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Allaire: Fragmentation's a Good Thing

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NEW YORK The future of video advertising is not tied to spots running on specific sites, but on broad online content distribution across the entire Internet, Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire said at a conference here today.

The online video market is still immature, with uncertainties about formats, targeting and measurement, he told the audience at the Future of Advertising conference. The dilemma for both producers and advertisers is how to deal with fragmentation of audiences.

Allaire's advice: "Fragment or be fragmented."

"We're moving from a world where the marketer or content owner drives the consumer to a destination to where the consumer is everywhere," he said. "What marketers have to think about is how they follow content around the Web."

There are signs that media companies have begun to embrace this notion. NBC Universal yesterday said it would distribute content through a deal with widget company Clearspring. This would allow users to embed widgets with NBC video on their social network pages and blogs. CBS is aggressively pursuing the same strategy, setting up its CBS Audience Network that will pipe content through various digital platforms.

Brightcove syndicates content across the Web, providing technology for content owners to run video on their own sites as well as through partners. (Dow Jones uses the service to show video on WSJ.com, but also to allow its partners and even regular users to place clips on their sites. In all cases, the ads roll before the clips and follow the content when it is embedded in other sites.)

Ultimately, in this world of distributed media, advertisers will have less control over the surrounding environment for their messages, Allaire said. For example, an embedded Wall Street Journal video sponsored by MasterCard could be embedded on a partner site where Visa also advertises. What's more, current measurement technologies are insufficient, he said, tracking mostly interaction on destination sites rather than covering multiple channels.

Online video advertising is still in search of the right formats for ads, Allaire said. The current vogue of running 15- or 30-second pre-roll spots every other clip risks annoying viewers, he said.

Brightcove is experimenting with new formats: One such implementation consists of showing a three-second sponsor message before a clip, followed by a Flash overlay ad on the bottom of the screen during the video, with a post-roll player screen takeover once the clip ends. At all times, users can click to view brand content while pausing their video.

"We see this as something that's less intrusive," he said. "We'll see if these type of things take shape."

Another sign of the immaturity of the market, in Allaire's view, is the rudimentary to non-existent targeting of video ads. A user watching several clips at a site is likely to see the same ad several times, risking what he calls "creative fatigue."

"That's not good for the marketer, the user or the publisher," he said.