When we think of search, most of us default to text listings in the form of paid advertising in the vicinity of listings that magically appear. The success of search engine advertising and the booming industry associated with natural search engine optimization has paved the way to other new and exciting areas of search.
Search has evolved from humble beginnings from simple text into a universal descriptor for finding everything you seek. Video and image search, once a handy but less than functionally useful tool, has also begun its evolution into a sound marketing platform.
At last week’s iMedia Agency summit in Austin, I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion with three key providers in the video and image search category. At the close of our session, a few points of interest to marketers had been established: the next generation of search is upon us and video and image search is showing a great deal of promise.
Sure, video and image search can be a great way to catch up on the latest shaving trends for Ms. Spears and Paris, but how can an advertiser take advantage of video and image search?
Executives from Pixsy, ScanScout and PureVideo networks had a great deal to say about the latest and greatest in video search.
Along with existing graphic creative models that live inside content, video and image search sites now offer search-induced platforms designed to create a user-driven contextually relevant advertising experience. There are also text-based ad units that resemble content search listings placed alongside search results.
Need to add image search functionality to your site? Pixsy has a tool for you. Site owners looking to expand visual capabilities can plug in a Pixsy widget. Once existing for large publishers in a revenue-share platform, Pixsy allows visual search expansion for nearly any site.
ScanScout is seeking to disambiguate video search technologies by providing a more relevant experience for advertisers. The search technology provider delivers relevant in-stream ad units that allow users to opt-in for a visual experience. ScanScout’s example of an MSN Video clip that provided clickable ad units of movie trailers during a movie review is a prime example of layering content with advertising in a user-friendly environment.
PureVideo networks sets itself apart by speeding up the search process through effectively combining RSS-like wits in a crawl-based environment. Need help translating English into English on that last statement? Visual search is time and relevance sensitive. Simply put, PureVideo satisfies the need for search technologies that allow for speed and control in matching relevant ad units to content.
Never without its challenges
Brands are historically reluctant to jump on the bandwagon of new technologies, particularly if the brand can potentially be positioned with disastrous consequences. It's the age-old contextual advertising dilemma; picture your adult beverage brand spot positioned in the proximity of editorial on a drunk driving fatality or home video of teen-age looking girls doing keg-stands.
Then again, maybe your audience is girls gone wild. One man's garbage is another man's gold.
Both PureVideo and ScanScout are using technologies that restrict certain types of content. One of PureVideo's sites is StupidVideos.Com and you can imagine just how stupid people can be. They set themselves on fire, jump out of windows and there is plenty of content on the do-it-yourself accidental castration for all to enjoy.
Visual search providers use practical content restricting technologies. ScanScout for example, filters and flags inappropriate content. Additionally, semantics "engines" and algorithms are deployed to help determine relevancy.
Each ad model mirrors other performance-based models. ScanScout is entirely performance based and advertisers only pay for responses. None of the panelists viewed click fraud as a potential problem, partially since costs are fixed and advertisers are not competing for positioning in the same way search advertisers compete. PureVideo has also launched a performance-based paid inclusion ad unit model.
What’s next for the space?
It's almost a cliché in the online ad business today, but consolidation... lots and lots of consolidation. Start-up players will combine assets to compete with giants in the space. Smaller visual search players are now experimenting with technologies that could leave search giants like Google in the dust, but bandwidth and a user base will present a problem.
Google recently introduced AdSense into its visual search platform in a beta format. In theory, smaller publishers will be allowed to chase down ad revenue. Unfortunately, smaller visual search providers will have to stay ahead of Google until they can either be acquired by a large search entity or gain the ground they need with publisher relationships.
The ultimate question in video search technology and supporting ad formats relates to the enduring interest of its user base. Will the consuming public tire of watching teens or David Hasslehoff behave badly with alcohol? For the sake of humanity, I hope so. In any case, the technologies we are seeing today will shape future evolutions of visual search and now is the time to take advantage of early adopter opportunities.
Kevin Ryan is chief executive officer at Motivity Marketing. .