Rethinking Online Video Advertising

Every day, I talk to brand marketers and publishers about online video advertising. And every day they ask me to do something incredibly stupid: Tell them how many people are watching their ads. Of course, I can answer, but they’re asking the wrong question. Don’t even get me started about folks who say they want to know about clicks and completed video views in the same campaign

Where video advertising is concerned, the grand prize of winning new customers and new revenue is ours to lose. There is a lot at stake, because, after a decade of digital lamentation about television’s chokehold on brand budgets, online video is finally seeing its moment in the sun. Brand marketers realize that online video delivers the best-quality television advertising and more. That’s why video viewership continues to rise month after month, and brands are pouring more cash than ever into this evolving platform. Common sense dictates that this is only the beginning.

But it’s no longer enough to leave it to media planners to tackle fundamental execution issues like placement, positioning and pricing. If we want to see video advertising that truly delivers on its promise for brands and consumers, the industry needs to step away from the often contradictory metrics we now rely on and pivot 180-degrees to put user experience at the center of every video campaign. Pre-roll — still most planners’ first choice by far — is not doing the trick.

With our consumer hats on, we need to consider what I call the “value exchange” of video advertising. Brands need to ask what they’re providing to users in return for the time and attention they give up. Some degree of give and take is required for brands to achieve the engagement they desire from their audiences. We need to create video advertising in the interest of consumers.

So what do viewers want? In a recent study commissioned by Vibrant Media, we looked at how the user experience of a video ad impacts brand engagement. There were 500 participants involved. Key findings included: the ability to both choose and control the online video experience matters to users, and personally relevant ads aligned to content are more likely to engage and hold a user’s attention. Specifically, 81 percent of survey respondents reported that they prefer advertising they can initiate on their own. Seventy-two percent appreciated being able to start and stop an ad on their own. And 62 percent said video ads that were relevant to the content on their page left them with a more favorable brand impression.

Relevance, control and choice. That’s what people want from video advertising. Not so surprising, really, when you think about what we, as consumers, expect from the video advertising we’re forced to watch ourselves. We demand respect from the brands that covet our loyalty, and our viewers deserve no less. After all, even as television audiences start to decline, screens are more ubiquitous than ever. Viewers are growing savvier at blocking out the noise. More is not better. We can’t just pummel people with advertising and hope something gets through.

Just as the best products — like the iPhone — put users’ needs first, so should the best advertising. Let’s step away from the metrics and the noise, and think about what our audience wants. Let’s entertain them, inform them and help them. Let’s give them relevance, choice and control. Let’s cut the clutter and focus on creating a quality user experience and a quality brand experience. Let’s strive to create video advertising that truly delivers for brands — by putting consumers first.

Ariff Quli is Senior Vice President of Sales at Vibrant Media, a contextual advertising company.