Sunday, April 16, 2006

Will Video Overtake Rich Ads?

Author: Dorian Sweet

Every day an article's published about how online enables free video content from major TV network programming. If you haven't read these articles online, you could probably watch the shows on TV and they'll tell you to go to the Web to view them again. TV broadcasters want you to go online and watch full shows for free.

Disney reportedly will offer its content online in a forced-advertising player that allows viewers to forward, pause, and rewind ads, but not skip them. What gets me is how Disney's telling its advertisers this will work out, but that's for later in our program.

Is this an end run around the DVR and on-demand time-shifters who avoid the TV advertising glut? Maybe. Then again, it could be all that TV broadcasters can do to survive: being where their audience spends more and more of its time.

"Video neutrality" has leveled the content distribution playing field. You can now watch a TV show tonight in the comfort of your living room or watch it online tomorrow for no cost. Is this really neutrality? For the audience it is. But for the advertisers buying :30 spots on the show, it could be perceived as an online value-add gyp... or benefit.

Brand advertisers that spend big bucks on broadcast spots will be grinding on the bone of contention with publishers who so much as mention charging for online, even if the TV spots do force commercial viewing. Is that really an ad model? Or is it just a quick way to avoid being neutered by online advertising? Maybe there's a new term here: "video neutering," video
neutrality's sad, sinister cousin.

The other option? We fall into a series of technology trends that influence advertisers to jump online with guarantees of impressions, richness, and a captive audience that can't wait to see small-format, digitally compressed shows while they do many other things online. Seems like a stretch to me.

Big brand advertisers should pay close attention to the fact online video isn't the panacea for the digital shift in their audience. At least, not yet.

Will this TV exodus to online going to overtake rich advertising? I don't profess any sure answers, just possibilities. If video wins the day, we'll surely miss a large quantity of great learning from rich media advertising. Video won't allow brand marketers the measurement detail they're used to or could enjoy with rich advertising.

Video is one element in an interactive experience (be it an ad or a Web site), not the whole experience. Most people don't make the distinction between video and a rich media banner ad in terms of advertising, but here's the issue at the core of the video onslaught:

Video isn't truly interactive.

Sure, you can interact with it. But you can't do much more than control the play (the cue points in the video), and where you control play isn't trackable, either. It's a very lo-fi interactive ad. It's a different story if you allow users to post comments or share, but a lot of the time we only see that on video sites such as IFILM and YouTube.

On the other hand, a rich media ad provides marketers with a multitude of interactions to track; too many, in some cases. As I've said before, there's a real opportunity in valuing an online ad interaction in league with conversions, unaided awareness, and the whole host of brand and direct response metrics out there.

As we push forward into the great unknown of interaction through digital media, we must remember a content shift isn't a forerunner of things to come but a reality that's already here. What's coming is the possibility to allow every image we see on a screen to no longer be static but to be the beginning of an interactive experience.

Oh, and we should have fun while we're getting there, too.

Join us for our Online Video Advertising Forum in New York City, June 16, 2006.
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About the Author: Dorian Sweet's is the executive creative director at Tribal DDB's San Francisco office, where he leads strategic development and innovation in online advertising, Web development, and customer relationship management programs. Previously, he brought award winning online solutions to such clients as Miller Brewing Company, GE, Visa, eBay, British Airways, Wells Fargo, Discovery Networks, Motorola, Kodak, Sears, 20th Century Fox, and others.


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