Yesterday's Internet TV Advertising Forum/Maven Networks webcast "Pre-Roll vs. Overlay: Consumer Reaction to New Online Video Advertising Formats" yielded a lot of interesting usability information about various broadband video ad formats. For any content provider or aggregator who's relying on advertising as their business model of choice, it's clear that there are some significant opportunities and challenges ahead.
Below is a summary of the 5 key usability conclusions I heard in the webcast along with my take on each:
1. Users hate pre-rolls. Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that video ads are annoying and have developed the same kinds of coping techniques (tuning out, bailing out, etc.) they use to avoid TV ads.
My take: Yes, but unfortunately for users, I don't see pre-rolls going away any time soon. They're easy to execute, fit media buying habits well, are selling strongly especially for high-quality long-form video and best for advertisers seeking a tonic from DVR behaviors, pre-rolls can't be outright skipped by users. Given all this, let's all hope that targeting improves and publishers use them with some discipline, so users don't preemptively turn off to the broadband video medium.
2. Overlay ads' effectiveness is correlated to content fit, not demographics. Testing showed that users welcomed ads for products that were highly related to the content itself, and lost interest the less related the two were. Demos were less important.
My take: This point reinforces the importance of contextual targeting, which of course has worked well on the Internet as a whole. Yet as Bob Kernen at Maven says, a lot of content is "non-endemic" (i.e. doesn't lend itself to specific products or ads), so my guess is that this correlation opportunity is going to be lost for many content providers. Network programs in particular seem non-endemic and therefore will need to rely mainly on demo-based and possibly behavioral targeting.
3. Overlay ads need better execution to work well. Jeff Rosenblum from Questus summarized 8 best practices for executing overlay ads, such as appropriate frequency and duration, user control, calls-to-action, navigation and the like. For anyone looking to run an overlay campaign (and even for those who have), these serve as a great roadmap of do's and don't's.
My take: As always, executing right can make the difference between a campaign's success and failure. If you're planning to run an overlay campaign, I highly suggest you review this checklist against your plans to make sure you haven't overlooked anything.
4. It's difficult to engage an audience. The testing again showed how hard it is to engage online audiences, regardless of approach. Bob laid out a handy engagement hierarchy, Impression, Interaction and Immersion (from least to most engaging). Knowing what level of engagement your campaign aspires to must guide specific tactics and execution.
My take: Getting the consumer's attention and prompting them to act is the ad industry's oldest goal. It's even harder in the broadband sector. People have shorter attention spans than ever, so grabbing them and getting them to do what you hope gets more difficult all the time. Fortunately video offers emotional appeal unlike any text or graphical ad in the Internet world, so broadband offers new engagement techniques previously unavailable.
5. More research needed. While this first round of usability testing from the Internet Ad Forum shed a lot of new light on the broadband ad opportunity, it's clearly just a first step. The Forum has ambitious goals to keep researching and testing, continuously educating the market.
My take: As I mentioned in my remarks at the beginning of the webcast, everyone has a vested interest in solidifying the ad model as soon as possible. The enthusiasm around broadband will soon dry up if participants don't earn an acceptable ROI for their efforts.
From time to time I'll take the opportunity to bring worthwhile industry events to your attention. In this spirit, there will be a terrific complimentary webcast this Wed, Dec. 12, entitled, "Pre-Roll vs. Overlay: Consumer Reaction to New Online Video Advertising Formats."
The webcast is hosted by the Internet TV Advertising Forum and Maven Networks. If you're motivated to learn about what real consumers think about different types of broadband video ad formats, then I believe this 1 hour webcast will be well worth your time.
(Note: I have no financial interest in the Forum, this webcast or Maven Networks.)
The Internet TV Advertising Forum, which was founded by Maven, includes a group of leading companies such as Digitas, DoubleClick, Fox News Digital, Microsoft, Oglivy, Scripps Networks Interactive, TV Guide, 24/7 Real Media and 4Kids Entertainment. The Forum is working to define the next generation of broadband video advertising strategies, formats and best practices.
The Forum conducted a series of usability tests in October, 2007, to study new, interactive ad formats designed for broadband video. During the webcast, Jeff Rosenblum, co-president of Questus, the market research firm that oversaw the usability testing, will share the data and conclusions.
As many of us would agree, 2007 has been marked by an increasing awareness that ad-support is going to be the primary business model for broadband video, at least in the near-term. Yet there is still much uncertainty about how best to capitalize on the advertising opportunity. So I view events like this, which further industry participants' understanding of what consumers want, as crucial to building consensus and standards necessary for the broadband video medium to succeed.
Maven has graciously invited me to share some context about the broadband video industry at the beginning of the webcast. Again, I have no financial stake in this event. Rather, I view it merely as an opportunity to share some thoughts, learn alongside all of you about the conclusions of this usability testing and participate in the follow-up Q&A session.
If you're interested in this complimentary webcast, click here to register.