We are at the brink of a watershed moment in digital video. The Digital Content NewFronts has become an integral part of advertisers’ annual budget planning. Fueled by the high demand for premium, original content, this second annual marketplace, taking place this week (April 29-May 3), is widely expected to attract $1 billion of investment.
This level of investment inevitably will propel the entire digital video ad industry. Advertisers now have the foresight and financial incentive to produce original digital video advertising and make digital video a central focus of creativity, breakthrough interactivity and brand storytelling.
Already, industry pioneers are taking this route. Some of the most cutting-edge video executions I’ve seen have the functionality of apps and content depth of full Web pages. I’ve seen digital video ads with links to multiple video games that consumers can play without leaving the ad unit. I’ve seen videos that, upon user interaction, expand beyond the box to take over the screen for an immersive and memorable experience. A lot of this functionality is present in the IAB Digital Video Rising Stars ad units.
Interactivity aside, there’s room to think beyond the constraints of the traditional TV spot. In 2012, the most viral ad wasn’t 30 seconds long. It didn’t feature a cat, celebrities or a household name brand. It was a 30-minute video from Invisible Children, a nongovernmental organization, to rally opposition to Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony. Its current tally on YouTube of more than 97 million views makes its audience comparable to that of the Super Bowl.
Consumers are eager for more dedicated and eye-opening digital video advertising content. It’s already become a vibrant element of the stories that inform us, as demonstrated by the interactive feature “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” from The New York Times. Also, original digital video content has become a regular extension of television programming, especially of programming targeted to a younger audience. The video extras for Heart of Dixie on the CW are a great example.
Digital video has all the attributes of television—sight, sound and motion, and high-quality, original content—with the great benefit of interactivity, targetability and global audience.
Marketers are beginning to recognize this. In 2012, advertisers spent $2.3 billion on digital video advertising, an increase of 29 percent over 2011, according to the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report. But all too often, the ads themselves are an afterthought—repurposed television commercials, 15- to 30-second spots with very limited interactive features.
While it’s understandable that marketers want to dip in their toes before jumping, it’s time for the high dive. Too many advertisers are missing out on the valuable advantages of this medium, and too many consumers are ready for these new advertising experiences that aren’t presently available to them. Indeed, the marketplace is primed to produce interactive, engaging and powerful original digital video advertising.
Solutions are also being devised and established to help speed this evolution. For example, with widespread adoption of the IAB Video Suite, we’re closer than ever to simplified and efficient production across devices and video players. While a few hurdles must be cleared for the viewable impression to apply to digital video, we are well on our way, through the industrywide Making Measurement Make Sense initiative, to a digital GRP that will allow seamless comparison to TV metrics without losing measurability of consumer interactions.
The “commercial” as we think of it is evolving beyond its wonderful beginnings. Who will create the digital video equivalent of TV ad icons like Alka-Seltzer’s Speedy or Coca-Cola’s Hilltop? Which advertiser or advertisers will change consumer culture through digital video?
We’re at the precipice of a new era of advertising where sight, sound, motion and interactivity are united into one robust, surprising, even multilayered brand communication, far beyond the capabilities of a traditional television commercial. But it’s up to marketers, agencies and publishers to take that leap and jump in.
Illustration: Matthew Hollister