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High-tech video evolution

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This time last year, b-to-b advertisers were using video, but what they were doing could be compared to Dorothy's Kansas in “The Wizard of Oz”: boring and gray. Today, video advertising has evolved, said David Berkowitz, 360i's director of emerging media and client strategy, because it's had to change to continue to attract prospects and customers. “As [high definition] becomes the default online, and end-user expectation goes up ... b-to-b marketers are more willing to invest in the user experience,” he said. That willingness is paying off for publishers and ad networks, according to a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers. The March report, “Internet Advertising Revenue Report,” shows digital video revenue more than doubling from 2007 to 2008, jumping from $324 million to $734 million. “Overall, video advertising for b-to-b has traditionally been a challenge, especially because of the high costs; but ... [it] evolved last year, and b-to-b marketers have more offerings, especially with the rise of the [video] overlay,” said Jeremy Fain, VP-industry services at the IAB. “Marketers can even take advantage of video without having video assets, while those who want their own video are at a better advantage since operational costs and time-to-market have all gone down.” The biggest change, said Catherine Spurway, VP-strategy and marketing at PointRoll, a subsidiary of Gannett Co. and a rich media online advertising provider, is that marketers are no longer simply repurposing video. They are creating original content for the Web. Better production quality and a Web-specific focus means videos are more appealing. Videos are also more interactive, she said. “Now, you can have hot spots [clickable links] in the video for deeper exploration. You can give viewers a choose-your-own-path option. For example, a recent Canon [Inc.] video ad gave viewers the option to configure their copier right from the ad unit.” Marketers also have more choices in terms of placement, said Doug McCausland, director of technology at Agency.com, an interactive agency. “We can incorporate video into virtually any setting to help users listen, learn and navigate,” he said. Video isn't limited to a box or a banner. Smart phones and PDAs let video go mobile, too, said Sam Sebastian, director of b-to-b markets at Google. “The iPhone, the Android-based G1 and the BlackBerry Storm each have a YouTube client,” he said. “Hopefully, all mobile devices will soon have viable Adobe Flash plug-ins, which will make it a lot easier for everyone to watch various types of streaming video content from anywhere.” And marketers have another option, too. Those marketers who aren't up to shooting their video assets or designing Ajax or Adobe Flex- or Flash-based media units can, as the IAB's Fain said, turn to video overlays to make the most of someone else's video assets. These overlays can also be interactive, so marketers can bring prospects back to their own Web sites or cull contact information from their interactions. One of its features—and one of the reasons marketers are starting a love affair with video—is the remarkable amount of metric data that comes from a video placement, said Wes Benel, senior campaign manager at EyeWonder, a video and rich media advertising company. EyeWonder's offerings have a real-time reporting system that tracks about 25 metrics, including when videos are played; whether or not audio is on; the percent of video viewed; brand interaction time; and impressions by date and hour. There are, however, some stumbling blocks that b-to-b marketers still need to overcome. Discoverability (how your prospects find your video assets) is still an issue. You can't dump your latest video case study onto your Web page and hope that someone stumbles across it. That's why integration is essential, said Pointroll's Spurway. “It's important for marketers to have a visible presence across the Web, and video can tie in to every medium out there.” Marketers can provide links to video assets via e-mail and place video on landing pages for search campaigns. Going forward, search and video integration will get a boost as searchable video becomes the norm, said 360i's Berkowitz. “We've already seen Google and Yahoo experiment with it,” he said. “Marketers can start by optimizing titles and links.” Social networking presents an enormous opportunity for marketers. B-to-b prospects are spending time on such social networks as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter—sharing their favorite video assets. Marketers that can find a way to help will be ahead of the game, the IAB's Fain said. Marketers must also remember their audience, something that doesn't always happen today, said David Hallerman, senior analyst with eMarketer. “The b-to-b audience's time tolerance isn't as strong for business-related video as it for consumer entertainment video; people don't always have time,” he said. “You can't just scan video. Either you pay attention or you don't; and sometimes a four-minute video is demanding too much.” You also have to watch frequency, since multiple placements can hurt your brand, the IAB's Fain said. “There's not a lot of frequency-capping going on right now. We see a lot of people sponsoring a video asset and every ad will be the exact same one. This annoys the user. You see it because this is the way that b-to-b publishers are selling their inventory.”
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