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Reeling in the online video ROI

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Online video has, in a relatively short period, become de rigueur for b-to-b companies that want to market their products and services online, as viewing online video content via the Web and other digital devices becomes second nature for b-to-b buyers. But selling online video advertising is another story.

The number of online videos viewed through April grew 81%, compared with the same time period last year, according to comScore Inc. However, the growth of online video advertising revenue was 36% during the same time period, according to a study conducted by the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Indeed, the gap between watching “shows” online and watching the messages delivered via online video advertising is pretty wide: The number of videos watched per person grew 54% in April, but just 1% of viewing time was devoted to watching online video ads, comScore said.

“For the last couple of years, we've delivered on the viewer numbers, but not the ad revenue numbers,” said Tania Yuki, comScore senior director of video and cross-media products.

ComScore is aiming to change the outlook on marketers' ability to measure online video advertising through Video Metrix 2.0. The new service, which was introduced last month, features several additional reporting metrics.

These include average daily unique viewers, viewing sessions, percentage of ads by videos viewed, percentage of ads by time spent viewing video, ads per content video and content minutes per ad minute. Perhaps most important, the new service also has the ability to distinguish between the viewing of ads and content.

Later this year, comScore will introduce an updated gross rating point (GRP) for online video to further enable cross-media comparability with TV spots.

“We realized online video was moving away from a user-generated, purely ‘snack-based' content platform and starting to emerge as almost a primary, or at least a very significant supplementary, entertainment portal for a lot of viewers,” Yuki said. “Looking to the future, we need to think about how to separate out long-form and short-form [content], and start to really slice up the video marketplace in a way in which people are actually thinking about it and selling it.”

B-to-b media companies, of course, are taking pains to integrate more sophisticated metrics into the growing amount of online video programming that they are producing on behalf of their clients.

For its “Day in the Life” video, which ran earlier this year, PCWorld|Macworld produced an online video showcasing a laptop's 11-hour battery life.

People who watched the video were asked to take a survey that posed the question: “Where will 11 hours of battery life take you?” Among the 519 people who responded to the survey from October to December 2009, 92% said they were more likely to say that the manufacturer's products had outstanding battery life while 69% said they were more likely to consider the manufacturer a “leader” in innovation.

“We're seeing that highly focused video campaigns can really help marketers accomplish their goals and help them show brand lift,” said Brian Buizer, senior director of program development at PCWorld|Macworld, which is owned by IDG. Buizer declined to name the manufacturer that sponsored the video.

Buizer said PCWorld|Macworld uses Omniture SiteCatalyst to measure its online videos, such as number of times the video is viewed and steps taken during the individual viewing, including a click-to-view percentage and a view-to-completion percentage.

Yet PCWorld|Macworld has been able to enhance the way it tracks its online video by tagging many of its video programs with what Buizer called a “pre-post” survey, similar to the one featured in the “A Day in the Life” video.

“This gave the advertiser a bunch of rich metrics to share with its management team,” Buizer said. “Where we would have previously only had impressions and clicks, we now had a great story of engagement to share with them. The fact that the entire 2½-minute video was viewed in its entirety by over 41,000 PCWorld.com site users was a huge boost to our custom video programs.”

User interaction, or in-video clicks and actions, (74%) and measured increase in brand awareness or message association (71%) were cited as “extremely important” or “very important” engagement metrics for online video, according to the report “State of Online Video,” which was released in April.

The survey, conducted by Tremor Media and DM2PRO via the Internet, took the pulse of 500-plus marketing and advertising executives, publishers and video technology/service providers about their online video programming. It found that better ROI was the most important factor (92%) in persuading respondents to buy more online video, followed by quality content and better reach (both at 84%).

“People are accepting that online video is serious and it works,” comScore's Yuki said. “But to make more money, we [have] got to stop treating it purely like an experimentation platform and start approaching it like a business and having a fair value exchange with our viewers.”

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