Commentary

Narrowcasting Is Not Targeting

Allow me to remind the media planners and buyers, marketers, clients and publishers that waste is a bad thing. Spill isn't too positive either, but we'll save those tears for later. It's a widely held truth that the mass market isn't all that mass anymore, even on TV. So instead of buying a spot on "Survivor" over the summer, maybe, just maybe, I can more effectively reach my prospects in-market through an online video plan.

But that's not how video online is planned these days. Typically the conversation starts off with someone saying they "have to be there" and only have one approved TV spot to reuse online. Then, it's about the video space growing and establishing bases or beating competitors. Heck -- you'll even pay CPMs through the nose to own a program across multiple platforms with category exclusivity. Most notably, the effort is absent of the essentials like guarantees, proper measurement or tracking, and no more than one 30-second spot to use everywhere. Even the content is cut-downs of on-air programming, which only replicates the TV model for a different outlet. Believe me, I'm right there with you, and sometimes, ticking off the checklist helps clients begin the healing process in becoming an online video convert.

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A checklist of platforms is nice, but even less effective without proper targeting. That leads me to today's honest answer about video targeting: "No, I cannot plan or buy enough targeted video online." At this very moment, my ears are ringing. as I know for certain that there are some options to target by demographics or by context. Decent start, but how much should you purchase? Will the audience truly be engaged with the content or will it be all music videos that may be minimized more often than not? Is there a quality planning tool to estimate composition of video only, scale of streams, unique reach or pretty much anything that would ultimately result in development of a plan that's in line with TV expectations? In a word: nope.

Of course, this leads me right back to targeting being critical for campaign development. If you can't forecast GRPs, then the impressions better be reaching only the best prospects. Demographics are a starting point, but if you break down women 18-49, you can start by not knowing if the individual watching your video ad is a college student, single, engaged, married, a working mom with 2.1 kids or is CEO of a company. Who knows? She might even speak Spanish as her first language preference. The result is that your message may potentially be irrelevant to half of the individuals seeing it (or more) based on percent composition. How's that possible when I bought narrowcasted content, not broadcast? Sounds too much like today's TV model to me. Need examples? Look no further than the likes of AOL Video, the Ad Networks or the Network & Cable TV Web sites for composition-based or contextual solutions. Not terrible, but certainly not optimal.

If we truly want to target the individual, then we need to figure out a way to look at behaviors at multiple points throughout the decision-making process and apply it to video. My message will be very different depending on the intent of the user, not solely on the demographics. For now, our options remain limited to what each property can develop alone. Even if we could purchase behaviors, how many clients would build out unique video messages catering to each target segment -- or even have the budget, resources or asset rights to do it?

Hopefully, the future offers more than one 30-second commercial, and a target of women 18-49, as the foundation for targeted online video campaigns. What do you think?

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