There’s been a lot of buzz and chatter about the promise of online video advertising during the past year, accelerating considerably in just the past week, since the New York Times reported that Google is testing video ads on its search results page. Forrester Research recently released a report predicting online video advertising spend will reach $7.1 billion by 2012. Industry pundits from Greg Sterling, Michael Boland and his colleagues at the Kelsey Group, and Mark Robertson (Reel SEO) have all written about the coming of video ads and the power they may have in fueling online advertising, especially for small and medium sized businesses.
Now that all of this has captured Google’s attention, the chatter around online video ads is likely to keep rising, as evidenced by this comment from a NY Times reader regarding Google’s tests: “People come to Google looking for information. If the ads are non-intrusive and informative, I think people will tolerate it. But if ads turn Google into a circus like they have for so many websites, it would be a shame.”
Before it gets any louder, the time seems right to weigh in on video ads and offer some perspective on their “goodness” or “badness” for both advertisers and consumers.
Are online video ads good or bad for Google?
The answer depends on whether you ask advertisers or consumers.
For advertisers, we see online video advertising as a good and natural progression from the offline world—or from more “traditional” forms of online advertising. Video, of course, leverages the benefits of sight, sound, and motion and (in almost all cases) delivers a richer experience than any other media.
But if deployed properly, online video can do much more, offering the ability for advertisers to generate immediate interaction with consumers, as well as give them insight into the effectiveness of their online video ads and, in some cases, the ability to adjust and optimize video ads over time. The key is for there to be affordable, turnkey online video solutions that help businesses, especially small and medium sized ones, create compelling and informative video ads. And as it relates to being placed on Google results, the ultimate success of the deployment rests with the videos being accurate, relevant, and useful to consumers as they search.
For consumers, the answer is more complex. Go back to the NY Times article and read through the comments and you’ll find a debate already stirring on the goodness of video ads. Some comments like: “The day Google launches this is the day I stop using Google” are counter-balanced with comments like: “Google provides a service vital to most people’s online lives, and viewing ads during this process is a small price to pay.”
What makes this complex is the limited reference point consumers have, based oftentimes on unrelated banner ads they’ve seen vis-a-vis the “clean” text-based ads they now see on Google. Consumers may fear that online video ads will be garish, annoying, and uninformative—much the way many rich media banner ads are today—and that they may lose the uncluttered text-based search results they get on Google.
What format makes for good online video advertising?
Much of the industry chatter thus far has defined and assumed the online video advertising units as pre- and post-roll ads or overlays. In reality, it is way too early to define the optimal ad unit, let alone set an ideal length for online video ads.
What we have seen from our own experience is that effective online video advertising is not limited to 15 or 30 second re-purposed commercials, but can include other forms of marketing like testimonials, video profiles, and product demonstrations. Working with clients, we’ve seen three- and four- minute video ads with real estate brokers talking about their areas of expertise, then showing a tour of a home, viewed all the way to the end countless times, while in comparison we have found 30-second re-purposed commercials rarely viewed to the end. What is an advertisement, anyway, but a way to inform potential customers and drive action (sales)? Where is it written that advertising should be obnoxious?
The point is that the promise of online video advertising ultimately relies on businesses taking advantage of the opportunity to not be bound by either the offline constraints for television commercials (think television pod) or the glut of garish, annoying, and obtrusive rich media banner ads, and to develop video ads that are both contextually relevant, highly informative, and still treat the consumer with respect.
Google has the opportunity to augment what they already do so well with text advertising and offer video ads that can actually complement and enhance the consumer experience.
Marissa Mayer from Google said it herself in the NY Times article:
“This allows Google to expand what it can offer advertisers that are focused on promoting their brands, rather than driving traffic to a Web site.” But Ms. Mayer said the company was not changing its idea that ads need to be directly relevant to what users are searching for.
For Google, the challenge and opportunity here lies in presenting the online video ads in search results in such a way that they are as relevant and useful as possible. If Google can pull this off, both advertisers and consumers can win.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.