The Hunting of the Snark: Finding Value in Online Video Advertising

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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?"

by Angela Natividad    Aug- 6-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Industry Events   

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Comments



Comments

I couldn't agree more. That session caused me to leave before it was over, and go take a cold shower. I felt sorry for my industry, and ashamed to be in marketing.

It's not about advertising people. It's about people. I don't WANT advertisements in my video, and I sure don't want an entire page full of them. Barf.

Posted by: Josh Chambers on August 7, 2008 10:35 AM

Hi Angela - you confused me with Josh Chasin a few times in your post. And while I did pitch something slightly off topic (the social ad server), I was hoping it would fuel an actual dialog with the audience. Mainly because I agree that panels have a way of alienating the very people they are intended to engage. Maybe it's just the conference model overall?

Posted by: Smith Forte on August 7, 2008 1:53 PM

Hi Angela,
My main point was to give my esteemed panelists room to talk about new innovation in video monetization and then conclude with a backdrop of the reality of current state buying/planning/pre-rolls. I think all of us spoke to professionally produced content models versus viral/user-created/YouTube type content, and that the viral video you proposed would be complicated at best to guarantee for success.

I personally had a great time on the panel, always enjoy my colleagues’ insights, and afterwards heard some positive feedback from the audience, but I appreciate your thoughts posted here.

Posted by: Rebecca Paoletti on August 7, 2008 7:47 PM

Smith -- let me know what I misquoted, and I will correct the post. And yeah, conference audiences are a pain. We approach this stuff with a lot of cynicism and are generally pretty resistant to engage unless we feel a great passionate burn in our bosoms. I suppose part of that might be the collective hangovers.

Rebecca -- This wasn't intended to be a pure burn piece; I liked that you were frank about the online video advertising model not working as well as it ought to.

Mostly though, what I heard was pre-roll this and post-roll that. I pursued questions about amateur-style content because advertisers, like Levi's, Ray-Ban, Jawbone and Haagen-Dazs, are experimenting with it. What's the draw and what can we expect? I liked Chasin's perspective that, while the method may not be great for closing sales, it's good for setting a brand's mood.

I didn't hear much more in the way of "going beyond the pre-roll" besides breezy references to facial recognition (never fully elaborated-upon), Keystream and improved video tagging. And then they seemed like afterthoughts.

There are so many other things people are trying. What about disseminable brand mashups? Attempts to target virals in advance? Models like Splashcast, which is trying to make it possible for people to click on items in a video and purchase them?

I'm sorry, but I found the talk short-sighted in terms of innovation, and unnecessarily heavy on the Yahoo-pushing. It's cool that Y!'s clickable pre-rolls normalize at 5-6% versus the average video ad clickthru of .2 or .3%, but it's just not what I came to hear.

Thanks.

Posted by: Angela on August 7, 2008 9:46 PM

Well I can't speak for the rest of the panelists, but you weren't the only one with a hangover that afternoon :)

Here are the corrections:

At that point, Smith Forte of Current TV 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!).

>> This was the moderator, not me.

Forte's burst of inquisitiveness yields one clear benefit: Chasin's evil plot to make us sit through elevator pitches gets totally derailed.

>> This was the moderator, not me.

Forte wonders if there's a place for long-form video online. Chasin 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.

>> Chasin wondered, Forte pointed out...

Chasin 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.

>> This was me, not the moderator

Chasin calls them "mood setters" that help position the brand's vibe. No more, no less.

>> This was me, not the moderator

Forte turns to the audience and asks if there are anymore questions. A random audience member quips, "Can we hold you hostage?"

>> This was the moderator, not me.

Posted by: Smith Forte on August 8, 2008 1:26 PM

I see, I switched you guys around. The post is fixed and I apologize, Smith. =\ It turns out you were really great up there, especially near the end.

Posted by: Angela on August 8, 2008 1:46 PM

Oh, one more right in the beginning:

Things kick off with Smith Forte of Current.TV mumbling figures into the mic.

>> moderator, not me

Thanks Angela

Posted by: Smith Forte on August 8, 2008 1:49 PM

Think I've got it right now.

Posted by: Angela on August 8, 2008 1:58 PM

Well, if you're interested in getting the facts straight:

1. Rebecca spoke last, after me, Chris, Smith and Simon, in that order. Smith did not speak second; Chris did.

2. When I asked if the audience has any questions, it was AFTER ALL PANELISTS HAD SPOKEN. I thought that was a particularly egregious factual error.

Posted by: Josh Chasin on August 8, 2008 3:59 PM







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