Will Video Ads In Search Results Work?

    March 7, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

Glenn Pingul, VP of marketing for Mixpo, is pretty stoked about online video and its potential to help level the playing field for small businesses, especially at the conjunction of search and video advertising. Makes sense; Mixpo is a video marketing company.

Glenn Pingul, VP Marketing Glenn Pingul, VP Marketing
(Photo Credit: Mixpo)

In a post at SearchEngineLand, Pingul argues that video is a more powerful medium than text, and when used in conjunction with search, video ads could be a huge opportunity for small businesses. Part of his exploration comes from Google’s recent experiments with video ads in the search results. Another justification is that broadband is expected to reach 90% penetration in the States this year.

In addition, because it has become cheaper to produce videos, and the Internet itself is a less costly medium to access, Pingul says that great barrier (money) to far-reaching and effective video advertising is sufficiently lowered. And he may be very right about that.

While that all sounds good, I’m not wholly convinced yet. I think it still may be very early—out on the frontier, they’re still clearing the fields of stumps.

(As I’m writing this with my reservations, details about  Google AdWords TV ads are emerging.)

At the heart of my reluctance is the thought that maybe the online audience does not behave quite like the offline audience. For example, no seasoned marketer would downplay the power of branding, which is indirect marketing, creating a cerebral connection with the target market.

This connection is made primarily via contextual and/or content advertising to generate awareness, not direct sales, in the hope that the generated awareness will lead to greater sales once the customer begins searching for something in that product field. Branding is done in the hopes that they remember you, and that the recognition created via branding builds a kind of trust.

For example, a customer might be more likely to order an electronic product from, say, Circuit City’s website, just because they’ve heard of them, and because they trust them not to screw the customer over (even though you may have had a totally different experience, this is just to make a point). The flat-screen TV on clearance at an unheard-of site might make saving $300 seem like a real risk. The customer wants to know that if something goes wrong that they won’t be left holding a broken TV and credit card bill they’ll have to pay anyway.

Despite that inherent trust that branding builds, many WebProNews small business-owning readers have reported that content (branding) ads do nothing for them, that they end up spending too much money for not enough directly measurable results. They complain that 90% of the traffic they get flits off within a second of viewing, making however much they spent on that referral a waste. A branding professional would argue that those visits were not worthless, but are just part of the bigger picture (bigger cost) of creating brand recognition.

Still, for the advertisers search brings the most direct results, and that’s where they’re more comfortable putting their money. That’s understandable.

So that makes me wonder if branding efforts online, though they should work in theory, are not working in practice the way they do offline. I don’t agree that they don’t yet, but I’m stubborn.

In the same way, I wonder if video ads really connect on that same level that TV ads connect, if branding that requires action is as salient as the passivity TV allows. And what percentage do we really connect with TV ads anyway? My stepson knows every commercial on TV and sometimes tries to talk to me about one of them just seconds after it has gone off the air. Though I was looking at the TV, I hadn’t really seen the ad.

Unless it was that horrible yet effective "Head On" commercial, which really upsets me how well it works. But I may be typical of a man who’s watched TV for 30 years…I remember similar conversations with my dad. At least we know that TV ads definitely connect with teenage boys.

But are those same teenage boys really embracing video ads online? Maybe. Though they’ve revolted a number of times on YouTube and MySpace against the commercialization of their cherished online sanctuaries, they’re still there, and are known to click anything with a "play" button. How long they watch is a different matter.

But my biggest concern is about video ad integration into the search results. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. I’m just not sure it will work yet. Google’s claim-to-search-fame has been its clean interface. No clutter, no junk, nice and fast and relevant. I think if anybody can make video search ads fast and relevant, it’s Google.

But I wonder how cluttered, how junky the ads will make the results; I wonder how long before ad blindness takes hold; I wonder if they’ll slow down the search experience; I wonder if online video ads are really as effective as TV ads. Doesn’t matter how much I wonder, I suppose, the world’s headed that way anyway, and at a pretty rapid pace.