There continues to be a lot of confusion among the generalists of the industry about the optimal use of video in online ads. That's because every ad online is unique, and every campaign has different objectives and goals, which drastically affect the rich media implementations recommended to deliver those results.
Based on EyeWonder's eight years of experience, here are some insights into how to generate desired results.
Set your goals
The prerequisite in any successful ad campaign -- video or non video -- is to clearly identify the primary objective of the campaign, and how to measure your level of success in achieving this objective. When agencies and their clients stay true to this they can't help but succeed; when they get distracted by "all the bells and whistles" they have the ability to use, they usually fail.
Don't get me wrong, I like "bells and whistles" better than most, but you need to make sure it is the right whistle for the job -- you wouldn't use one of those whistles only dogs can hear to direct traffic, would you?
So that covered, let's talk about creating an environment for success. First and foremost is getting users to notice your video ad on the page. If they overlook it, they obviously are not going to interact with it. And that won't serve your goals, no matter what those goals are.
Video ad units that play the video upon a user's arrival on a page work well for this. Because they start instantly without requiring any input from users, the videos automatically attract users' eyes and draw them to explore the ad further. These types of videos don't have to be long -- eight to 10 seconds is sufficient. (We've found that if a user hasn't noticed the ad on the page by then, he usually won't.)
If your campaign wants to go beyond mere awareness, it needs to be complemented with a strong "invitation" to users to interact in the way you as the marketer want them to. As I like to say, if you don't tell them, how are they supposed to know what you want them to do?
Once the user is aware of the ad, there are two equally important paths to choose from. The first is brand interaction, which encourages users to interact with the ad (and therefore the brand) as long as possible. With this objective, video in expanded panels is a great tactic. Long-form video that can keep users engaged for not just seconds, but minutes (and sometimes hours!) is a great tactic for accomplishing this. Once audiences have opted in to the experience, there is no reason to constrain their choices with five, 15 or even 30 seconds of video. Creating a branded "dialogue" with users is one of the interactive advertising industries' key differentiators and value propositions -- so take advantage of it to achieve your objective.
Here is a recent movie promo campaign that leverages the use of a video that plays upon arrival to lure viewers in, and then features eight more user-initiated videos that generate high interaction rates and times.
The second option after ad awareness is the direct response route. Direct response campaigns are designed to elicit a specific response from a user. Video here is useful primarily for the ad awareness portion only, drawing users into the ad itself.
Unlike brand interaction campaigns, any additional videos in a direct response campaign may actually prove detrimental, as they distract users from actually completing the response portion of the advertisement.
A great example of successful implementation of video into a direct response campaign is this American Airlines ad, which uses a very short video to lure you in and then quickly offers the Flight Search Feature, where you can input your fare request directly into the ad unit (the direct response portion of the campaign). All of it is simple and straightforward, and not a lot of video was required to drive the response.
The final campaign objective -- and an often overlooked opportunity for advertisers -- is brand endorsement. The goal here is to encourage audience endorsement by providing tools for users to share, making the user an evangelist for your brand. These virally forwarded impressions are not only free to the advertiser, but they are also, in effect, more targeted impressions because they are coming from someone who knows what you like.
In this example, the video lures people in and gives them a taste of what they will get when they click "Grab It" and take the video widget with them, to send to their friends or to embed into their own profiles on their social sites (MySpace, Facebook, etc.)
Online advertising offers many more interactive opportunities than traditional venues, and video -- in all its forms -- adds another layer of complexity. As long as the campaign objective is clear, attaining online ad success should be easy. The key is to use video and interactivity in ways that support specific campaign objectives and goals. Throwing new interactive features into ads just because they are hot -- without any rhyme or reason -- is a sure way to muddle your objective, confuse your audience and minimize your returns.
It is essential for all parties involved to know what the overall goal and objective for the campaign is. It is also helpful when your rich media provider can then systematically recommend a set of ad formats, features and video options that will enable you to meet or exceed your goals.
Michael Griffin is executive VP of business development, EyeWonder.