Long gone are the days when an advertiser’s winning TV spot had to bask in broadcast victory alone, while its online version was relegated to a spot on the bench. In many cases, the online spot wasn’t even invited to the post game celebration. And it still might require another year of strenuous training before you see the online spot being hounded for interviews or captured on the gossip pages canoodling with the hottest star or starlet of the moment.
But one thing is for certain, the streaming video ad has come a long way, firmly solidifying its position on the advertising team.
Repurposing your TV content on the Web is no longer limited to embedding a tiny video box within a standard-sized ad unit. Indeed, over the past few years video ads have battled and grown, training day in and day out, demanding to be seen. Today, they have reached the point where they can no longer be ignored. They're off the bench and into the starting line-up, fueled not by energy drinks, energy bars or even the fans -- no, these warriors are fueled by rapid advancements in technology and the relentless growth and penetration of broadband.
At last, the Broadcast Giants and the Broadband Warriors can play on the same field. Almost overnight, the spotlight shifted, and standard-sized ad units with the relatively small videos have become a prime canvas upon which large, high-quality, sometimes beautiful video ads can be painted. Or, sticking with our theme, they have become a fertile playing field upon which victory can be achieved.
The days have long since passed when streaming video ads toiled anonymously on the practice field, never to experience the excitement of prime time. So where do we go from here?
Let’s focus on recent battles, with a little post-game analysis.
Just as any superior athlete must have a healthy dose of genetic gifts, a successful streaming campaign must have, at its core, a natural predisposition to perform. In other words, the video ad itself -- without the aid of bells, whistles and other online steroids -- must be good enough to watch. As they say on the concrete hoops courts not far from your office, either you have game or you don’t. And once that natural talent is established, a little coaching can go a long way.
General Motors, for example, has been able to bring compelling content online that runs faster and jumps higher than the average video creative. Of course, it helps when you have Tiger Woods, Patrick Ewing and the young pre-Kareem Lew Alcindor on your team.
For example, rather than streaming the expected automobile footage within the available banner space, last year’s "Buick Tiger Trap" campaign showcased footage of Tiger slugging away while viewers were invited to participate in a Buick giveaway contest. Hit the ball closer to the tee than Tiger, win a Buick Ranier.
Using rich media banners to deploy video content was a perfect solution to grab attention and rise above the relative clutter of typical banner advertising. It helped to frame this campaign up as an entertainment venue and illustrate that value to the customer.
“This campaign is a classic illustration of the powerful synergy that can be created between online and offline media. TV coupled with online advertising yielded far greater results than either could have produced individually,” says Peter Galio, account director for Buick interactive marketing, i33 communications.
Okay, the game has ended. The celebrations have died down. The endless champagne toasts from the night before don’t feel as good as they did going down. It’s back to the practice field to sweat it out and keep pace with an ever-changing online video league. Then along comes that sparkling video creative, that No. 1 draft pick that demands to be seen by as many eyes as possible. Not content to play solely for a TV audience, this player makes the dramatic leap into the stands of his online fans as well.
adidas’ award-winning "Impossible is Nothing" campaign depicted the truly memorable flash-back boxing match between Muhammed Ali and daughter Layla. This was a campaign that was simply hard to turn away from, whether broadcast on your television or streamed into your laptop. And unlike many other rich media executions that interfere with or pop-up over a Web site’s editorial content, these ads were captivating without being overly intrusive.
The level of intrusiveness is something that marketers must allow their users to control. In fact, the only time these ads should take over the user experience is when a user initiates specific.
But that can work to your advantage with full-screen video ads, because the online audience can ask to be launched much closer to the field of play. And as the quality and quantity of these options continue to develop, the next streaming video victory is waiting in the wings.
Seth Perkovich handles automotive and sports marketing product channels for Klipmart Corporation, creators of the FullScreen ExperienceTM.
Working in an outdated model
Terry Young, CEO and founder of sparks & honey, shares this story:
"I worked at a number of different agencies back in the day, and I remember constantly finding myself amongst groups of advertising executives who couldn't get away from working under the same traditional paradigm that we had been working under for many decades. They seemed to only want to talk about 30-second spots and wrapping digital campaigns around those spots. I knew in my heart that this was simply not where the future was going.
"I was so disenchanted by the fact that the advertising industry was not evolving fast enough and not keeping pace with the amazing change that was happening in the digital environment. I found myself going to work every day frustrated. Everyone just wanted to sell the same old thing, and the CMOs had gotten used to buying the old same thing. It wasn't that the job was bad -- it was just that the model was outdated.
"Looking back, all of this definitely served as the catalyst for me to do something different and eventually build sparks & honey with the understanding that we could actually produce content and be there in real-time without being held to some sort of traditional calendar-based media. Finally, more people started to realize that you could think about digital media from a cultural standpoint. Data is what allows us to do that."
The professional equivalent of a 16-year-old girl
Jay Miletsky, CEO of MyPod Studios, reminisces:
"I was working at PFS Marketwyse in the mid 1990s, and it was a time Photoshop was getting big and we all had the AOL connections. We were in the middle of doing a lot of marketing for interesting campaigns for clients such as Washington Mutual and doing some branding for clients such as Hershey's.
"In 2008, we rebranded ourselves into Mango Marketing. At the same time, it felt as if the whole marketing industry changed. I absolutely hated it. Everyone wanted their clients to engage in social media campaigns. No one was interested in doing anything traditional any more. Nobody wanted to do print, and radio was well on its way out the window. As an employee at a digital agency, I found it so insanely boring.
"I dreaded coming into work every morning and having to update Facebook fan pages and Facebook campaigns. If just one person wrote a negative post on Hershey's Facebook wall, it was if the entire city would shut down. Everyone was just so freaked out. We had other clients who only wanted us to create viral videos for them, but I could never seem to make anyone understand that having a video go viral is like hitting Powerball twice -- you just can't predict it! I mean, at the time, who would have thought that a video of two babies biting each other would get 350 million views?! Let's just say that expectations were very high.
"There were times in which I felt like I had turned into a professional equivalent to a 16-year-old girl updating her diary every day. There I was, updating blogs and encouraging people to upload pictures of dogs so we could vote on the cutest. It literally felt like my creativity was going stale before my very eyes. I didn't know what could hurt more -- doing work like this or shoving bamboo shoots under my nails."
Dumped in head-first
Ken Solano, group media director for digital at Prime Access, recalls this moment:
"I started out at a four-man digital shop that specialized in selling self-help books. The hours were long, the days started at 8 a.m., and we were teetering on the brink of collapse more times than I remember. This was 11 years ago, and the digital space -- albeit clearly destined for big things -- was still very different from what it is today. Social media was still regulated to message boards, and I would have to create about four different profiles for each board to infiltrate conversations and appear authentic. I knew nothing about digital, yet here I was, managing everything from affiliate marketing, social media (message boards), display media, and even video media.
"Looking back, I see that first agency team as being at the cutting edge of video media. I also felt like I was a part of something huge and revolutionary. Plus, my CEO told me that [because] I survived a year working for him, I would be able to survive at any other agency. He was right. Advice -- dive in head-first. If you are not obsessed with all things digital, you'll find out very quickly. On the flipside, there is a chance that you'll actually love what you do."
Church website entrepreneur
Andy Tabar, digital marketing consultant, tells this story:
"I was just 14 years old when I started my own digital business. It was the year 2000, and there I was, using portals such as Angelfire and GeoCities to create my own personal website. It didn't take long for people to start asking if I could build a website for them, so I would. My dad told me our church could use a website, so I made one for them. I was doing everything for free. I eventually realized that I actually had a talent, and I could actually start selling myself.
"Throughout the years, I have worked and collaborated with a ton of different clients, and have been open to their ideas for their digital space. I have always felt that it was healthy to have a bit of debate. Of course, there were also cases where clients were dead set on using a one-size-fits-all approach or a template or downright copying what someone else did. When I was asked to do that, things became difficult. I thrive in an environment that thrives on debate, but also allows the chance for data to carve out a path."
Bad training with a bad boss
Lizbeth Cardozo, co-founder and CEO of Tiny Milkshake Media, remembers this:
"The worst job in the digital and online marketing industry was the last job I had as an affiliate manager at a small ad network where I stayed way too long. I was new to the industry. My background was in traditional advertising, marketing, and sales so training in this new industry was necessary for my success. The lack of training, focus, and leadership was a recipe for failure. The fact that the company went out of business last June was just a testament to this.
"The first two weeks I started working at this company, I was eager, hopeful, and excited about learning a new industry, but to my disbelief I learned that my training consisted of just getting on the phone with clients, navigating through an online platform that was cumbersome and unintuitive, pitching campaigns I didn't yet understand, and 'the boss' instant messaging me what I should say or how I should respond with terminology that sounded like Swahili to me. I sounded like a moron, and people saw right through it. It was embarrassing and a horrible way to be introduced to people that I needed to earn respect from in the industry.
"I recognize 'the boss' really tried hard to teach me, but some people simply aren't meant to be leaders. In fact, I've learned that the best leaders understand they are actually there to support and inspire their employees, so they are even more motivated and empowered to work harder for them and the vision. In the end, 'the boss' was a difficult teacher, but a teacher nonetheless."
Cold calling in uncharted territory
Will Akerlof, president of Liquid Advertising, recalls this moment:
"I had been working in traditional advertising since I got out of college. In 1996, I knew two guys who had created an online PR firm called iAgency, so I contacted them to see if they wanted to offer any advertising on the site. At the time, the idea of online advertising was so very new. It seemed as [though] everyone was just inventing everything from scratch.
"We started cold-calling companies, and luckily for us, we noticed ears were perking at the idea. We didn't have to educate them on the nuts and bolts of online advertising because there wasn't much to know at that point. If you even dabbled in the space, you had the knowledge you needed. I specifically remember clients shrieking in delight as they watched their once-static images move and their reactions to being able to track click rates and receive data back in less than 24 hours.
"I operated as a one-person operation for many months at that firm, which would never be possible these days. All in all, it was challenging, but it was also a great time to break into the business."
The stress of crowd-funding
Matthew Granish, digital media director at Prime Access, concludes with this:
"I come from a slightly different background. My first job was managing a website that raised funds for a non-profit organization. Back in 1999, the notion of 'crowd-funding' was pretty non-existent, yet here we were -- building a digital platform that was supposed to function properly, contain decent content, and generate donations from generous individuals.
"The stress of that job was on-par with some of my most nerve-racking days today, but it prepped me for the agency life and, most importantly, for the constantly shifting digital space. Plus I learned the ins and outs of monetizing content."
Tricia Despres is a freelance writer.
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"Frustrated" image via Shutterstock.