Q&A: Scott Symonds, GM of media, search and analytics, AKQA

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Scott Symonds
Scott Symonds

Scott Symonds, GM of media, search and analytics at AKQA, says online video has vast growth potential.

Q: Several recent forecasts have predicted that online advertising spending will rival TV spending within the next four years. Is that what you're seeing?

A: We're definitely seeing a trend towards brand spending moving online. It's something I thought we'd see three or four years ago, but now it's coming on as the richness of online's capability from video to rich media and even mobile is getting the attention of brand advertisers. Even Apple's iAd had helped drive a brand awareness capability in mobile. 

Q: AKQA has a lot of automotive clients, and that industry includes some of the largest brand advertisers. Based on your 
experience with those clients, do you think online spend will rival TV spend by 2015, as the forecasts indicate?

A: Auto definitely has been an early and robust supporter of digital media. Automakers saw high efficacy in banners that led to configuration, dealer appointments and car purchases. Auto has been a driver. The industry has been an early adopter of mobile as well. 

The hard part of predicting 2015 is what is the difference between digital and TV if Apple TV, Netflix, on-demand and a digitized version of Comcast comes around. We're certainly seeing clients move budgets from TV to online video, and online video's only about $1.2 billion of digital advertising. So I think it has massive growth potential versus what TV spend has. 

Q: But it doesn't seem like advertisers are taking advantage of all the interactive capabilities of online video ads.

A: That's true. We see that TV ads are getting repurposed in online video. That can be fine, but there's room for a lot more interactivity and different lengths. The good news for those in the digital business is that we're seeing money move to online video. The bad news is a repurposed TV ad is not the best use of online.

Q: Is it possible for an advertiser like The Coca-Cola Co. which sponsors American Idol, to encode its product in an online streaming version of the show so that a consumer could click on a Coke can and receive a digital coupon or sign up for a sweepstakes?

A: It's called hotspotting, where you can identify portions of the video that can be dynamically clickable. That's one example of things you can do with video. You can even control your own destiny and have multiple ends or events that you can track differently within video. Or you can even serve video dynamically based on the user, whether he is a known or new user and whether he 
is in a hot climate or a cold 
climate. You can do that with TV a little bit, but there's a lot more dynamic capability with online.

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