One of the Internet’s great promises to advertisers was freedom from the time constraints imposed by television. Sadly, standard pre-roll advertising, which accounts for the vast majority of online video ad spending, squanders this opportunity by forcing advertisers into 15 second interruptive placements.
But those wishing to have longer, more interactive conversations with their customers online do have some options. Following is an overview of the best methods for distributing long-form video, which we’ll define as anything over 30 seconds long.
Click-to-play (CTP) units: These units may appear as expandable ad banners, or as static or animating display ads on a variety of content sites. Typically, the impressions are free and advertisers only pay when users click to initiate the video.
- Pros: CTP units are non-interruptive, and they’re priced based on performance. Additionally, they can appear on some high-profile Web sites amid contextually relevant content.
- Cons: Depending on the unit, CTP video ads can create a lot of accidental clicks. Some units even start playing on mouse-over, which adds to the confusion. To counter this, CTP providers often charge after five seconds of play, but CTP completion rates are poor, and users are rarely engaged throughout the entire video. Additionally, the promise of running on brand-name Web sites can be misleading. Quality inventory is expensive and scarce, and many CTP units wind up running on no-name, “long-tail” sites, or worse. Sharing and post-view activity is typically anemic on these units due to the low completion rates.
Panel ads on YouTube and Facebook: These are the postage-stamp sized display units that occupy the right-hand column on YouTube and Facebook pages.
- Pros: These units have same non-interruptive, performance-based structure as CTP ads. Impressions are free, and the ads are targeted by search terms on YouTube or by a number of demographic and/or personal factors on Facebook. This assures a refined and active audience. Additionally, users who watch videos on these sites are accustomed to commenting and sharing, so post-view actions are higher than on other placements.
- Cons: The prestige of YouTube and Facebook comes at a heavy price. Impressions are free, but clicks for popular keywords can go for upwards of $1.25 each — and there’s no guarantee that users will watch to completion. Even advertisers that can afford the premium price tag will have difficulty aggregating large audiences with these units. As with other forms of display advertising, click-through rates are typically low.
Social video ads: Fifty-three percent of Facebook users login specifically to play social games. It’s an audience of more than 290 million people. These users seek out and watch video ads in exchange for virtual goods.
- Pros: Social video units target users by age, gender, and geography, ensuring a highly refined audience. Additionally, since users actively seek out the videos, they’re motivated and engaged throughout the experience. Social video delivers the best completion rates in the online video industry. The units are also shareable, and they consistently drive post-view activities such as coupon and recipe downloads, Facebook page visits, store locator usage, and tweets.
- Cons: Social games are extremely popular with consumers, but Mall World, Happy Aquarium, and Car Town are not necessarily well-known by brands. Advertisers that are enamored with high-profile publishers must sacrifice the perceived prestige and content themselves with the results this format offers.
Blog video ads: According to WordPress, there are more than 15 million blogs on the Internet. Video ads are inserted into these publications as paid sponsors.
- Pros: The blogosphere presents an opportunity for brands to speak to consumers in specialized, contextually relevant environments. Some video ad networks specialize in blogs, and they offer advertisers access to thousands of smaller publications, each of which has its own mini-community. These are CTP units that are typically performance-based and non-interruptive.
- Cons: Advertising in blogs is just like advertising on any other website. It’s a paid placement, not an editorial endorsement. For this reason, blog networks deliver the same poor completion rates as standard CTP units. Additionally, the vast majority of blogs are tiny, and their editorial has little or no oversight. Advertisers that run with blog ad networks, therefore, cannot be assured that they are running in appropriate, brand-safe placements.
Long-form video has ability to deliver results that cannot be achieved through standard pre-roll placements. It allows advertisers to spend more time with their customers, and to open the channels for two-way dialogue, sharing, and other beneficial activities. Success in long-form video, however, requires a departure from the traditional reach-and-frequency line of thinking. Advertisers that wish to enjoy the spoils of this format must abandon the display mentality, and embrace the environments and structures that put users in control.
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