Pick A Format - Please?!

There were two recent developments that caught my eye and got me thinking about online video formats. The first, which I applaud, was MSN's decision to scale back on pre-roll ads within the MSN Video channel. I think it's great, because the user was squarely placed as the No. 1 reason for this decision. By maintaining a proper ad-to-content-time-spent ratio, MSN just may end up with more video views and a more engaged audience - and ad dollars to boot.

The second, which brought much audience ire, was YouTube's decision to place Video Egg-Like overlay ads in front of too many videos. As a result, the user experience suffered, with a number of user complaints chronicled in the trades.

Thus the video ad Format Wars have begun. There were skirmishes before, but it's an all-out brawl these days. We need t look no further than pre-roll video ads. The requirements range from five to 30 seconds -- depending on whom you speak with -- for an intro billboard with a post-roll that piques your interest. If you're in long-form content (let's say a TV show online), you can participate in commercial pods with either :15 or :30 spots. It's amazing the choices we have, and how complicated we've made things for ourselves, just when speaking of placing video ads within video content.



As if that wasn't enough, we've gone ahead and created a whole new slate of options for advertising within, and around, video content. The options range from overlay ads that appear for a few seconds above the lower third of the video window, to sponsoring a custom channel of like-minded video content. There are always surrounding banners and the adjacent 300x250 that many players afford, but with the player being less and less fixed, in that users are taking players with them like (or as) widgets. Content creators are losing the opportunity to garner revenue --which has resulted in the creation of things like the CBS Audience Network. And did I mention syndication with product placement? Just ask Broadband Enterprises about Cube Fabulous, and you will see how online syndication can easily drive audience viewership without users being tied to one destination.

The future looks no less complicated, with technologies like hot-spotting added to the mix. Imagine a world of video online where every product within a video clip represents an opportunity to purchase. Love the car Jack Bauer drives? Well, just highlight the car by rolling over it, give it a click, enter your zip code, and a dealer will be made available to you. Really love the kitchen where Rachael Ray cooks, and all her gadgets? Running low on your top-notch E-V-O-O and other ingredients? It's all just a rollover and a click or two away.

So what's a planner/buyer to do? I haven't the foggiest idea, but it's good to know there are options that suit your client's every need -- and then some.


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