Making Online Video Advertising Sellable

Madison Avenue has received many calls to action on innovating online video advertising. Heck, I have even gotten caught up in blaming ad execs for the slow adoption. But, I am starting to wonder, is the delay really on them? Or could some of the responsibility fall to publishers, ad networks and exchanges?

Marketers want to get in the online video ad game without a doubt. But a lack of standards and a knowledge gap are affecting the follow-through. Advertisers and ad agencies aren't getting the information they need to justify the value of online video ads.

What do advertisers need to know?

 Ad units. With so many ad units, a lack of creative standards has caused a great deal of confusion. Advertisers need to understand and evaluate the options available. Examples include but are not limited to the following:

  • In-stream videos -- pre/mid/post-roll, usually accompanied by companion banners (e.g. - 300x250)
  • In-stream banners (a.k.a., tickers, overlays or bugs) --  banners that appear in the player at some point during video consumption. 
    • Direct response banners -- when clicked, the user is delivered to another site. The advertiser is charged on a cost-per-click basis. Typically targeting is context.
    • Branded banners
        • Banner click spawns a new window -- the advertiser is charged on a CPM basis regardless of how the number of clicks. 
        • User-Initiated video ads --a banner click pauses content and plays a commercial. The advertiser is charged on a CPM basis for banner impressions, regardless of the number of plays that result from banner clicks. Another click delivers users to the advertiser's Web site.
  • Interactive video ads -- Placed before or after a video stream, interactive display ads invite consumer engagement before moving on to video content. Interactive elements allow consumers to find out more information without leaving the site.
  • Video banner ads -- ot associated with video content, these video ads play automatically (generally muted) on a page or play when rolled over by a mouse. 
  • Player skin -- sponsored ad graphics that surround a video screen. 


Terms. Lack of creative standards encourages multiple business models as well. Advertisers need to know what they are paying for (example, CPM, CPC or CPA) and they need to understand the payment method -- is this going to be an insertion order with net terms, or is payment required up front? Is there a minimum buy, or can the advertiser pull the campaign at any time -- like sponsored search? Also consider, how can the costs be fixed and budgeted over a campaign?

Production requirements, targeting capabilities. Will advertisers need to provide and/or produce new video assets? Do they need to consider specific files sizes or formats, video length, etc.? Depending on the depth of a solutions provider's target ability, how much information can they provide on the demographics they are looking to reach (example, region, city, state, zip, gender, daypart, etc.)?  Can elements of the ad be customized dynamically based on the above targets?

Tracking. One of the most confusing aspects of this medium is who actually hosts and serves the ad -- especially confusing with the various vendors and third-party ad servers available. This begs the question, how does the advertiser track the performance of the campaign? Advertisers should find out who serves the ad and how that company applies third-party ad tags to track the amount of a video that was viewed, how users interact with the commercial, and then apply tracking beyond the video ad itself so they can determine performance on the Web site. 

Observe and Optimize. This is an emerging media, so it's important that the advertiser's expectations are managed as such. Online video advertising has tremendous potential, but still, it takes time to figure it all out. Track and see what happens with the online video ad campaign. Review results on a consistent basis, tweak messaging and adjust your advertising program and the campaign.

Think back to the early days of search. It wasn't gang-busters in the beginning. But, diligent search marketers mined their data and learned how to develop and execute effective search marketing campaigns. That is what we can expect as online video advertising blooms. To help the process along, let's help the advertisers.

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