During the Q&A portion of the adtech Chicago session, The State of Online Video: Going Beyond the Pre-Roll, I asked panelist Rebecca Paoletti, Director of Video Strategy for Yahoo!, if her company was planning to roll out video ads in universal search results. Her response was the same as last year's, "no." She claimed that Yahoo's attempt and failure with video search ads was an "across-the-board”situationfor all search engines. Google, however, said that wasn't so. Was it an large oversight by Yahoo!, or just a ploy to get more focus away from video search, where Yahoo! is finding it harder to compete?
ReelSEO had originally reported back in February on actual examples of how video ads were appearing on a very experimental basis in the major search engines,Google and Yahoo. The strategy was to see if video could create better ad relevancy for the search engine, click-thru results customer, and a larger reach for the marketer.
It was at last year's ad-tech where I first posed this question to Rebecca. Back then she said "no" – well before Yahoo! publicized its own experimentation with search video ads in March of this year. Yet after just a few months since, Yahoo! appears to have given up on its search video ad program. "Video search just doesn't work that well for ads." says Rebecca.
Why Yahoo! says "no" to video ads in search results
So what was behind Yahoo!'s decision for nixing video search ads? According to Rebecca, too many characteristics exist within a video clip to determine what may or may not be relevant to a search query.
"Because we all attach different pieces of metadata to our video clips, and because we're all looking in different ways for the video that we watch, there's just no great way to service the exact thing that you think you're looking for and that [the advertiser] is paying for. It's just a complicated model across-the-board." She added that a lot of video search is really not algorithmic-based or how the advertiser originally tags the video content, but rather "it's done by buzz, what's most popular, what's most viewed, what's most shared - those type of metrics.”
Rebecca used this explanation to push Yahoo!'s contextual based models for video ads, instead of a search model. "What advertisers are really looking to buy for is by what's "hottest." We had an advertiser who wanted to buy the 10 top videos watched that same day. They don't care about breaking news, or anything else that it might be. They just want to be part of the hottest, trendiest, most shared, most talked about experience.”
"But actually Monetizing video clips from search? Not such a big opportunity [for advertisers]. Because when you thing about it, a search result is really a 'bounce-thru'. Like when you got there, you're going to go right to [the original site], and not stick around to watch some ads. Whereas if you're going to watch a whole program, the consumer will be more likely to watch some paid ads.”
I thought she would leave it at that with just describing Yahoo!'s own experiences, but then she claimed that the the same experience applied to everyone else, assuming that included Google. Rebecca adds,”this is not just a Yahoo situation; it's across-the-board.”
Fellow panelists disagree with Yahoo! on video search ads
Smith Forte, Senior VP of Online Product Services for Current TV, and on the same panel with Yahoo! stated emphatically that video ads in search will eventually become widespread once recognition technology improves.
"I personally think that video search is one of the areas that has the most tremendous potential for improvement over the next couple years. There are more and more companies developing voice recognition and facial recognition technology. As these technologies become more robust and better tested, you can scan the video content and build the text-tagging associated with it, so then it becomes searchable. I think there's a tremendous opportunity for video there.”
Another fellow panelist, Simon Assad, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Heavy Corporation and expert in the broadband video space, also responded that their company actually does have a video solution with search, but that they are waiting before releasing the product to the public.
"It needs to work. It just doesn't work right now." said Rebecca. "We at Yahoo! are focusing on the big television budgets, and no television buyer would think about video search. There are some digital advertisers who think they know the audience they want to reach that might be searching and want to spend their dollars there, but its all really small.”
Google - still experimenting with video search ads
On the following day of the conference, I caught up with Jon-Diorio, Group Product Marketing Manager for Google, who was speaking on the panel, Power Panel: The State of Search - A Maturing Marketplace or Poised for More Growth? After I saw his presentation that included a slide of a video ad in a Google search result. I mentioned my conversation with Rebecca about her saying that video search ads were actually dead "across-the-board.”
"You were talking to Yahoo, right?" He replied, to the audience's laughter.
John went on to explain that video is a natural and eventual progression to how search users will experience advertising. "The more the different types of content you expand online, the more the searches evolve into 'simply showing your website for X, to showing a video about Y, which is related to X.' So advertisers have to be able to expand the set of keywords they're advertising on in order to capture that new, involved behavior.”
John added that video ads make searches more relevant and not as ambiguous as Rebecca suggested, claiming that they shorten the number of clicks towards of finding the information you need. "We're doing a number of experiments; not only with the search results, but with the advertisements it can run in order to help advertisers embed extra information in there. We have to think about going forward, not only are we structuring our content on the website correctly, but are we advertising with that structure to make it easier for the person to access what they're looking for? And also with creating new content, are we thinking about how that new content can augment our clients' advertising campaigns, so they can actually see a snapshot of what they're going to, before they actually commit to the click and charge the advertiser.”
In fairness to Yahoo!, Google's video search ads are still in the "careful experimentation" stage even after being announced a year back and openly tested 6 months back, and today are still only being deployed in an extremely small percentage of searches that make it very difficult for even advanced search marketers to find, much less the general public. Even the example Google showed in its own presentation slide, a video ad appearingfor the search term and television show "Top Chef," you can't find today doing a search. (Which is probably why they did a static slide instead of giving actual online examples.)
However, it's one thing for Yahoo! to give up on search for video ads, and stick to a run-of-network program; it's quite another to claim that everyone else gives up on it as well, especially when they're presenting at the same conference.
For Yahoo!'s own Director of Video Strategy to not even acknowledge Google's own publicized activities or that of video ad platform providers, its either a profound oversight or a lack of being forthcoming. Yahoo!'s video ad model may indeed be more suitable to a search engine that finds it just can't compete with Google for eyeballs in the search space around video, but rating their own failure with video search ads as an "across-the-board" failure shared by everyone else, is clearly an incorrect assessment.
Grant Crowell is the Senior Media Analyst for ReelSEO.com and owner of Grantastic Designs.