capabilities would improve the current consumer online video experience by providing more relevant and less-interruptive advertising -- thus, helping Google better monetize YouTube without annoying its users.
A faithful Search Insider reader -- Todd Rose from Ingenio -- challenged me to explain just how this would be the case. As Rose put it, “The beauty of query marketing today is that consumers can instantaneously choose whether to ignore or to act on advertising. Text ads on a Web search represent a non-linear experience, i.e. the consumer does not have to view the advertising in order to get to other content. But with video, the consumer must spend time consuming the content in order for the marketer to get his message across and in order to make a decision. By definition, video is a linear experience.”
Rose’s comments are on-point. Historically, video has been a linear experience. However, this is changing. The proliferation of long-tail online video content and broadband penetration has enabled consumers to jump from video to video at the same speed at which they consume text-based Web content. In the “lean-forward” online environment, video consumption is less linear than the “lean-back” TV environment.
That said, to Rose’s point, most ad-supported online video today features pre/post-roll commercials. In that respect, consumption of content and advertising is linear -- the ad plays, then the video plays, or vice versa. In this context, while online video advertising can be relevant -- if advanced targeting features are deployed -- but it is still interruptive.
This underscores the importance of bringing search advertising -- or, more specifically, query marketing -- to the online video world. Here are some ways this can be done.
Point-of-Query Video or Text Ads
One application is to mirror the current text-based search results page with ads displayed at the point-of-query. This is simply a video search results page with “natural” results -- links to video content -- surrounded by “sponsored” results -- links to advertisers’ videos or Web sites. If marketers do a good job targeting their ads to relevant queries, there’s no reason these ad placements won’t be as effective as a standard Google AdWords campaign – and perhaps even more so in the case of video ads given the benefits of sight, sound, and motion.
No matter how compelling an advertiser’s message is at the point-of-query, there are always going to be consumers who simply want to get the content they’re looking for with no distractions. So how do you monetize online video against the 70-99.9% of people who don’t click on an ad on a search results page? By targeting those consumers in the post-query environment based on their initial query and/or the content they are viewing.
As for the format of these ads -- it could be subtle text-listings surrounding the video player (similar to Content Match listings but with an algorithm like blinkx’s that can incorporate advanced recognition technology). For longer-form video, it could be a ticker scrolling at the bottom of the video with short text ads based on what’s appearing on the screen at any given moment. Or it could be click-to-play video ads that appear following the original content or surrounding the content while it’s playing (consumer initiation being the key component here).
The recently released SEMPO 2006 State of the Market study shows that 66% of all advertisers would be interested in contextually targeted advertising attached to video search results. And, when asked whether they preferred those ads to be video-based or text-based, video was the heavy favorite. However, video ads are more expensive to produce, so it would probably take Google buying a company like Spot Runner -- which has a platform for fast, inexpensive video production -- for video ads to really gain traction across its base of 400,000+ advertisers.
Post-Query Integrated Ads
Blurring the line between content and advertising (and interruptive and non-interruptive) is integrated video advertising or, as I like to call it, “product placement that clicks.” Examples of this format are quickly emerging and highly innovative. In a recent column, fellow Search Insider David Berkowitz highlighted a few companies that are deploying video hotspotting technology. This allows consumers to click within video content to get more information about a particular person, product, etc. In this setting, the query takes on a different form -- rather than submitting keywords to retrieve relevant info, consumers click directly on the things they would like to know more about. In that respect, it’s similar to platforms like IntelliTXT in which keywords within text-based content are hyperlinked to a marketing message.
At the end of the day, when it comes to monetizing online video, I just don’t think pre/post-roll ads are the answer. While it gives traditional marketers and agencies an easy way to repurpose TV spots and mirror the TV ad buying process, it is increasingly alienating an audience that wants its content on-demand and uninterrupted. And it limits the potential for effective marketing across the long-tail by creating a barrier to entry for niche advertisers.
Ads in the emerging digital media world must be hyper-relevant and non-interruptive. These are the lessons learned from search. For online video to best meet the needs of publishers, advertisers, and consumers alike, only a robust query marketing solution will do. Otherwise, we’ll see the iTunes model emerge as the preferred method of monetization, effectively locking advertisers out of this rapidly growing medium. And, if that happens, who knows what advertisers will turn to next -- at best, more Bud.tv-style executions and, at worst, more egg-streme alternatives to attract eyeballs. Hopefully, GoogTube can make it happen before the yolk is on them.