Online video ads hold promise: DM Days’ panel

NEW YORK – Online broadband video, though still a fledgling medium, shows great potential for direct marketers looking to tap into the millions of Web users viewing online content, according to a panel at DM Days New York last week.

High-speed broadband videos and on-demand clips that can be watched on a computer or cell phone through a Web site are already reaching a large audience.

“If you can figure out how to do it right, there is high potential for generating leads,” said Gay Sussman, president of ID Media, New York, a direct and interactive media services firm. “Broadband is already reaching a critical mass, with about half of all households having a broadband video connection and 70 percent of users having an online broadband connection.”

Ms. Sussman was speaking on the “Broadband Video Best Practices for Direct Response” panel about best practices for making broadband video successful for direct response. They talked specifically about media buying, creative development, consumer experience on Web sites, improving conversion, ROI potential and vendor experience. The two types of broadband video ads, in-stream and in-banner ads, represent new revenue streams for direct marketers.

In-stream ads appear before, during or after online video clips (also called pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll ads). Pre-roll ads, the most prevalent form, are limited to 15 or 30 seconds.

“People are getting strict about this as they don’t want to jeopardize the user experience,” said Julie Winston, vice president and management supervisor at The Sloan Group. “They are reluctant to go to 60-second spots.”

Ms. Sussman agreed: “They are definitely tending to keep to shorter rather than longer ads. The value of mid- and post-roll spots is still very questionable.”

One advantage for direct marketers using in-stream ads is that the ads are often accompanied by a banner that stays on the viewer’s screen whether the video is running or not, before, during and after the clip is played.

The second kind of broadband video ad is the in-banner video, a user-initiated ad that users push a button to play, though some in-banner ads do launch automatically.

Ms. Sussman said the landing page is critical to conversion.

“So test different versions of landing pages, keep it simple and limit questions for viewers to answer, if any,” she said. “The landing page should be similar to the original banner ad that was clicked on so that viewers do not experience anything too jarring when they land on the page.”

An advantage that broadband video ads have over TV ads is that viewers are more active when they are in front of a computer. There is also less clutter with broadband video with just one video ad being rolled before a clip is viewed. On TV, viewers typically see three or four ads, or more.

Perhaps more important to direct marketers, online video is highly targetable, according to Joshua Martin, director of emerging media at ID Media.

“The key demographic is a younger audience, about 25 to 40 years old, who spend a lot of time online and don’t watch as much TV,” Ms. Winston added. “So they are much more targetable with online video. The key is to develop a creative that will convey a message effectively.”

So where do marketers get started with online video? Mr. Martin suggests starting with your target audience.

“Then, be careful with content you use,” he said. “Advertise on news sites and entertainment sites where users are comfortable looking at video. The benefit is being able to target and track prospects and tell where they are going.”

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