Screening Online Video: What’s Now and What’s Next


Step aside, TV
Traditionally, the television commercial has been the benchmark for effective advertising that creates an emotional response from the recipient and generates the most awareness for a product, brand or service. TV commercials are what most people discuss around the water cooler the day after the SuperBowl.

Commercials have typically been the vehicle for making an entity “cool,” through conceptual, visual and aural combinations. It’s difficult to create the same kind of response possible in a truly great TV commercial through a print campaign, direct marketing mailer or static banner ad. Most people can easily recall their favorite TV ads. For me, I loved watching that determined child race off-course in his homemade Hummer H2 soap box derby car while The Who’s “Happy Jack” roared in the background — and I despise SUVs.

What if, halfway through watching that commercial, I had been asked if I’d like to hear a different song during playback and was given two or three options of other selections I could play, and then play resumed with my new choice in the mix? Perhaps I’d like to watch it again, right there, with yet a different selection playing. Even better, I might possibly want to learn more about a particular feature of the car, say the engine, and during a different commercial featuring the car itself I could select the engine during playback and upon completion was exposed to the technical specs and options for different engine types?

Hogwash, heresy, bunk — it just can’t be done, right? Certainly not on your television (though I suspect we’ll see something along those lines in the near future), but take that same video online, insert it into a rich media ad and Voila! A whole new dimension of responsiveness has been unlocked. Suddenly, the element of interactivity, even at its most basic level, is now completely necessary to the ad experience. Users can now play, pause, mute, un-mute, fast forward, rewind and play again television commercials and other traditionally offline videos right within ad units, often with little or no delay for loading and with surprisingly good clarity.

Interactivity Delivers Results
We’ve all seen the responsiveness of that ability in current online advertising trends. At companies such as PointRoll, upwards of 20% of ads running contain an element of video within them — and it is one of the fastest-growing rich media initiatives in the industry. Currently, what’s done with those formerly offline-only videos creates a fabulous response from users and measurable success for the advertisers utilizing it.

Many times, advertisers can choose from a range of available video assets (shot for TV ads) to create an online campaign. Multiple videos with timed messages can be scheduled to automatically swap in at determined intervals, so that a spot stating a feature film starts “February 20th” suddenly says “Starts Tomorrow” on Thursday, February 19th. Furthermore, the metrics associated with these executions offer advertisers unprecedented access to the measurable success or failure of their campaign. Advertisers can know exactly how many people are watching the ad, how much of the video they view, whether they interact with it, and whether they take advantage of other features such as “send to a friend.”

Pushing the Interactive Envelope
Now that everyone is taking their offline videos and pushing them online in one format or another, where does it go from here? Heightened interactivity and involvement within the video ad unit. Interactivity is the fundamental reason why so many flocked online in the first place, and as advertisers, we have just scratched the surface. To return to my example of the Hummer H2 ad — the possibilities for increased user control (and time-on-brand) are already being explored by forward-thinking advertisers in industries ranging from automotive to financial services and consumer goods. Current capabilities include:

– Gathering areas of interest while a video plays and then displaying relevant information when the clip ends,
– Showing different clips or story endings based on a users interaction and responses, and
– Providing real-time details based on mouse-overs while a video plays.

The possibilities go on and on…

Coming Attractions
Most exciting of all is the possibility of shooting original video specifically for an online ad – here is where the gloves really can come off. Instead of repurposing an existing video, originally intended for a passive audience, let’s start shooting videos with rich media ads in mind. Let’s think about speaking directly to the user in the video. Let’s start really embracing Flash 8’s ability to incorporate transparency in the video itself, allowing for true seamlessness between the video and the traditional vector or bitmap graphics associated with online creative. Let’s think about online as early as possible in the conception of a complete campaign and really take advantage of all it now has to offer, with video as the spearhead.


  1. I think it must just be human nature, but the first response to an opportunitiy always seems to be to do what’s worked for before. Of course when that doesn’t work very well you have to create something new. That’s where it really gets interesting and where we will shortly be. Brands should stop thinking about leveraging exisiting video assets to save money and start thinking about creating new ones that can maximize the oppportunity.


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