Viewer Control is Online Ads’ Goal


When advertisers first began moving online they thought it would be enough to throw broadcast commercials into cyberspace and hope for the best. Then marketing executives discovered what YouTube learned: rolling television-style advertising on the Web annoys consumers and fails to take advantage of the Internet’s interactivity.

A recent eMarketer report found that spending for online video advertising is expected to increase by 89 per cent to $775-million (U.S.) this year but is still only expected to represent 9 per cent of all online advertising spending in 2007.

A June survey conducted by the Online Publishers Association found 48 per cent of people in the U.S. who watch videos online would rather pay to see their favourite content than sit through ads to view it for free.

So how are advertisers to navigate this brave new world when the very people they are trying to reach would rather see them booted off the virtual planet?

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YouTube decided to overlay semitransparent and animated ads at the bottom of selected clips, which users can choose to expand or ignore – in which case they disappear.

A number of agencies and Web developers see a possible solution in combining the interactivity of rich media with the traditionally more-passive format of video.

“We really believe in interactivity and giving the user control,” said Jason Tafler, the senior vice-president of global business operations and strategy for PointRoll, an online advertising provider based in Conshohocken, Pa.

A 2006 report by PointRoll, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gannett Co. Inc., suggests videos with interactive features – send-to-a-friend options, polls, games, even interactivity within the video itself – trump passive formats in engaging consumers.

For example, PointRoll researched its automobile industry advertisements in 2005 and found that while consumers spent an average of 11.5 seconds interacting with video-only campaigns, the average rate rose 23 per cent to 14.2 seconds for interactive videos.

Deann Harvey, vice-president for eastern region sales at PointRoll, said the ability to provide such detailed metrics is the biggest advantage interactivity has over the passive format.

“With the passive video campaign, it’s really similar to TV – you just hope that they are watching,” she said.

Many of PointRoll’s ads include interactive elements separate from the actual video ad, but Mr. Tafler said two other trends are emerging.

One involves shooting ads specifically for the Web so that the interactivity is included within the actual video, like PointRoll’s current campaign for Pfizer’s Viagra.

After watching a short TV-style intro that features a man washing his car in the driveway, viewers are invited to click on different parts of the scene. Clicking on the toolbox, for example, makes the man walk over to it, where he flips through a magazine. This pause in the action offers the viewer a chance to answer a quiz about erectile dysfunction.

Another technique is to add “hot spots” right into the video, so consumers can roll over them with their mouse and learn more about the product while the ad is playing.

A current PointRoll campaign for Old Navy allows viewers to click on clothing items worn by the characters in the commercial. An adjacent panel shows how much an item costs and gives viewers the option to purchase it directly from the retailer’s site.

Fuel Industries Inc. is immersed in another growing trend called “advergaming,” or online video games created around a certain brand.

The Ottawa-based company won awards for The Passenger, a branded driving game it created for Nokia UK in February. The game has players race through the back alleys of Paris at night – scenes that were filmed with a car-mounted camera by the company’s in-house production division. The average interaction time was 8.5 minutes.

“We don’t look at our competition as being 30-second spots,” said Brady Gilchrist, executive vice-president of strategy for Fuel Industries. “We look at our competition as being 30-minute television shows, because we have to be that interesting.”

Marketing experts say another way to engage consumers with an online video ad is by creating an entertaining video that is passed around through viral marketing.

For example, non-profit organization War Child Canada posted a satirical video on YouTube yesterday that depicts life at Camp Okutta, an adventure camp that trains child soldiers how to use AK-47s and throw grenades.

David Hallerman, a senior analyst at eMarketer who wrote the report, says interactivity is not prevalent enough in online video advertising to say whether it is the best solution.

His report found advertisers can entice audiences through varieties of giving back, such as offering discounts or other tangible perks in exchange for watching the ads.

Another method is to replace the preroll – often a source of consumer frustration – with the gatekeeper concept. Rather than interrupt consumers with a preroll ad just as they are about to watch their selected content, the gatekeeper concept runs ads in order to allow access to the section of the site offering the content.

On-line advertising, four different ways

Viagra, by PointRoll

This Viagra ad invites viewers to click on different parts of the screen after watching a short TV-style commercial. Clicking on the toolbox, for example, makes the man walk over to it and pauses the action to offer the viewer a quiz about erectile dysfunction.

War Child, by john st.

In what it hopes will be a viral marketing success, War Child Canada posted a satirical video on YouTube yesterday that depicts life at a camp that trains child soldiers how to throw hand grenades.

The Passenger, for Nokia UK by Fuel Industries Inc.

‘Advergaming’ creates online video games around a certain brand.

The Passenger, a branded driving game for Nokia UK, has players race through the back alleys of Paris at night – scenes that were filmed with a car-mounted camera by Fuel’s in-house production division.


YouTube began overlaying semitransparent and animated video ads on selected clips yesterday. Users can click to expand the ads or ignore them and they will disappear after about 10 seconds.

Compliments of The Globe and Mail 


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