An Online Video Ad Survival Kit

Some people refer to online video advertising as the “Wild West.” Others will caution you: “Enter at your own risk.” And then there are those who simply stay away. But trust me when I say, don’t stay away too long. If you’ve been thinking about getting into the game, you will, in my opinion, need three things to be successful: the right spirit, a top-notch media agency and a video ad-server.

Let us take these in order, then. It all begins with the right spirit — your attitude and mind-set. Over the past 10 years, I’ve watched hundreds of brands enter the online video advertising fray. Some have succeeded. A good number, as we know, have not. But many of those that didn’t could have averted failure had they only approached the medium with the right attitude.

One very solid example I can name is Unilever, one of my firm’s clients that I cite for having the right kind of spirit. With impressive speed, Unilever has grown its business to become one of the largest spenders in online video advertising. But, more to my point, it has approached the space with a realistic appetite for risk that has been more of a benefit than anything else. Unilever even named its approach to online video buying, calling it a “reverse upfront” — a savvy riff on the way TV time has historically been bought and sold. Unilever ultimately became so comfortable in the space it created a number of video Webisodes that today are among the most popular in the industry.

This deliberative level of engagement helped the company understand how best to leverage online video. As a result, Unilever can now recommend the right media tactics — whether pre-roll, long-form, original programming, etc. — to deliver brand-building media performance.

The next ingredient is the right media agency. The best ones are those that have integrated their online teams with their offline, traditional media buyers. This holistic, or what you might call 360-degree, approach considers the entire spectrum of media that’s available before making a buy.

Consider what OMD did for McDonald’s on a recent online advertising campaign.  OMD — a leading media agency that my firm, BBE, often works with — shepherded the creative shop TribalDDB to success. TribalDDB’s challenge was to integrate the fast food advertiser into an original online show called “The Fantastic Two.” OMD guided Tribal DDB, enabling them to format the program (five minutes in length), distribute the show (site list across BBE network) and set up the metrics of success (view through, reach, etc.).

This kind of comprehensive and detail-driven approach demonstrated its value in  the numbers; the campaign pulled in more than 20 million views to a unique audience of over three million. The New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliot highlighted the campaign in a November 16, 2007 article headlined, “Web Videos Stealing TV Viewers and Marketers.” Elliott pointed out that a great media agency is essential to success in the online video advertising space.

OK, so you’ve got the right spirit and have engaged the right media agency partner. Now what?

Contract with a video ad-server. A video ad-server is a platform that allows advertisers to buy, serve, track and measure all of their online video ad activity. Depending on your industry (CPG, auto, retail, whatever), the measurement criteria will vary. But it’s vital that online advertisers retain control over the way their campaigns are administered. Put another way, an advertiser and its agency must be able to tailor their online campaigns to meet stated objectives. Doubleclick and Atlas first demonstrated this capability 15 years ago, and since then, we’ve come a long way. Today, advertiser and agency control has become the rule in online video advertising, not the exception. And that’s why you need a video ad-server.