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6 ways you're wasting money on video

6 ways you're wasting money on video Marc Mallett

Video has changed the online experience. In less than a decade, the web has gone from a very static text and picture driven domain to a media channel that is stealing eyeballs from TV. Online video is ubiquitous for consumers, which means it's very high on every marketer's media plan (or should be).

Yet even with maturation in video content and technology, advertisers are still not getting the most out of the channel. They know they need to be there, but they're not always sure of how to reach the right audience, drive the best results, and get a nice return on their investment. In short, they're making mistakes that are costing them money.

It's easy to understand why. After all, advertisers don't have decades of buying and campaign experience behind them like they do in TV, and online ad technology seems to develop another buzzword or strategy alternative every week.

With this in mind, here are a few common -- and very easy to fix -- ways that marketers are not getting the most out of their investment in digital video advertising.

Engagement metrics

While we're on the topic of monitoring campaigns, it's important that advertisers are actually aware of what to monitor. Tracking the wrong metrics ultimately amounts to wasted budget.

There are several different ways to measure an online video campaign. Completion rates are similar to TV ads, in that advertisers track how many people viewed an ad through to the end. Other advertisers utilizing video overlays or enhanced interactive elements may want to track engagement, which has multiple definitions unto itself. Engagement may include a mouse-over to activate an animation, or it may include a click to start a longer section of video. When marketers start measuring with these criteria, they need to get a clear definition of what everything means in order to ensure they're not wasting any spend.

There's another thorny issue with engagement as well, and that's playback method. Recent studies indicate that auto-play ads drive very different reactions compared to user-initiated, click-to-play pre-roll spots. Auto play drives high awareness, but may result in bad association. Click-to-play brings high engagement and higher intent to purchase a product.

If a campaign goal is to raise awareness in a short amount of time, an advertiser may want to go the auto-play route. If they want better engagement numbers and are attempting to drive a specific action, then they should develop a media plan around click-to-play.

Failure to distribute

Way back in 2007, Anheuser-Busch invested nearly $30 million dollars in an online video venture called bud.tv. It was slightly ahead of its time as one of the first sites to adopt the online TV network model that is so prevalent today, but it struggled to attract an audience and folded in 2009.

One big reason that bud.tv didn't take off was the idea that niche destination sites would attract major audiences online, enough to drive sales and justify the cost. The key takeaway is that online video is not a place where if you build it (or post it), the audience will come. Content marketing, especially in video, is heavily reliant on the message reaching an engaged audience. In today's video paradigm, the best way to do that is through a diversified distribution strategy, one that takes your video (whether it's branded content or a 30-second pre-roll) and syndicates it across sites.

Content creators and advertisers need to proactively seek out and find the best audiences for their message through working with partners, preferably those who are nonexclusive.

The alternative is to post a video on YouTube and hope that it receives enough traffic to justify all the money and man-hours put into the production. Brands alone aren't enough to drive visitors to standalone sites, nor are they going to drive views on big hubs like YouTube.

Broadcast TV online (BTVO) vs. web premium vs. user generated content (UGC)

This three-way battle is talked about time and time again, and is a conundrum as old as digital video itself. In the early days of YouTube, advertisers often pointed out that they didn't want to advertise in proximity to undesirable content. At the time, nearly everyone pointed to videos of skateboarding dogs or water skiing squirrels and wondered if there was a good reason to put a brand message on a site where anyone could upload content. "Quality" is debated quite often in video advertising circles, but you can't really argue that user-shot clips like this don't belong on the lower end of the spectrum.

The other issue is that premium content sometimes means controlled content, which can negatively impact reach and scale. Consumers can't share it as freely, or viewing is confined to one URL. Yes, as an advertiser you're getting a premier placement next to what is surely a great piece of content. But the audience is limited, and you're failing to hit the reach required to really deliver a message. If you're buying closed content without a true understanding of its limitations, you could be wasting money.

Following the "heard"

The pun is intended. There is a reactionary undercurrent running through online media where advertisers tend to chase trends that they hear are hot, rather than things that demonstrate a clear difference maker for a campaign. This is prevalent not just in video, but across the board, as agencies clients and publishers all jump at the concept, property, or platform du jour without checking how deep the pool is. Think about what you hear on a daily basis -- who isn't "disrupting" something right now?

Buzz is important, but I would counsel marketers to take a breath and really assess what the new element will achieve. Often times, advertisers get swept off their feet by what I call a "cocktail talk" campaign -- something that sounds smart and on the bleeding edge during happy hour, but moves the needle very little in terms of campaign objectives.

Every video service that a brand pays for should have a clear tie-in to the campaign goals. Weigh out each new buzzworthy company and technology. Taking a marked, measured approach could ultimately pay off bigger in the end.

Poor campaign management

Online video is not simply turning on a spigot and letting an outside vendor do the work. If a brand invests in video and checks in with its media partner only at the beginning and the end of the campaign, then its negligence is costing it money.

Too many brands are not engaged in their advertising campaigns and fail to work closely with the media providers. We hear all the time that brands get sour after looking at poor campaign performance after the fact, but those advertisers who monitor campaigns throughout can actually look at what's working, and optimize their strategy to maximize the performance. If the goal of the campaign is to raise awareness through completed ad views, and one type of content seems to be achieving a greater number of completions, then it makes sense to serve more ads against that content. It's not hard, but too many brands fail to understand the flexibility of video and the fact that, unlike TV, they can adjust the game plan mid-campaign.

Audience duplication

Many advertisers want to translate the TV buying model into online video. That is a much larger issue, and an ongoing one at that, so let's avoid diving into the minutia. Suffice it to say that the two just don't synch up quite yet. TV is about reach and frequency numbers. Online video, as we stated earlier, can be measured with engagement metrics and completed views, and it can be purchased in similar fashion.

Online, there's an issue of audience duplication that advertisers need to be mindful of. The targeting technology available today means that advertisers can identify and reach users that match certain criteria, but it also means that there are smaller available audience pools, which can lead to over saturation.

Think about for a second. If an insurance advertiser wants to reach consumers who appear to be in their early to mid 20s, own a car, and are watching sports content, it has the ability to target that group. But, that segment represents a much smaller audience compared to the general population watching a football game on Sunday. It's risky to keep hitting that same audience segment with the same creative. It can only play so many items before it becomes ineffective.


Online video a crucial part of online advertising, and should be included as a pillar in the majority of online campaigns, as it touches nearly every internet connected device. Smartphones, tablets, and connected TVs are all part of the viewing experience, and marketers need to participate in these channels. That rush to participate can't get in the way of smart planning though, or else marketers are essentially going to be wasting their budget on ineffective online video advertising.

Mark Mallet is VP of sales for SEASON/Silver Chalice.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


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