Is this sheer laziness? Is it genuine distraction, caused by anything labeled "social"? Or something we've all just become content to live with?
In this creative's view, 2009 has to be the year that ad-sponsored online video goes somewhere new. We need to quit relying solely on the backend plumbers and technologists who just add more functionality to video windows -- and, instead, start focusing on the poetry part of the video business: new video narrative structures and applications that will help move the space forward.
Despite those who think we're in for a video slowdown along with every other form of digital media spend, there's still room for lots of innovation around video ad units before we all advise our clients that chasing friendships in social networks is the next Holy Grail.
Here are three examples of using video differently, each of which, you can be sure, will make more of an impression than your average pre-roll:
1) Video clips in email: Instead of the numerous links to video and posts to video links that appear everyday on your phone, in your email, on your Facebook page, etc., isn't about time we let consumers start editing their own favorite content clips and then actually EMBED THE CLIP into email rather than just sending a link? Admittedly, HULU comes close by allowing consumers to edit their own clips and forward a link. But think how much more powerfully you could make your point by punctuating it with say, a clip of Jack Nicholson's immortal line from "A Few Good Men": "'Are we clear?' I said, ‘ARE WE CLEAR?'" Last time I checked, email was still far and away the most popular activity on the Web. Just imagine if we figured out a way to start embedding video into email without it being blocked and concurrently found a way to charge per clip use. How much could we put email on steroids and content clips on ecommerce?
2) Non-linear video: This one makes most creatives' heads spin. The idea of using a pre-roll primarily to tease and then create different ending narratives based on consumer choice or pre-set business rules (as in Visible World's TV application) is something more akin to gaming narrative than commercial copywriting. Maybe that's why so few creative agencies have had the courage to go down this multi-forked road. Samsung's "Follow your Instinct" videos on YouTube begin to demonstrate the engagement possibilities of thinking this way. We just need more agencies writing and shooting this way -- and the possibilities for advertisers just multiply.
3) Video click-to-commerce: OK, so this one has been around a while (also known as the "buy Jennifer Aniston's sweater" application), but has yielded mostly inelegant flash layer experiences developed by backend guys. Instead, it's time we saw more seamless user-centric experiences developed by writers, designers AND developers. With all the behind-the-scenes fashion- and retail-oriented video being posted these days, all it takes is a smart team of visual and information designers to come together (on what will most likely be a fashion or retail brand or publishing site) to bring us a more polite video click-to-commerce experience. Once this tree falls in the forest, I would bet there will be lots of e-retailers who have been patiently waiting to hear the call and will join in.
These are just three of a variety of video ad unit innovations that this creative predicts will soon come to a publisher near you.
Even while many advertisers and agencies seem to be obsessing about how to join the social networking craze, 2009 will likely become the year that necessity finally becomes the mother of invention across many digital platforms. And one thing's for certain. If this IS the year we finally see the video ad revolution, it definitely won't be televised -- at least until IPTV becomes much more robust. And that's not likely to happen this year, or maybe even the next.
More on that next month. Until then, Happy Video New Year.