YouTube has been recently experimenting with a wealth of new ad units that go far beyond the adjacent display ads or lower-screen “InVideo” ads that sneak up. While pre-rolls are still rampant, the variety and quality of the creative is making them more bearable and effective.
Here are some examples, and I’ve seen my own revenue per view (of the 5-7 million views monthly on my Nalts videos) go up dramatically, presumably as a result of the shift of advertising dollars from print to online video. The result of this shift is that creative is getting better and ad units are more innovative and attention grasping.
1) The one-two punch of InVid and banner. This isn’t new, but it’s getting better with Chrome. The square banner gets more attention, and the InVideo seems to be rising higher on the screen. Likewise the graphics associated with the InVideo seem to be stretching beyond their typical real-estate and duration.
2) Note how smaller display ads are used to pull through on a pre-roll, as this Footlocker campaign. Again this isn’t entirely new, but it’s more prominent in Cosmic Panda and we’re seeing more of these… which certainly fetch higher CPMs if not a hybrid CPC model.
3) Here’s one of my favorite best-practice approaches. Planters is using a display ad that clearly activates a video. I would venture to guess that response rates are far higher than typical “call to action” devices… especially those that require leaving YouTube.
4) Here’s the magic formula I hope to see, and I’ll call it the “Awareness-Rich-Media-DR-Hybrid” because that sounds complicated. I suspect Pointroll would call it the “Big Mama Road Block Engagement Doobie.” So it goes like this… Few brands are strictly in the awareness zone alone (although prominent CPG brands devote most of their budgets toward frequency, reach and single minded proposition). And few brands can optimize direct-response (click here, bee-atch) without playing slightly in the awareness zone. Simply put, you need awareness to provide “air cover” for direct response initiatives (which include driving engagement, educating, profiling, and customer acquisition). So here’s the magic formula, and I’m not likely the only guy thinking about it: A short pre-roll that provides a compelling and entertaining “awareness” message that begs curiosity. Then complement that with a side unit that’s rich media (instead of these static ad units). Allow a person to engage in the ad the same way rich media (Pointroll) ads have done for almost a decade. That allows the user to stay put, YouTube to maintain its customer for more consumption, and the advertiser to engage with far greater ease than dragging them off YouTube (a daunting task). If the ad involves video, then it should politely pause the video on its left… then politely return the person to his or her viewing session.
Finally, consider what turns these ads from effective to phenomenal. Targeting. YouTube visitors volunteering behavioral data that makes the ads more targeted and worth a far higher CPM. Hopefully YouTube will begin to invite people to voluntarily provide more information about themselves. I certainly would be happy to fill out a 5 minute survey to receive more appropriate and targeted ads. While the percent of people that would participate would be low (maybe 5-15% depending on “what’s in it for me”) it would provide marketers a powerful tool that they don’t have on television. For years I’ve been perplexed why TiVo never bothered to profile me directly.
Face it- we all whine about privacy, but it doesn’t take much more than a candy, cookie or loyalty card to get us to spill our beans. So if YouTube invited users to profile and provided a good incentive (donation to charity, advanced user features, access to beta functionality) we’d see maybe hundreds of thousands of people providing behavioral information that is far more valuable to advertisers than demographics. And it’s not creepy when we’re asked… only when the publisher and advertiser are (legally or not) marrying databases behind our backs… and suddenly my visit to www.hairofnalts.com subjects me to awkward hairloss ads on YouTube. That’s creepy. And when my search data is used to spawn targeted ads I feel like Big Brother is watching. Just ask me permission, and provide a WIFM.