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Unicast Adds Direct Response to Web Commercials

Unicast updated its Web commercial online ad unit this week with more prominent direct response capabilities.

The new capabilities let advertisers meld branding and response by showing a 15- or 30-second video clip alongside interactive response options, such as a sweepstakes entry form or product sample offer.

“This is really combining the direct marketing of the Internet with the branding of television,” said Allie Savarino, senior vice president at Unicast.

Unicast's Video Commercial is a 2-megabyte, full-screen ad built on the Microsoft Windows Media 9 Series platform and plays between pages. Thanks to Unicast's caching technology, the ad plays immediately, without the buffering and loading time needed for streaming video.

Savarino said 50 advertisers, including Pepsi, McDonald's and Honda, have run campaigns using the format since its introduction in January. More than 60 publisher sites, including About.com, BusinessWeek Online and ESPN.com, accept the Web commercial.

Instead of simply repurposing TV commercials to run online, advertisers now can gear ads to use the Web's interactivity. For example, a movie studio can let viewers choose different clips to see, or an automaker could include a dealer-locator option.

The first wave of Unicast Web commercials introduced interactive options only after the entire ad played. According to Unicast's statistics, 68 percent of users never reach the end of the ad.

“You're going to see more creativity,” Savarino said.

Avenue A, OgilvyInteractive and RPA plan to start campaigns in June. Savarino said Unicast had strong demand from publishers, who are charging $20 to $25 per thousand impressions.

A Unicast-sponsored Dynamic Logic study of the first wave of Web commercials found that 28 percent of Internet users said the units annoyed them, a comparable number to those who say they are bothered by TV commercials in separate studies.

Dynamic Logic also found that the Unicast ads raised consumer response metrics compared with its database of consumer reactions to other online ad campaigns. Compared with the control set, the Unicast ads bumped up brand awareness 54 percent, message association 144 percent, brand favorability 40 percent and purchase intent 47 percent.

“If these type of creative formats deliver on their promise, it will take out a lot of other junk,” Savarino said.

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