Content is still king regardless of media

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There is a value in familiarity of video, but recycling TV material, attitudes is a mistake

the flavor of the month in Internet marketing is broadband video-but at the moment it's popular for the wrong reason: comfort.

AOL, Yahoo, MSN, Reuters and ESPN, among others, have developed compelling products that have agencies and advertisers excited. And why not? After all, broadband video can provide an engaging and emotive consumer experience; its accountability allows us to learn more about advertising impact than is possible in any other medium; and the ability to segment audiences and deliver customized content makes relevance a reality.

So this is why there is such enthusiasm for video online? Actually, no. The truth is that we're clamoring for broadband video as our ad delivery mechanism because we're comfortable with it, because, not to put too fine a point on it, it's like TV on the Web.

There is a value to having a format that is familiar to marketers. TV advertising has built brands, moved audiences and sold products. It makes sense to emulate that, and with TV losing share, the chance to replicate that experience online is alluring. Not to mention that it is easier, cheaper and reasonably effective to take an existing :30 spot and place it online.

But comfort will not engage consumers. It will not maximize sales. It will not help advertisers win.

Web sites must be willing to invest in quality content. Publishers take note: There is a serious lack of fresh and appealing video out there. Week-old news clips don't cut it. Rushed low-quality video makes a site look like a public access channel. Web sites must be committed either to producing high-quality video or striking distribution deals that give them access to the same.

Even when Web publishers have quality content it can be a game of hide and seek for consumers to find good video content. In a recent Online Publishers Association study, 53% of online respondents said they would be more likely to watch video if they could easily find content of interest. Advances in Video Search will help address this problem, but promotion would make the biggest difference. Media companies with compelling video content should be shouting from the rooftops.

NO CURE

We also need research to understand how consumers are interacting with video on sites. What are the demographic profiles of the viewers? What is the optimal length of a spot? When are consumers most likely to view a long-form ad? Accountability and insight must drive growth.

Informed respect for the new media consumer must drive format innovations in this medium. Advertisers should be willing to develop :5, :10 and :15 spots made specifically for the Internet. Creatives should embrace the opportunity to make video ads that are relevant, interactive and engaging.

We must also understand that broadband video won't cure what ails advertisers. But the companies that get it right will have broken down the silos of media, creative, search and site development. Digital integration of strategy, message and data is mandatory.

The Internet is not a passive experience and it is not being used by a passive media consumer. What was a one-way conversation is now a dynamic discourse. It's time for marketers to start listening to and engaging with their customers in a completely different way. It may not be comfortable, but it is essential.

Jeff Lanctot serves as VP-media and client services for Avenue A/ Razorfish, interactive marketing's largest independent media buyer. His focus is on the integration of digital strategies including search, display media, video and emerging technologies.

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