Are Video Preroll Ads on Rise or Decline?

Yes. Video prerolls are both growing and declining. The good news for viewers is that we saw fewer prerolls. But we saw more “polite prerolls” (option to escape) in Q1 2011 as reported by AdoTube/eMarketer. Since this doesn’t include YouTube data and presumably a small sample of total online-video ad streams it does need to be taken with a grain of (Morton’s: when it rains it pours!) salt.

Viewers will appreciate fewer prerolls (as reported by AdoTube), and advertisers will enjoy more "engagement" models
This "Right Guard" ad begs for engagement. Did you notice the "close" button?

Forget prerolls, friends. The increasingly competitive ad networks have a whole sleuth of weapons in their online-video ad formats that range from the innocuous “polite pre-roll,” to a bit more ominous names like in-stream takeover, ad selector, in-stream skin, inside-out roll, interactive overlay, video-in-video, interactive gaming overlay, data entry and capture, branded player, over the top, and beyond stream. I believe that Seroquel example, placing a “reminder” ad without “fair balance” adjacent to depression content is (shhh) a violation of FDA guidelines, but I digress. ANY of these ad-format names beats the “fat boy” branded by Point Roll.

Take a look at some of the bold “engagement” formats presented in AdoTube’s ad-format gallery and you’ll see why viewers are, according to eMarketer, about 30% likely to engage in an ad… even when not forced (hence the term “polite”). You’ll also see that it’s often not clear there’s an opt-out available.

The eMarketer report, titled “Options for Online Video Ad Viewers Leads to Higher Engagement” is encouraging. With online video being one of the leading (if not #1) fastest-growing portion of a marketer’s “media mix,” advertisers will want and expect formats that achieve their goals: from branding to engagement. This chart is important to viewers because it shows that “cost per impression” remains the dominant percent of spending. In “cost per impression” (often called CPM, or cost-per-thousand), the advertiser simply pays a few bucks to reach 1,000 eyeballs without much accountability.

"Cost per impression" still leads, but more interactive "engagement" ad formats are increasing (Brightroll Data)

While few of us welcome more aggressive online-ads, this also substantiates a business model to fuel the medium’s growth. While it’s easy to complain about intrusive ads (especially as the pendulum seemed to swing dangerously to the advertiser’s benefit in the past year), it’s a vital element to online-video’s maturity. If the advertisers don’t get what they need, friends, we won’t be seeing our content for free.

There are three ways to increase “engagements” in this online-video advertising medium, and I’ll list them from best to worst in order of sustainability: novelty, creative and targeting:

  1. Novelty: A new ad format generally enjoys a period of high engagement that’s deceptively high. We’re curious about what the ad does, and may not realize we’re engaging, so it’s not necessarily suggestive of purchase intent. In early February, a debut YouTube customer of YouTube’s “skip this ad in x second” preroll told ClickZ he was seeing a 30% engagement rate. That’s far higher than we’ll see as a norm, and a tribute to the novelty effect.
  2. Creative: Great creative always wins, and this is a fairly enduring trait. While overall engagement might slip when we’re “numb” to an ad format (like monkey-shooting banner ads, or even the “InVid” format that creeps up on YouTube… the best creative wins the best attention, engagement and results.
  3. Targeting: Ultimately the most sustainable and important characteristic of a high-engagement online-video ad is its ability to reach the right target. I can engage in a tampon ad, but it’s not going to sell more maxi’s. But if I get a rich-media ad over (or adjacent) to my valued content, then we’ve got a win-win-win (advertiser, publisher, viewer). That’s where we can expect Google/YouTube to be better in the long haul, but it appears the sophisticated advertiser networks are ahead. These ad networks marry data from a variety of sources to serve ads invisibly on the videos across a variety of websites.

So what are the takeaways to advertisers, video sites and us viewers?

  • First, the options available to advertisers means that online-video ads will begin to get as aggressive as other forms of interactive ads. This has positive and negative effects, but as long as it’s targeted it’s sustainable.
  • YouTube, which reports very little about its ad performance, has not radically departed from its debut formats, with the exception of breaking its early commitment to make pre-rolls optional. Now most pre-rolls are mandatory, but we can opt-out of some after a few seconds (at which point the “opt-out” means the advertiser pays YouTube and the creator less).
  • Ads are a vital cost-offset for those of us that have been enjoying free video content for 5 years and would like that to continue without avoid pesky Hulu-like subscription models (unless a “value ad” bonus to the cable contract, assuming we haven’t “cut chord.”).
  • And finally, Morton’s salt can be trusted. Trusted I say.

 

Women Fight on Brooklyn Subway

Two women fight and pull each other’s hair (and potentially hair extensions) on a Brooklyn subway this week… And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…

Are you SERIOUS? For Real. Let ’em come.

Meanwhile the baby’s stroller just rolls off the train in the midst of it… yey for citizen journalists. elfather8 recorded this video from his iPhone on his way to work on July 19, 2011 at around 9:30 am.

 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Funny Conference

So I’m sitting at Starbucks at 3, and I’ll be on stage in about 33 minutes. My presentation looks perhaps like a hotdog long before it takes that edible, if somewhat phallic, shape. Despite my morning’s panic attack, missing a flight and driving the 7 hours to Boston, I manage to catch YouTube Hall-of-Famer Michael Buckley as I pass his town. Sadly he has “a doctor’s appointment” that precludes a quick spanking or whatever YouTubers do when they meet.

It’s 3:03 as I reorder slides, fundamentally changing my entire presentation (shown below on Slideshare) I can’t help but get distracted by two nervous looking band members who appear to be meeting a new digital marketer consultant. “Our last guy, um, got really busy with school,” says Shaggy (his real name is being withheld because I don’t know it). The consultant begins to LAY IT ON THICK. Total bullshit, coated with a thick creamy topping of arrogance and a faux-pedantic snobbery crowning it all like an overly marinated cherry on top.

The topic of viral video comes up, and my face begins to literally contort as I hear the crap this guy’s advising. I couldn’t control my face. I could see some gal looking at me, and then over at them… making the connection. But I can’t help myself. When Shaggy says “I’m not willing to lose my integrity to get 3 million views on YouTube,” I think seriously about coming to his rescue. But something about this consultant strikes me as odd and dangerous. He’s far too assertive, simplistic, narcissistic, simplistic and repetitive (seems we loathe that in others that we resent in ourselves).

As I’ve finally shifted back to my presentation, literally changing the entire thesis at this point with minutes to spare, the consultant BARGES out the door of Starbucks leaving Shaggy and Scooby stunned. Again I decide to go to their rescue, hold their hand, and tell them that one need not compromise their virtues to go viral… I’ll even volunteer. But just like a dream ending abruptly, they vanish. Come to think of it, maybe it was a dream. No… I’m pretty sure it was real.

Then I gave this presentation below. To show that humor is hard to categorize because of its subjectivity, I did a live vlog (seen at the end of this video) where I followed the 102nd rule of “winning over an audience.” I secretly maligned them using a stage whisper. I was actually kinda bummed out they laughed, which is not what I expected after reading this Joel Warner Wired article that put this on my rader (and created an obsession for me).

Now for the preliminary findings, and a BIG thanks to Alexis, Kiddsock and Will Reese, as well as other contributors!

 

Exclusive Snookie “Boob Grab” from Set of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” (July 2011)

snooki in july 2011

So we’re visiting the shore yesterday. And I used to refer to the Jersey Shore as the beach covered with needles, based on a news story from years ago.

But yesterday I couldn’t help mistake many girls at Point Pleasant, NJ, as “Snookie.” In fact I kept half-jokingly telling my wife I spotted Snookie, when anyone robust and tan passed me. Little did I suspect that while fetching hotdogs for the kids, I’d overhear someone saying “Snookie’s in there.” I resisted the temptation to walk into the bar, but later felt obliged to determine if it was real or not. It was real. Snookie was in the house.

Indeed I stumbled upon a taping of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” and was able to capture some highlights. A couple times, because the cast moves about the bar, I’d end up in the right/wrong place and have to quickly move. I first shot about a minute of some other cast member (dancing on the bar) I mistook for Snookie.

Only after shooting and editing the footage did I realize (while looking for a thumbnail image) that I had footage of Snookie grabbing some blonde girl’s boobs. So, yeah. That’s a fourth of July video for you.

Anyone recognize the other people? Who’s the guy who shoed me away?

 

Biggest and Most Organized Online-Video & YouTube Community Event

There are loads of social media events, and many YouTube “community gatherings,” meetups and online video events. But the “South By Southwest” of online-video and YouTube is indisputably VidCon. Organized by Hank and John Green (vlogbrothers), the event in 2010 drew hundreds of community members, top “YouTube Stars,” and Nerdfighters (the active people who rally to reduce the world of “suck”). It also included lots of on-stage entertainment that was shared widely online. VidCon 2011 is planned for July 28-30 in San Francisco, California. Early bird discount if you book before Jan. 10, and the hotel is Hyatt Regency Central Plaza.

Here are some highlights of 2010’s VidCon to give you a flavor. It’s focused on viewers and creators, but does attract industry folks and marketers (and has a special industry track). Unlike some popular YouTube love-festivals where “big YouTubers” are VIP, this one is quite egalitarian.

iPhone4G Press Conference Parody

Oh hush. What it lacks in humor it makes up for in timeliness. Let’s see you put an iPhone4G in your butt for the Internet. Or drive into the backyard of some crazy person so you can get near a cell phone tower.

My favorite quote of Steve Jobs: .55 percent of iPhone4G users complained. Seriously? Common C’mon. I had prooblems (despite the video statement) but knew better than to sit on hold. Besides- I’m guessing the other 99% just dropped their call before Apple answered.

Well there are many things Apple does well, but damage control or issue management is not among them.

Yey free 2 cent bumper iPhone condoms and they’ll even honor that 30-day money back guarantee! Weeks later Jobs will be reporting that fewer than .55 percent of people felt like he didn’t do a perfect job handling this issue, so if you thought otherwise, you’d better log your complaint.

Ridley Scott Creates User-Generated Documentary (Life in a Day)

Life in a Day
Life in a Day Will Star... You

On July 24 individuals from across the globe will be videotaping moments from their day, and submitting for potential inclusion in a film produced by Ridley Scott (see his explanation video).

“Life in a Day” may be the first crowd-sourced film, and will be directed by Kevin Macdonald (see the film’s YouTube channel, “LifeInADay” for more details). YouTube asked me to make a video to announce the film and encourage individuals to participate, and Waffle Bear joined me on this cheesy promotion (see video below).

Are you going to participate?

See this piece in the Baltimore Sun, as writer Gus Sentementes poses the question, “How can the filmmakers be sure that the footage that’s getting uploaded was actually shot on July 24th?”

Oh, Gus. It’s consumer-generated content. How can they be sure the people are real, the releases have been signed, and the footage isn’t a copyright infringement? Don’t sweat the small stuff, Gus.

You’ll have to wait until Sundance in 2011 to see the film (see thorough coverage on WSJ). That’s plenty of time for sifting through thousands of hours of awkward footage, editing, and for the more labor-intensive work of verifying copyrights.

Guggenheim Museum & YouTube Invite Submissions

Check out this invitation video, and submit your creative YouTube video by the end of July… 20-25 winners will have their artistic video played at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (it’s a collaboration between YouTube and Guggenheim).

Here’s the teaser video, which gives us a zooming look at the play button in various mediums. It rawks.

Biggest Online-Video Community Gathering Ever: July 9-11, LA

Some of the most-viewed YouTube “weblebrities” will gather with hundreds of people in the YouTube community, including video creators and viewers, professionals and stalkers.

phil defranco at vidcon 2010
Phil DeFranco Will Attend July's VidCon, a gathering of hundreds (maybe thousands) of YouTube community people.

The event — called VidCon 2010 and scheduled for July 9-11 — includes rapid-fire stage performances by some of YouTube’s biggest “stars,” including comedy duo Anthony Pedilla and Ian Hecox (“Smosh“), “What The Buck” host Michael Buckley, Phil DeFranco, “SxePhil” and “Like Totally Awesome” host, and Justine Ezarik, YouTube’s token popular hot girl who hails as iJustine (and author of Tasty Blog Snack). Those 5 people alone, mind you, have been seen collectively 1 billion times (if you count both videos on their individual channels, as well as on group channels like TheStation). For those of you not good at math, that’s “an assload” and more views than most television shows.

To put it in perspect, 106 million people watched the last episode of MASH and the 2010 Superbowl. Paranthetically, my stupid videos have been seen 130 million times, and my siblings still refer to it “as your little YouTube videos.” But if I’m on the local Fox news channel I’m suddenly hot.

Back to VidCon: What’s got me most excited are performanced by some of the most talented musicians on YouTube, including the advertainment song duo of Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal (Rhett and Link), the ukulele-playing singer Julia Nunes (know as j and seven a’s), and the cerebral guitarist Hank Green, who is the event’s mastermind. I’m also looking forward to seeing Joe Penna (TheMysteryGuitarMan aka MGM), who wrote the “Nalts, Nalts, It’s Not His Fault” theme song. He’s been on a magical high lately, and he’s eye and ear candy for the whole family (see his recent “Looping Around,” a song that’s almost passing 1 million views, and what my family calls “The Happy Song”).

Although I haven’t hit all of the major YouTube grassroots events, I have gathered with fellow YouTube fanatics in NYC (twice), London, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. A nude female doll with my face has attended other events, and was no doubt far more interesting to meet. The only formal event YouTube has thrown, to my knowledge, was November 2008’s YouTube Live… a show the San Bruno company doesn’t appear to be reviving.

We’ll also see the omnipresent Charles Trippy and Alli Speed, who have documented their each day for a year. Trippy somehow doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, which I find highly suspicious. ZeFrank is also going, and will appear on a panel with other Internet has-beens like me.

VidCon: Community & Online-Video Industry Morphs in July 2010 Event

This video shows Hank Green (with his lesser known 3rd Green brother) announcing VidCon, taking place July 9-11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Here’s the official VidCon website.

youtube gathering july 2010 la vidcon

For those of you familiar with the Vlogbrothers (John and Hank Green), I don’t need to tell you what an enormous connection they have with the vibrant and growing community of online-video. They’re funny, smart, and selfless; this week they’ll be orchestrating another “Project for Awesome,” where they encourage fellow video creators to make a video about a charity… to “reduce world suck.”

So it wasn’t surprising that they’ve attracted the “Who’s Who” of online video… literally the most-viewed and most-subscribed video creators of YouTube and beyond. Also- if you know Hank and John, you’ll know that the admission price is to cover costs, and proceeds are for charity. These guys aren’t interested in making money, but these events cost a lot to do well. So I’ve got little sympathy for those few dozen people who feel a price tag is “anti-community, man”- sing that tune to your waitress at IHOP, kids.

For you online-video industry people who are less familiar with the community side, I have one piece of advice. Attend. If I could only attend one conference this year, it would be this one.

There will be a series of professional tracks covering advertising, marketing and production. But of course you can see the “brains” of online video at any conference. This one you’ll see the brain and the heart. And you really don’t know online-video until you’ve seen the heart… watched the most-viewed amateurs interacting with the fans… seen the groundswell of enthusiasm about a medium that’s changing people’s lives… see the friendships among the talented people (and me).

The informal YouTube gatherings — like 7/7/7 — have brought hundreds and even thousands together in various cities, but this one’s actually organized and planned. So it’s likely to be a huge event. Book your hotel early, friends.

If you’re interested in speaking slots, panels or sponsorships (imagine how many videos your logo can show up on, and how many millions of times it will be seen), let Hank know or shoot me a note (I’m volunteering to help on the professional side). Much of that will be formalized by the end of January. In the mean time, follow VidCon on Twitter.