Whether digital marketers want to admit it or not, TV is the most powerful branding medium of all time. Online video is a close digital corollary, but we still haven't seen the big shift in brand advertising dollars from traditional to digital that many are hoping for.
The problem is that since its inception, online video has been sold as a TV alternative. However, online video has neither the scale, nor the simplicity of TV, nor should it aspire to. For brand marketers, TV's appeal has always been the ease with which it delivers incredible reach. But with a fragmented publisher landscape, a sea of acronyms and complex technology, online video will never be "easier" to buy than TV. Competing head to head with television will therefore never deliver the flood of dollars we as an industry are hoping for.
In order to encourage marketers to shift budgets, the digital industry needs to stop selling online video as TV's smaller, harder brother, and start emphasizing online video's incredible power to deliver brand advertising in ways marketers have never before thought possible.
The most obvious game-changer for brand marketers is the power of audience targeting combined with real-time bidding. Large-scale TV campaigns may be easy to execute, but buying American Idol and hoping its audience approximately matches your target customer's demographics is a little like shooting blindfolded. Never has the old adage been more true than when applied to TV: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half".
If brands can avoid the buy-and-pray crapshoot of TV by utilizing audience targeting and real-time bidding to target one-to-one, why are they still trying to emulate the TV buying model online?
If online video sellers would only embrace this technology, they could potentially out-sell their TV counterparts. Instead of competing with TV head on, online must go above and beyond by offering a product that is a generation ahead of the competition.
Creative personalization is another huge plus on video's side, and it's very closely related to targeting. Online video lets advertisers swap out creative in real-time so that they're not only putting their brand message in front of the right consumer, but putting forth the best, most relevant, creative as well. Think of a company like Geico, with its endless supply of characters and pitchmen. In the TV world, the agency would pick one, run the campaign for three months nationally, wait months for panel response data, and then analyze the campaign's impact on sales before choosing whether to re-air the commercial. Online video offers A/B testing in real-time, across multiple demographics/geos, and creative adjustments that happen within minutes, not months. An advertiser can rapidly figure out that while female consumers respond well to the Gecko, males prefer cavemen, enabling the marketer to achieve higher performance and dramatically less waste.
Of course, online video companies have used creative to differentiate video from TV in the past, largely through the use of overlays and interactive elements that encourage consumer participation. While engagement can be great, the coming wave of connected-TVs -- with their uncertain standards and interactive capabilities -- will make interactive video ads hard to deliver at scale, and put the onus squarely on targeting.
When a consumer sees a digital ad served on their TV in a full-screen, high-definition experience – where the mouse is absent -- interactive skins, overlays, and clickable elements won't matter as much as strong targeting.
Consumers are spending time online, there's no arguing that . But they're still spending time on TV, and no advertiser is going to give up on a proven channel like TV if video presents itself as a lesser alternative. Its time to stop whining about missing brand dollars and start emphasizing what TV doesn't have. Online media sellers need to adopt audience targeting, creative optimization and metrics, and then sell these capabilities to brands. The only way brands will use video to supplement their other buys is if it helps them drive sales, so let's show them how it works.