Is Video Advertising Ready for the Web?

NEW YORK — The proliferation of video on the Web is an established fact, but advertisers are still scratching their heads about the best way to fit their messages into the content.

Here at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) digital video summit today, panelists considering the migration of ad dollars from television to the Web — and how best to monetize it — agreed that the process is still in a very early stage.

“It’s really going to take an evolvement of time,” said Steve Robinson, president of Panache, a company that specializes in technology to connect video publishers, agencies and advertisers. “It’s going to take the advertisers time to think through how to measure the engagement and the accountability in terms of ROI (return on investment) online.”

Part of the reluctance for advertisers has been the absence of common standards and formats, making it impossible to apply a single creative across numerous publishers’ sites.

The IAB, the industry association representing online advertisers, took a step today toward addressing that problem with the release of a set of digital video format guidelines. They include common sizing standards for various video formats and guidelines for submitting creative content to publishers.

The IAB said it developed the standards with 145 companies involved in interactive marketing. Today’s release follows a public comment period, which ended Friday. Since then, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have all expressed formal support for the new standards.

Sites adhering to the practices will be able to place an IAB compliance seal on their sites.

The guidelines are aimed at introducing to online video the standardization common to the TV and radio media. The hope is that media buyers will be able to take a single creative and check off a list of the Web sites where they want it to appear without having to alter the content or make any special submission tweaks.

Although the standards have the backing of IAB members — including major publishers like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Walt Disney Internet Group, Fox Interactive Media and others — it’s not clear when sites will begin rolling out ads in the formats.

Additionally, much remains unresolved by the standards. Even with common guidelines for the creative, those playing in the interactive advertising space agree that there is no clear answer on how to pair the message with the content.

One of the early solutions has been a preroll clip — where an ad plays before the content. But in the years since the preroll clip’s advent, advertisers have increasingly challenged the value of online advertising formats that places a roadblock between the user and the content he or she is trying to view.

“There have got to be better ways to capture someone’s attention,” said Ian Schafer, CEO of the full-service agency Deep Focus, who called the preroll experience “interruptive.”

“The more engaging the ad — the more you can create the compelling experience for the user to engage — brings the user back to the content,” Schafer said.

The IAB’s new guidelines cover preroll, midroll and postroll ads, all of which it calls linear formats, as well as nonlinear formats, such as overlays and text insertions.

Nonlinear formats especially are seeing a surge in popularity. Google’s YouTube, which accounts for about a third of all online video views, has embraced a nonlinear format called InVideo, where a text or animated teaser for an ad appears at the bottom of the video player, and then disappears if the user does not click on it.

AOL has developed a similar format with its video ticker ads.

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