The Hunting of the Snark: Finding Value in Online Video Advertising
There are three types of ad:tech session:
- Roundtables, which look like opportunities for Socratic discussion but are actually ideal hostage scenarios for greedy salesmen.
- Polite affairs where a moderator, charged with exploring a given topic, poses questions in hopes of getting cotton-mouthed executives to divulge things they're not supposed to.
- The kind where a moderator -- contemptible creature -- invites panelists to pitch the audience one by one, and the topic be damned!
"The State of Online Video: Going Beyond the Pre-Roll" was the third type.
Things kick off with Josh Chasin of comScore mumbling figures into the mic, followed by Smith Forte of Current.TV. Then Rebecca Paoletti, director of video strategy at Yahoo, takes the stage.
Yahoo has two primary video ad methods:
1. Advertisers provide TV creative, which is immediately converted into a video ad. When a user mouses over it, he has the option of interacting with it in some way or visiting the website. The method is favored because it is simple and easy to execute on a whim.
2. Yahoo creates interactive (rich media) units for advertisers. "Anything you can do in a microsite you can do in the four corners of a video player," Paoletti explained. This model only comprises 10 percent of Yahoo's video ad revenue; the company looks at it as a "next step" and is pursuing ways to get clients more interested in "engagement metrics" (as opposed to gauging the quality of a campaign purely by click-through to a website).
"These are the basics -- what we sell day in and day out," says Paoletti.
But there's a wildcard in the mix: advertisers that want to be producers; that is, content contributors. To illustrate how Yahoo serves their needs, Paoletti shows us the homepage for Yahoo Sports Minute, sponsored by Dunkin' Donuts. See it for yourself: sports content shares slightly less-than-equal space with Dunkin' leaderboards, embedded TV spots and widgets.
Does this make Dunkin' Donuts a content producer? Because the method looks suspiciously like a page takeover. I doubt anyone would visit Sports Minute specifically to see Rachel Ray's controversial Dunkin' Donuts scarf spot.
I raise my hand.
"I don't understand the difference between the 'content producer' and the standard 'video advertising' model." Nobody would ever confuse Dunkin's presence on Sports Minute for content; they'd just perceive it as an overzealous ad buy.
"Good question," Paoletti begins. A pregnant pause develops before she explains that Yahoo also helps with amateur video-style deployments on video.yahoo.com -- think Ray Ban's "Guy Catches Sunglasses with Face" by Feed Company -- "but that's not something I wanted to get into today."
At that point, moderator Josh Chasin of comScore interjects to say he has questions for his fellow panelists, but would hate to take away from audience Q/A time. "How many of you plan to ask questions at the end of this?" he asks (and with a straight face!).
Tentative hands flutter up. Three panelists haven't even spoken yet; how can we know whether we'll have questions?
Chasin's burst of inquisitiveness yields one clear benefit: the evil plot to make us sit through elevator pitches gets totally derailed. For the next now-to-whenever, the panelists talk shop. It's nice to see them get on so well at the expense of everyone else's time.
A few scraps tossed out at random:
"There has to be a way to get beyond counting clicks, otherwise publishers won't get credit for their buying influence" over the long-term, says Simon Assaad of Heavy Corp.
Paoletti: there is no average CPM for video across the board, because any number of variables can change the cost of a buy. Video "needs to work, but just doesn't work" as a dependable ROI model.
Paoletti also says the future of digital video is mobile. Assaad, a contrarian at heart, confesses, "I'm actually not interested in mobile" and lamented embedded video was never really explored as an ROI platform.
"75-80 percent of video consumption online is not being taken advantage of by advertisers!" he says with feeling.
He goes on to say the recession drove advertisers into the arms of ad networks, whose company "would have made our skin crawl a few months ago."
Chasin wonders if there's a place for long-form video online. Forte points out Hulu's click-thrus for streaming shows is great. Plus, it doesn't cannibalize network TV. "This is catch-up viewing. It's a new industry," he beams.
Allen readily agreed, followed by Paoletti. Forte said short-form video isn't very good for ad click-thru because attention spans are shorter.
From a user perspective, I think pre- and post-roll ads should be confined to professional videos. People accept that a reasonable amount of advertising is a fair exchange for content that cost money to produce and is being provided at no cost. Nobody makes mental allowances for ads in amateur work.
I ask whether there's a practical benefit to putting amateur-style videos on YouTube. Forte calls them "mood setters" that help position the brand's vibe. No more, no less.
Chasin turns to the audience and asks if there are anymore questions. A random audience member quips, "Can we hold you hostage?"