A couple of months ago, The Wall Street Journal published a special section on Women to Watch. After zipping past the usual suspects like Oprah and Meg Whitman, I was taken by a quote from Renetta McCann, chief executive of Starcom's MediaVest Group, who said, "The Starcom MediaVest division charged with buying ad time used to be called the 'broadcast investment group'; today it's the 'video investment group.'… We didn't want to limit how we view the market… We see a world populated by video screens, not just TV screens, but screens on phones, computers and even screens in elevators and cabs."
This is a powerful signal that agencies have begun the long-awaited shift away from broadcast TV-driven video to other platforms that could become mainstream advertising vehicles. Online video is already one of the advertising industry's fastest growing formats, with growth to accelerate as broadband becomes faster and more ubiquitous. But it also brings up very interesting questions for the interactive and emerging technology marketplace: to repurpose TV video or to shoot new video that is specially designed for each new emerging platform? And, who will own video from an advertising agency perspective in the coming years?
Determining the right time and place
On one side are the OEMs and their traditional agencies that spend a considerable amount of time and money on broadcast spots, yet are now obviously viewing the web as a viable video channel. On the other side are the online agencies that live and breathe emerging channels but don't yet receive the production budgets and resources to develop video uniquely for the web and mobile devices.
Where does it make sense for the clients to dedicate video specific production budgets? The offline group is already shooting film with the equipment and talent rights, but the online group knows the online consumer and targeting strategies. Some of the outcome will be determined by web publishers who are beginning to acknowledge that they need new and fresh video inventory to support advertiser demand for video ads as well as ad units that play video independent of pre-roll.
Some very good video content is being developed on the publisher side by the likes of HGTV.com, FineLiving.com, CNN.com and ESPN.com. The video topics are of interest to the user, and full sight, sound and motion keep them engaged. The media players are large and it is very easy to navigate from video to video. Within the auto industry, companies like Consumer Guide Automotive are providing OEMs with fully customizable videos from the Detroit Auto Show in January. In order to support heavy video initiatives from Honda, Hyundai and Nissan, it is expected that every in-market automotive site will develop some sort of video content/showcase in 2006, and the ones that already have them will just continue to improve on their performance and prominence.
Out with the old?
We're now learning that slapping up a 15- or 30-second broadcast spot prior to content or within a free standing in-page ad unit just won't cut it. In fact, Klipmart, one of the online leaders in video advertising, says their research shows that the optimum viewing time is about 21 seconds. Moreover, there is an art to editing video for online-- think about those long shots of people or products in the distance that play well on TV, but you would never see in an online execution. While repurposed video is a good way to amortize those big TV production budgets, there are lots of reasons why the web needs its own video.
Until online agencies start to receive bigger production budgets and client strategies to support video advertising purely for the web, we need to maximize the value of TV spots and make them effective and appropriate for online use.
The quality of video content available online is amazing. Now we need to match the advertising with the content. Pre-roll ads not only need to be relevant to the content, but must also roll clean and play flawlessly. The broadband penetration is there; now the technology providers need to keep up the quality.
If video is used within standard ad placements, such as leaderboards and skyscrapers, targeting is key. For example, when a user is researching a Honda Civic on a model page on a third-party automotive site, a digitized spot showcasing a sales incentive or special finance rate may be very valuable to the consumer. It might just pay out for Honda as well, and they'd be able to measure it. Some pretty cool roadblock video units are now being created as well (where the video plays in both formats simultaneously) from companies like EyeWonder.
Technology on the rise
Rich media companies have been providing formats that surround the video with clickable elements and branding opportunities. This provides a microsite-like feel that might just save the consumer a trip to the OEM site. The interactivity potential allows for lead capture, dealer locator, et cetera. With these, metrics such as display time and interaction rate are becoming more important than clicks. Klipmart research has shown that the more interactive features an online video has, the longer the user will engage with the spot. Some will argue that full-screen video ads are too intrusive, but again, if it's targeted appropriately, the user might just find it valuable.
Making the actual video clickable is technology that was made available in 2005 by technology providers such as Avant Interactive and Unicast. For example, a spot can be enhanced so that interior and exterior elements of a vehicle can be clicked on and, in turn, spawn further information about the clicked-on element. Talk about bringing the best of TV and online together and creating a powerful advertising vehicle! However, an education process is required for the online community so that the benefits of this technology can be fully quantified. Also, the video must move slowly, and clear instructions must be used, but this is an interesting option for any sized ad unit.
Then we have emerging media like mobile phones and iPods. With video now available on these channels, advertising will certainly follow soon. But who exactly will take ownership of these new channels and the ones that seem almost traditional? Who will own video? Stay tuned.
Chad M. Beasley is Jumpstart Automotive Media's vice president of west coast sales and creative development.