Entertain and engage: How interactivity is adding another layer to online video advertising

Rubik's cube illustration by Ross Lesley-Bayne

Online video ads are becoming more interactive, demanding the attention of digitally engaged viewers. The Drum’s Katie McQuater explores the creative use 
of interactive technology.

Interactivity is reinventing online video advertising, offering consumers more reasons to engage with brands, with additional opt-in content and social sharing functionality creating more immersive and engaging experiences for viewers.
While standard pre-roll video often fails to draw viewers in, interactive formats, such as skins, overlays and takeovers, are providing the opportunity for brands to intrigue and offer more value to consumers.The technology facilitating interactivity in online video ads may have existed for a long time, but many advertisers are still not incorporating it as part of their digital advertising strategy.“Interactive video advertising further enhances video’s power to persuade,” says Nick Reid, UK managing director at TubeMogul. According to research released by TubeMogul in partnership with Innovid, adding custom interactive elements to an ad (local cinema screening times on a film trailer, for example) doubles purchase behaviour without compromising completions or clicks. In practice this can be boosted further by the use of tactics including free trials, vouchers or coupons, according to Reid.“By including localised coupons or free trials in video ads, advertisers are seeing consumers express an intent to purchase at rates five times higher than standard pre-roll advertising. Similarly, ads that let viewers create a custom image or video designed to be shared in social media are also tightly correlated with purchase behaviour.”Just one example of the innovative use of interactivity in overlays is the opt-in immersive experience created for Madagascar 3 using Innovid’s inRoll format. The interactive format allowed viewers to access additional video content and games as well as locate their nearest cinema to see screening times. The format delivered a 6.5 per cent engagement rate.Gavin Morgan, European VP of business development for Innovid, says the key to effective interactivity is building the interactive creative around the KPIs of the campaign.“After that,” he says, “it’s really about enhancing the user journey, giving the user something they want to engage with so they lean forward and take the opportunity to interact. Great creative helps, of course, along with the right audience targeting and deployment.”As with all aspects of digital advertising, measurability is a key issue for video as marketers seek to justify every penny of their advertising spend on the channel. The question of how to address the issue is met with differing opinions across the industry, but a collective push is needed to settle on and standardise a solution that is best going forward, according to director of UK and international business at Brightroll, Rob Cootes. He says: “A lot of people see the future in aligning video with TV, though you have to question whether we need to revert back to a method of ratings. I think that we can already offer advertisers a robust video solution, but we need to now be looking at giving clients the confidence to spend more outside of broadcast.”Viewability is another hotly debated issue. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), along with other stakeholders from across the industry, has been key in debating viewability, setting up a cross-industry group similar to that already established in the US, including representative members from agencies, advertisers, media owners, publishers and ad tech companies. Steve Chester, head of data and industry programmes at the IAB, says that effective standardised formats are needed for scale and to support more engaging formats. However, he also outlines the importance of getting the right balance when it comes to viewability.“Viewability will no doubt have a significant impact in changing the way advertising is measured and perhaps delivered but we need to ensure that a sledgehammer approach is not used,” he says, adding: “The pros and cons must be properly balanced and a pragmatic approach adopted.”Interactive video advertising is central to Channel 4’s digital strategy, with the aim of offering closer relationships between advertisers and viewers. The broadcaster continues to evolve its suite of interactive ads with new formats and ways of engaging with viewers.According to digital and creative lead for the broadcaster, David Amodio, the key to effectiveness is relevance, environment and ease of engagement. He says: “Our most successful interactive formats are entertaining and easy to engage with as well as being targeted to relevant audiences through the environments they are placed in.”“If brands want consumers to engage with them, they need to ask them to. There is now such an incredible opportunity for advertisers to invite viewers to engage in real time when delivering their message across on demand platforms.”ITV recently announced the addition of a number of new interactive video formats for ITV Player audiences following the success of its interactive Ad Explore format, launched in February 2012. “Although video advertising will always be the most impactful and emotive advertising medium, the interactivity afforded by new devices and platforms is adding a new dimension to its power,” says Jon Block, controller of commercial digital products at ITV, when explaining the importance of video advertising to the broadcaster’s overall digital strategy. “Interactive formats are presenting viewers with the opportunity to spend more time with the brand, and this means they progress further down the purchase funnel, actively evaluating the brand and even, potentially, driving them through to the moment of purchase.”The biggest challenge for brands in using interactive formats effectively, according to Block, lies in taking a holistic approach to how the format works with the creative, rather than simply adding interactivity as “a bolt-on to the campaign”.The question of how online video correlates with a TV campaign is underpinned by the reality that many advertisers, while traditionally spending a lot on perfecting their TV advertising, are not taking the required time to ensure they have digitised their campaigns effectively, according to InSkin Media’s European commercial director and chairman of the IAB Video Council Steve Doyle, who maintains that the key to effectiveness in video advertising is ensuring relevance for the online audience and environment.“Video advertising can be fantastic, but attention needs to be taken to optimise for digital platforms, and more advanced measurement should be discussed with clients.”Recognising the difference in mindset between a consumer watching TV and someone consuming content online – and serving them an ad tailored to their environment – is key, according to Doyle, who argues that online video should be treated as a medium in its own right.“The major issue we see is getting advertisers to treat interactive video as a medium in its own right: to plan, execute and measure interactive formats, and work out what does (and does not) work. Click-through rates, while a useful indicator, are not the right measurement in isolation; viewability, dwell time and view-through rates are taking centre stage.”Socially savvy videoIncorporating social media into video advertising is adding another layer of engagement to brands’ campaigns. The consumer choice aspect of interactivity makes social interaction more likely, because unlike with standard pre-roll, viewers haven’t been forced to watch.Innovid’s Gavin Morgan explains that allowing the viewer to engage through existing and emerging social channels is key to the effectiveness of interactive formats. “When interactive ads include social elements, viewers can seamlessly view social components either within the video ad (without ever leaving the video publishers website) or by transitioning to branded social pages resulting in social functionality uplift,” says Morgan.Rebecca Mahony, CMO at Ebuzzing says that allowing social sharing can increase reach and provide advocacy.“Social gives advertisers’ the potential to make their brand campaigns reach even more people. Social sharing tools means that users can share, tweet, comment and pin content to their friends. Therefore the potential uplift in the number of people who see you content and then interact with it hugely increases. Social also provides advocacy, sparking conversation around your content.”This feature was first published in The Drum's Digital Media supplement (sponsored by TubeMogul) on 25 October.

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