Some sites have been predicting that 2009 may be the bubble busting time for online video. Like the dot com era that came crashing to a halt they believe that online video too will burst and collapse in upon itself. Personally, I call bullshit.
I do agree that 2008 was a spectacular year for the online video industry. Unprecedented growth drove the industry to higher and higher reaches. Advertisers' heads were turned and people started to sit up and take notice. We saw the advent of some traditional broadcasters getting full on involved with online video and generally all around, things were super peachy. Yes, I said super peachy!
Sure advertising in itself was and by all accounts still is lagging behind and restrictions on videos, where they can be played and licensing are still open sores that prevent the industry from achieving the astronomical heights that we all know it can. No we still don't have 100% accepted advertisement guidelines, yes there are still numerous formats, bitrates, audio encoding and technical issues. And yet, we plod forward at a tremendous pace that continues to see the industry expand and we continue to see new, better and more innovative ways that video is being used online.
Will it end some day? Well, sustained growth at the rate that we've seen over the past several years is certainly a pipe dream. There is no way that it could continue indefinitely. Is 2009 the year that we will see it slow, stop or even reverse? I truly doubt it. Ben Weinberger at MediaPost believes otherwise. He writes that unsold inventory and bad results in traditional in TV advertising are being blamed on new media platforms by TV and advertising executives.
If that's the case, then how do you explain what FedEx just did by ditching their traditional Super Bowl spot for an all online campaign?
He offers up some suggestions on how we as an industry can help ourselves as the economy begins to rebound. Yet in his very first point is to "Encourage new advertising models and expanded inventory for alternative platforms now, while consumers continue to modify their TV-watching behavior."
He states that studies have shown that viewers would tolerate up to 2x more ads than are being shown presently. But a recent study showed that the most effective online video ad campaign will be the one that has ads that are 17 seconds in length and are only shown to the consumer twice. So do we really need to inundate viewers with 2x more videos than we have now? Absolutely not!
Putting in more commercial breaks will eventually turn online video into exactly what it doesn't want to be...broadcast television. How many times have you joked with your friends about the standard TV ad schedule of intro, 2 minutes of commercials, 10 minutes of show, 5 minutes of commercials? It's utterly ridiculous already how many ads are in television, do we honestly want that to happen to online video?
What's happening to those ads? People get up, use the toilet, make some food in the kitchen, channel surf or (like Mark) TiVo their favorite dance-based reality show and simply skip over the ads. In essence, no one is really watching the ads anymore.
Right now in online video, people are watching ads (so we like to believe). Don't you think it might be a good idea to keep them doing that instead of turning them away from the platform by inundating them with more and more ads? If a show is 24 minutes (6 minutes having been taken out for TV commercials) do you really believe that we need to then refill those full 6 minutes when the show is online? If someone is watching a 10 minute YouTube video do you really think they'll tolerate a 3 minute break in the center?
I, for one, do not. If you're going to do that then there's really no difference between the online version and the TiVo'd version and simply put, they could just watch the TiVo one at home and stick to other videos online that have less ads. You could effectively push your viewers away to your competitors by trying to imitate television or worse yet, push them straight back to TV thinking that online video is no different...or worse!
He also talks about new forms of advertising including pause ads. Wait a second, doesn't someone generally pause a video when they're NOT watching it? So wouldn't an ad that plays while the main video is paused be counter-intuitive? I mean sure you might have some displays on those videos but no one would really be watching them. Well no one except for that person's boss who would probably, after watching the entire video ad I'm sure, simply fire that person for watching video online while at work. No there are some innovations that probably shouldn't be made and I'm certain that is one of them.
He does later go on to say things that we've all been saying like making the most of content by utilizing it across multiple platforms like mobile, online, video-game platforms, etc. But even here he makes a mistake and talks about repurposing that video content. We already know that doesn't always work as we've seen in the past.
Repurposing isn't always the answer. If you're going to advertise on the new media platforms then you need to make ads that are tailored to those viewers. New media and television viewers are not one in the same, if they were everyone could have simply pulled their TV spots and replicated them on the new platforms and it all would have been wine and roses. But we have seen that fail time and time again. So I would not suggest that advertisers rely only on repurposing TV video for new platforms. No, I would suggest that if advertisers are going to take the plunge, they do so full bore. When television rolled around we didn't take newspaper ads and just stuff them into the new format did we?
His article had four points in it all told. The 3rd is what I am fairly certain to be common sense in regards to knowing your target audience and the fourth is just nonsense about encouraging patience among our partners.
You want to know what I think? Of course you do or you wouldn't have continued to read this far. Here's what I think:
Carpe diem! Grab the bull by the horns, slap it in the ass and go for it. Stop dawdling. Take the plunge. Online video and online video advertising is not exactly a flash in the pan now is it? FedEx is making the change as are many others, though perhaps not to the same degree as the courier service. We're already beginning to see major changes in all areas of online video and advertising. But if you keep standing on the sidelines twiddling your thumbs you might just get them tied together and forget to ever push the button.
The economic downturn is a great time to begin analyzing your business and seeing how you might make some changes. If your company is suffering because of the current financial situation then that means that you're not recession proof. It also means that perhaps some drastic measures are in order. So why not try something new?
If you're not advertising and marketing your products, companies and brands online already...you're lost in the dark. I hope that this article has shown some light on the situation for you. No I'm not suggesting you strip out all other forms of advertising and dump it all into one online basket and go for broke. I'm saying that if you haven't sliced off a piece of your advertising budget and placed it online then you're missing a whole new way to advertise and market your stuff. If you have a product aimed and teens and young adults (even to older adults like myself) then you're simply missing the boat. We're all here, waving to you standing on the shore, your thumbs in knots in front of you...unable to even wave back at us.
The online video ad industry is still young and fragile. But it's going to have to fall, trip, stumble, bruise, crack and bleed in order to become tougher and survive. It's how we all learn, from our mistakes. Let's just hope that we don't make such big mistakes that get it [the industry] killed before it has a chance to bloom into what we all know it can be, the dominant form of media on the planet...well maybe.
If you're interested in reading the specifics of Mr. Weinberger's post you can find it here: