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Moving Pictures That Move Product

By May 04, 2007

(Direct) When it comes to video ads on the Internet, advertisers have shown themselves willing to jump in with both feet, provided they can get answers to two questions: How will they work, and what can they do?

Most discussions of video formats have defaulted to the ad models familiar from television: 15- or 30-second spots designed primarily to raise brand awareness, and running either before, during or after the viewer’s chosen video content — whatever may be least annoying. But recent research suggests that online video can have a much more measurable direct response effect than previously assumed. And at least one new video ad format is offering a low-impact way to insert advertising into the middle of a video without frustrating viewers.

Research first. “Video Ad Benchmarks,” a study by interactive agency DoubleClick of 300 online video ad campaigns in 2006 and published this past February, underlined the power of the “Play” button. DoubleClick found that about 8% of the ads elicited some user response, from window expansion and tweaking the video controls to clickthroughs to a marketer’s landing page.

The most common response was ad replay, which occurred in about 0.32% of impressions. That’s about three times the clickthrough rate of online display ads. Overall, users clicked on video ads about five times as often as they did on image ads.

Direct marketers typically look at video ads as a brand vehicle, says DoubleClick research director Rick Bruner. “But these response rates blow out of the water anything image ads get.”

The ads tested by DoubleClick were largely embedded in Web pages rather than in streamed video. But with all the video moving onto the Internet, it would be useful to find a way to insert advertising into that content without having to rely on Web publishers making new space available on their pages.

Microsoft’s adCenter Labs is demonstrating an ad format that will do just that. Known as a video hyperlink, it pops up a small icon that viewers can click to find out more about a product they see in a video. The viewer is taken to a product detail page on the advertiser’s Web site while pausing the video in the background.

A demo version of video hyperlink technology is on MSN Video, in an apparel ad for Kohl’s Corp. department stores. As the test shows, the format can be used to split-target a number of different products in the same video by using separate bull’s-eyes for each clickable product link.

Video hyperlinking should let advertisers engage with the medium in an entirely new way, says adCenter Labs product manager James Colborn. “Traditionally you’ve been able to insert ads into shows on the television model, or run an ad as a video accompaniment on the right-hand side of the page,” he says. “But this is a new kind of interaction that happens with a video. And the pilot will give us a chance to understand both the new opportunity for advertisers and how the form relates to the consumer experience.”

Preserving that consumer experience (read: avoiding ticking viewers off with interruptions) is crucial to the success of any in-video ad product. Microsoft’s video hyperlink platform recognizes that; viewers who don’t want to stop watching when the icon appears can mouse over a clickable product and take a “snapshot” of the link. Those snapshots are gathered in a gallery on the right, and users can go back and check the links when the video ends.