Reach your audience through integration


iMedia Connection

The future of online video is good storytelling, and the key to engaging viewers is to craft a promotion that is part of that story, not an interruption to it.

Like the umlaut, David Hasselhoff and things with the suffix “-wurst,” I too have a strong following in Germany. In the last few weeks, several German graduate students, desperate to finish their theses, have contacted me for my opinion on the future of video in online advertising. To each of these students, I replied with my standard, canned answer: “Gute Geschichten führen zu Erfolg” (good stories lead to success).

The future of video on the net is all about good storytelling.

Today’s online video zeppelins
In-banner video has been around for a while and is all about attracting attention. People, like the tyrannosaurus in “Jurassic Park,” notice things that move, and nothing moves like video. The great thing about in-banner video is that once you grab a user’s attention, you can then lead them down the path to interact with a near-limitless number of features.

This two-way communication between advertiser and audience is very powerful, but unfortunately, the goal isn’t tracking — it’s performance, and many agree that clickthrough rates and interaction rates have been down across the board.

Conversely, in-stream ads are all about interruption. Certainly there is a lot to be said for interruption as a tool for getting attention, but in a world of mass distribution and limited exclusivity, when watching a show on one site becomes annoying because of ad interruption, users will migrate to other outlets to watch the content they want.

What’s going to be uber-popular
Advertisers are already beginning to adopt the idea that their brands can latch on to good storytelling. Video content, unlike in-banner and in-stream advertising, is a whole different football (soccer) game, where the strategy employed is to become part of the experience, rather than to interrupt it.

One recent example of this can be seen in Improv Everywhere’s latest mission, “Best Game Ever.” Improv Everywhere is famous for pulling large-scale improvised stunts in public places such as Grand Central Terminal, Home Depot and a Ben Fold’s concert and then broadcasting their stunts on the web.

In their latest mission, the troupe turned a neighborhood Little League game into a big-league event by bringing in an army of fanatical fans for both teams. All of the “fans” were equipped with signs, banners and extensive knowledge of the pint-sized players’ league averages and nicknames. They led aggressive cheers, handed out game programs and several wore face and body paint. To complete the prank, Improv Everywhere partnered with NBC Sports.

NBC Sports integrated itself into the story by providing a jumbotron in the outfield featuring live commentary from legendary sportscaster Jim Gray. They also held a post-game press conference and even organized a cameo appearance by the Goodyear blimp.

For NBC Sports and Goodyear, this meant getting lean-forward exposure in front of more than half a million people who choose to watch Improv Everywhere’s content on either or several of the major video portals.

It also meant coverage in tons of sports, baseball and comedy blogs as well as press mentions in offline publications like the Los Angeles Times.

Furthermore, by being part of the story, NBC’s brand was exposed to a willing and engaged audience for close to four minutes. With research showing that product placement in TV content boosts brand awareness by 20 percent, and knowing that most internet ads are only between five and 30 seconds, this massive exposure surely bodes well for the future of brand-relevant online video content.

Video is still the most powerful and emotive tool in an internet advertiser’s arsenal, and its applications are finally evolving to fit the medium. In an on-demand world, promotions that compliment a user’s content selection, either through extreme targeting or by aligning with the story arch, represent a new and enticing way to impact the audience. For those brands that continue to rely strictly on interruption, well…auf Wiedersehen.

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