Online video advertising – branding or direct response?

Jamie Estrin, MD of Web TV Enterprise, looks at ways in which brands can reach consumers.

Jamie Estrin
Jamie Estrin

The emergence of engaging and professionally produced video content on the internet has attracted a huge audience worldwide that’s growing every day. Along with new programming, channels and video clips, this content creates a unique mix of short and long form on-demand video that presents brand advertisers with the opportunity to target internet users while they’re consuming their chosen content .

The most popular format for monetising online video is currently the pre-roll ad spot, which starts prior to the video the user has selected to watch. Most pre-roll campaigns use the same creative ad spots that are run on linear TV – usually a cut down version of 10 or 20 seconds.

The online video space is very much in its infancy so the debate about creating specific ad spots for the web has only just begun and it will take time before advertisers begin to create unique ad spots for web video.

So with the current focus on the pre-roll ad spot, the next question is; what are advertisers aiming to achieve from their online video campaign? Is it incremental reach – branding – or direct response?

Online video can now offer TV advertisers large audiences as they look to build incremental reach to their linear TV campaigns. Measurement of branding still has many challenges but the metric of guaranteed engagement is pretty powerful. We know that every pre-roll ad spot featured on our media plans is being engaged with, and report these statistics as part of our analytics programme.

A key aspect to any branding campaign across online video is hitting the most appropriate content environments and target audiences. There are now hundreds of niche video channels on the web offering premium short and long-form content around all subjects including sport, entertainment, music, news, automotive, business, travel and more.

And with the iPad, smart phones and other portable devices all presenting new ways for consumers to engage with on-demand premium video content, the audience reach is only going to grow.

For brands looking for interaction and direct response, the pre-roll ad spot can deliver a 10 times higher click through rate than web standard display ads. This is not surprising considering the power of audio visual advertising and the fact there is a one-to-one guaranteed engagement with your brand.

Saying this, there are a number of points to consider before planning a direct response online video campaign. The first is; does the ad spot have a strong call to action? If it does, will your campaign be running within an environment where users are likely to interact?

Think about the user in a ’lean-back’ mode, starting their user session to catch-up on a 30-minute episode of their favourite show they missed the night before. .. I would argue that they are much less likely to interact with a pre-roll ad spot than a user who is online to view a shorter video clip or multiple videos.

If there is a weak or no call to action, then adding additional interaction points beyond the pre-roll could be key to achieving your objectives. The pre-roll ad spot presents the brand or product to the user but once the video ends, it will be the role of ’companion’ ads around the video player or interactive click points within the video clip itself to drive the user to find out more information about the advertiser’s product or service. Companion ads are usually display positions around the video player which continue to drive interaction once the video the user selected, starts playing.

Then comes all the clever stuff… there are a host of solutions being offered by publishers and technology companies to increase interaction rates. These include adding a branded skin around the player, adding hot spots within the video clip and transparent overlays appearing over the video being consumed.

OK, so I am the MD of a premium video ad network and of course I’m going to offer up a biased view about the benefits online video has to offer. But it is a fact that this area is exploding right now. Why?

It’s down to the fact that over the past 18 months most leading brand advertisers and agencies have tested pre-roll advertising and the results have been positively conclusive. Whether objectives are incremental reach, great targeting or direct response, online video offers a whole new way for advertisers to engage with their audiences.

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