As a longtime digital practitioner, I sometimes feel ashamed that I haven’t clicked on many banner ads in the last 10 years or so. It’s not that I don’t like banner ads. I recognize that advertising is the thing that supports all of the great content I read. I don’t even mind lots of ads in my paid, expensive, print and online versions of The Wall Street Journal – I sometimes even read them.
But standard banners rarely get any consideration or clicks from me, unless they are incredibly relevant. Standard banner ads aren’t particularly engaging – and the marketers buying them are getting frustrated with an ecosystem rife with fraud, technology taxes and nonhuman traffic.
Some of the world’s top marketers are actively working on “ban-the-banner” initiatives, driven by the theory that nothing but engagement matters – a KPI more easily correlated to watching an entire video than the much-maligned click. They believe great brands should tell great stories, so it seems obvious that the scant real estate and functionality offered by banner slots makes creating consumer engagement difficult, if not impossible.
At the intersection of an amazing technology-driven programmatic buying landscape and the increasingly creative social-led atmosphere of the new web is online video. It kind of snuck up on us, steadily creeping into our social feeds, blogs and favorite website destinations. That’s a very good thing: The reason linear television continues to command the lion’s share of media dollars is because people like to be entertained, and watching something is so much easier than reading something. Watching is a passive experience, but an emotional one.
Video is a place where brands can tell amazing stories, make a great pitch and drive consumer engagement. After years of perfecting 15-second, 30-second and one-minute spots, media agencies are eager to leverage their linear creative in new formats to reach audiences that seem to be abandoning traditional television in droves. This, coupled with a few other factors, is causing advertisers to rapidly move away from animated banners to video.
Millennials Don’t Like Television
Perhaps the most pressing dynamic forcing more video adoption among marketers is thatmillennials – who comprise an estimated 80 million-plus US consumers and will spend $200 billion next year – don’t really watch television anymore.
This is both from a delivery and physical dynamic; they do not watch video on television sets as much as they consume it on tablets, phones and other devices, and they also prefer on-demand viewing to scheduled programming. It makes sense. Even a 13” laptop with a retina display beats a 70” HDTV when held several inches in front of one’s face.
And the rise of streaming services has matured, giving consumers a legitimate option to “unplug” from traditional cable services and consume all the content they want on demand. Marketers must adapt to a reality that makes mobile the top priority for younger consumers, and adjust to the fact that many of the places millennials consume their content are relatively ad-free zones – at least in terms of traditional advertising units. It just so happens that video advertising fits into this new world nicely.
Time-Spent: The New Currency
If video ad delivery is going to be the mainstream unit, then it also follows that things like impressions and clicks are becoming irrelevant quickly. For video, the coin of the realm is time spent, and it is actually a pretty strong sign of engagement and valuable proxy for brand sentiment.
While it may be true that we are forced to consume some pre-roll before engaging with organic content, the best part of online video is that consumers waiting for content on their iPhones are much less likely to take a trip to the kitchen for a snack, as they do when standard commercials come on the tube. Instead of a solid three-minute block of commercials, they only have to engage with a single ad. Also, that ad can be tailored to individual preferences. That means even more engagement, less ad abandonment and a lot of measurability.
Data management platforms are helping marketers segment audiences that are prone to engage through an entire length of video and understand the types of content that produce longer viewing times and true engagement – and modeling those audiences to find lookalikes.
Linear And Online Video Must Connect For True Attribution
Probably the greatest thing about online video is the hope of leveraging data to connect online audiences with linear ones, and getting a better sense of media mix modeling and multitouch attribution.
Comcast certainly gets it. Connecting set-top box data with online ad serving means being able to touch a consumer with video across multiple screens – and bring real measurement of audiences that are increasingly device agnostic. Large telecoms, such as Verizon, are acquiring companies that provide the “last mile” of value from their broadband pipes, and that mile is as much about online video ad delivery as it is about website content.
The battle to do this correctly will be won at the “people level,” which is why we are seeing such a pitched battle of cross-device graphs; unless marketers can connect people with all of their devices, true attribution is simply impossible, rather than just being hard.
It’s an interesting time for modern marketers and publishers as they try and grow out of what we will see as the very early days of addressable advertising, and into a world dominated by on-demand content across a multitude of screens. The common denominator is video advertising, and I’m going long on the companies in the ecosystem that are going to power this new reality.
[This article originally appeared in AdExchanger on 6.30.16]