SES NY: Rich Media and Video Ads

    February 27, 2006

This next session was both about how companies can use rich media on the internet to gain popularity, and about video advertising on the web.

Maria Mandel from Ogilvy kicks it off by saying that adding audio and video to online advertising increases the impact 2.5 times, according to a study. Most companies think they can just take their TV commercials and put them online. This doesn’t work as well as they’d think. By creating an ad that, while similar to a TV ad, is designed for online (designed for people sitting closer to a screen, having links within the creative), the advertiser saw a 3.5 times increase in effectiveness.

She shows a “You Make The Call” ad Miller Lite ran, where you click the sidebar to slideout a video area, and the user is asked what they want to happen in the ad. Maria says the average user spent more than two minutes with the ad. Another ad, for a car, had, if you moused over the ad, the guy in the ad would yell at you to stop touching his car.

One thing during the whole presentation: the popup blocker and other security features continued interrupting and slowing down the demo. This proves the biggest problem with this type of advertising, and was not acknowledged.

She also showed an ad campaign they ran for Sprite called “Miles Thirst”, where they did a viral campaign inserting this character everywhere. They bought search ads on various pop culture references, with the character commenting on them.

Next up was Dorian Sweet from Tribal DDB. He discusses viral advertising, and how he tried to make a rule that no one could use it, or they’d have to sing the national anthem. He explains how there’s nothing new about new advertising, just that the technology is getting better and easier to use.

He shows a quote from Diderot, written when they were putting together the Encyclopedia. Why were they doing it? Because they thought the world was going to end, and they needed a book to remind them how to rebuild it.

He says there are three types of rich content: Function-generated, like Hotmail, where you give away something for free; Brand-generated, supposedly cool stuff put surrounding a product, and user-generated. He shows the Star Wars kid video, which was a great example of a user creating something great.

He also explains how, when an advertiser creates rich media, they run risks, because like the Star Wars kid, users will remake it, and possible make fun of you. As another example, he shows the George Masters iPod Mini video.

“Brands have to realize they are not the sole proprietors of the message”.

Next up was Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus. He explains how in engaging consumers, there are some things that work very well. Urgency works, getting us to news sites. Utility works, getting us to many Google tools. Practicality works, getting us to Flickr. Originality works, in the case of MySpace, which has captured a group’s own originality. Curiosity works, gets us to see unique videos at YouTube. Technology and Innovation works, getting us to all-new types of portals, like Comedy Central’s Motherlode, which does an extremely successful job of repackaging Comedy Central’s content.

Two notes: Ian used to have Google Desktop Search, and doesn’t anymore. Two, he made a Flickr “r” joke, talking Flickr Voyrs.

He shows stats that rich media delivers content more effectively than traditional advertising, and consumers stick around longer.

He shows off the Sopranos Google Map, which has just launched, and they built. It allows people to explore the world of the Sopranos, including seeing videos and exploring different areas of the Sopranos website and the map. In terms of quality and coolness, it looks excellent, and I suspect will be quite successful, and a model many other companies will copy.

Another successful thing they did, was linking the Sopranos trailer with Super Bowl commercials, which got the trailer viewed well over 100,000 times, and a “Pimp My Profile” thing they did, creating a fun campaign using a character from Date Movie to let people make fun of their MySpace profile pages.

Last up was Scott Meyer, President and CEO of He says that About takes enormous advantage of search engines, having great optimization with all of their enormous amounts of diverse content. He says the rich media ads, while some are innovative, still mostly look like their Web 1.0 counterparts, just are being used by blue-chip companies.

One problem is that this stuff is still very expensive to produce, and vendors are still very fragmented. Search is not well-developed with rich media, making it harder for people to find content. Google’s video is very different from most of their competitors, and it is a closed system, a rarity with Google. Inventory is in very short supply in video ad networks, and the pricing structures are difficult to determine.

About plans to leverage the 500+ Guides they already have, hire specialized video experts, hire brand-name experts with known credibility, partner with advertisers to take advantage of the the medium, and partner with big third-party content providers. They also believe that simply putting an ad in front of video isn’t the best way, and they’re looking for more interactivity between the ad and the content.

Now, after the session, I approached the first presenter, Maria Mandel, and pointed out that during her demo, she had to move around popup blockers and Flash error messages, and asked if she was worried that users are finding ways, like Firefox’s Flashblock, to block the same rich media content, the entire panel is trying to make money off of, and pointed out that the fault for this lies in the misuse of rich media we’ve had for year, with this sort of things getting shoved down our throats.

She made a good point that all users are finding ways away from push advertising, precisely because all of it has being annoying us for years. In fact, we buy Tivos not just to time-shift shows, but to skip the commercials interrupting our entertainment. She believes all advertising is moving away from that model to one that the user seeks out and engages on their own, and thus enjoys, and is more effective, an on-demand form of advertising. I really like that idea, and it made me come away from the panel feeling pretty hopeful about the future of advertising.

A bit of a footnote: Much of the entertainment industry in this country is built on push advertising. If a large portion of the ad dollars moves to on demand, that money dries up, and the things that rely on it, like newspapers, TV and websites, are going to have a hard time in that new economy.

Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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