Should Video Impressions Be Gross?

Gross Impressions. I must have said those two words together hundreds of times, though I never really thought much about the implications.  I should be more careful when speaking about impressions being “gross.”  Business reasons aside, it’s just not considerate.  It’s a new year, and a new resolution is in order.  So let’s look at both sides of the issue before I make it stick:

Yuck!  Gross is BAD

I highly doubt that marketers want consumers to walk away feeling gross after seeing their advertising, and consumers would probably agree with that sentiment.  Believe me --  being “gross” is not a good thing for anyone.  Ironically, we mostly view pricing for online video on a gross impression basis, particularly when purchasing TV programs like ” Lost” or “The Office”for broadband. That’s because it’s easier to package the opportunity by branding it as “exclusive,” rather than do what’s possibly best for the audience -- offering a mix of different ad messages to avoid overexposure to the same ad.

It’s normal to think that way, as overexposure happens on TV broadcasts all the time.  As an avid watcher of pro football and baseball, I see the same ads, from the same sponsors, over and over again during the same broadcast.  After 10 exposures to the same TV spot over 30 to 90 minutes, I can become annoyed enough to forget the first half of the New York (football) Giants game ever happened.  But that $2.99 Wendy’s value meal whistle won’t stop playing in my head.  Speaking of which, I am kind of hungry…

Anyway, most advertisers don’t have any creative except what airs on broadcast TV, so if you think tailored Web video ads are optimal, think again -- a brand may only own the rights for one 30-second spot that can run online.

Pricing for TV reruns online also tends to be higher than either standard online video or live TV.  And all an advertiser gets is basic impression data.  So much for online’s accountability claim.

Hooray!  Gross Is GOOD

Are things really that bad?  No way!  Marketers love being the only ad in town.  Exclusivity is an easy sell -- you own it and no one else does.  Has a nice ring to it. 

People have to see three video ads during an online rebroadcast of “CSI.”  If exposures are up, then recall will be up as well.  But the real opportunity for the brand is to tell a story.  The advertiser now has three 30-second episodes to tell the brand’s story and create added viewing value for the audience. 

With additional placements on the Web page itself, the marketer can build Web site traffic so that users get exposed to even more mini-series content.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  Frequency builds the brand, engagement starts inside the program, and continues on the Web site.  And, with the additional measurement of online, agencies can better prepare for planning in an IPTV world that encourages time- and/or place-shifting of content viewership.  Though network Web sites are now only on the cusp of advanced reporting, they’ll get to that new world soon enough.

The Jury is Still Out

There appear to be excellent reasons for seeing gross as either bad or good.  But one question remains: Should we value each impression exactly the same?  Maybe it is time to begin looking at this on a unique reach basis -- by “pod,” where the first ad is worth more than the middle or last.  Or will research tell us something different?

Speaking of research, is anyone conducting ongoing user studies at all?  The industry needs to generate insights into some of the above issues on audience experience, “pod” valuation and data beyond total impressions.  Plus, the creative product inserted must be customized to the experience.  Too much money is being invested in video inventory to low-ball the investment in communication.  And with rich media vendors drooling to serve ads in-stream, it’s only a matter of time until serving video in-stream is commonplace. 

So for now, “gross” and “impressions” can stay together… but not forever.

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