Digital Options: Immerse, Then Pitch

At OMMA Video this week, I was surprised to run into Ujjal Kohli, CEO of Rhythm New Media. I quickly rescinded my surprise when I realized I was thinking too vertically -- by technology rather than horizontally by media.

The show focused mainly on Web video, from Hulu to GeekBriefs, skinned players to overlays, but as Ujjal reminded me, all of these topics foreshadow what will eventually happen on mobile. Controversies over programming types, formats and especially ad units in Web video only get larger as the screen gets smaller. So now I reverse my initial surprise. Why weren't more of you mobilistias there?

Seeing Ujjal reminded me of an earlier conversation we had about a BMW campaign Rhythm flew on its free ad-supported video network on 3 in the UK. Running in September last year for the new 1 Series Coupe, the campaign created a one-two punch out of branding and call-to-action. As a reminder, Rhythm runs an opt-in video network for 3 customers. Signing up with minimal age and gender information gives users wholly free video programming.



This campaign used a familiar branding video pre-roll demonstrating the 1 Series in action, followed by banners that offered test drives, brochures, local dealer info at a dedicated landing site. Using the opt-in data for targeting, the ads hit only the 25-to-34-year-old segment BMW wanted for its more affordable model. The combination of the video plus banner resulted in a 7.72% CTR on the latter -- and a 67% increase in WAP traffic to the landing site.

Ujjal likens this combination to a compressed version of the old way of planning an auto pitch. Buyers used to do branding in a TV ad at night and then put the offer in the morning newspaper. Brand at night and make the pitch in the morning when people could act on it.

"The power we have is the branding and the offer in the same medium at the same moment," he says. Rhythm used its internal post-campaign measurement to claim that all brand metrics went up substantially as well: prompted recall (60% lift), brand message attribution (54%), and spontaneous awareness recall (23%).

Of course, just about every digital ad format I have seen in the past 15 years leaves the gate with impressive response and brand metrics. Otherwise, why tout them at all? But when it comes to mobile, we do know already that the narrow share of voice on the smallest screen seems to be sustaining strong CTRs. If you combine that effect with video and a surround session of multiple ads, then you may have a unique way of claiming a high level of engagement on a diminutive device.

"It is one of the last most interesting places to give immersive advertising," Ujjal argues.

Unlike Web video pre-rolls, mobile video is not in a multitasking environment where someone does a quick email check in response to a video ad. He has a point, I think. Counter-intuitively, the smallest screen may require the highest level of involvement. I liken this to the hi-res principle I also see on small screens. The LG phone I use for Verizon VCast Mobile TV, my 5G iPod and the iPhone all share a common technical strength -- high pixel counts that make even TV programming involving on a tiny screen.

I am surprised that mobile video on a 2-inch screen can be so involving when it is visually sharp, fluid, with good sound. In other words, tiny video with the attributes of larger experiences overcome some of the size differential. Like the guy who gets you to listen more carefully by using softer tones, the mobile screen makes you work a little harder by getting in close, but it focuses attention.

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