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Online video ads: Interactive and engaging

Online video ads: Interactive and engaging Mick O'Brien

Online advertising continues to demonstrate its impressive reach, with consumers engaging with rich media formats on unprecedented levels. Advertisers across the globe are turning to online ads because their behavioural targeting allows for tailored content to be delivered to each user based on their recorded preferences and ultimately achieves a higher favourable response rate.  

As advertisers tighten their budgets in response to market conditions, spending has shifted to the most accountable and cost-effective methods to reach consumers. When the going gets tough, as it invariably will do over the next twelve months, don't cut ad spends, just cut inefficiencies. Marketers are moving away from traditional media in search of a more targeted audience that they can reach at the lowest cost.

Online advertising will obviously benefit from the move towards ads that can be measured and that engage consumers on a multi-sensory level. Rich media ads are at the forefront of the online ad revolution, including online video, games and expandable banners that all encourage user interaction, product recall and intention to purchase.

Rich media creates powerful experiences for the user without the need to leave the web page. This builds strong message associations between the ad and the user that can be measured through impressions across web pages. In one Dynamic Logic study, when comparing the effectiveness of simpler online ad formats, rich media ads increased brand awareness by 15.4 percent, compared to only 5.1 percent using a jpeg banner ad.

Online video advertising has become one of the industry's fastest-growing ad formats, with eMarketer predicting that video advertising spends will reach $5.8 billion in the US alone by 2013. This tremendous growth has been driven by online video's high level of engagement, which dwarfs the click-through rates of standard online ads. 

Producing an online video ad to be eye-catching, engaging and effective is a demonstrable science. Where television advertising communicates with a captive audience, trained to pay attention to a narrative as it unfolds, in the online world, 30 seconds can feel like an eternity. Users browse from one page to another at an incredible speed. Asking them to stop for 30 second is a real challenge.

TV viewing is a passive experience, while browsing online is active, therefore creative should maximise the interactivity of the online world and make sure the video is in line with these unique characteristics.

Offer interactive elements that complement the video content, or integrate video elements in such a way that they react to user input. A recent Eyeblaster study found that marketers can effectively boost direct-response performance by capturing data in video banner ads, compared with persuading the user to travel to the home website to leave their details. This type of interactive engagement resonates with users at the entry level, engaging them through the rich media video experience and leading them to convert immediately. 

Online video ads need to get to the point very quickly, and should expose the users to the brand at the earliest opportunity in the video. A good technique for this is including branding elements in a video wrapper. This enables the brand to be front and centre at every moment. It leaves nothing to chance and doesn't rely on the viewer's attention as the ad builds to a branding moment.  Consequently, video wrappers complement the video content with consistent messaging.

Consider a video that calls for different interactions at different points in the timeline -- that suggests a poll at one point in the video, solicits a preference at another point, and ends with a data capture box to collect user email data. Research supports these findings. A recent Eyeblaster study of video duration found that, when video was user-initiated, audiences viewed the clip for longer -- and with higher attention rates -- than they did with auto-initiated video by 50.6 percent to 27.6 percent.

New innovations that engage consumers through video encourage them to post their favourite video ads on their social networking sites through Widgets, perhaps the most exciting innovation created to reach the elusive Gen Y demographic. Eyeblaster has pioneered a program that allows the end-user to embed an ad on their social networking site of choice, sharing it with their friends, while measuring the analytics to track the success of the campaign. The widget system rewards intelligent ads and encourages user interaction on an unprecedented level.

The limits of online video are continually growing in scope with seemingly limitless potential to engage web users and encourage them to interact with the product they are promoting.

Mick O'Brien is vice-president for operations, Asia Pacific, at Eyeblaster.

Mick O'Brien has worked in online media for over 10 years, with a range of experience in strategic management, ad serving technologies and media sales disciplines. He has enjoyed senior roles at News Interactive (now News Digital Media), Excite...

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