This post first appeared on:
Digital Minds from the CAM Foundation 

As Fairfax Cone, one of the founders of US advertising agency Foote, Cone and Belding (today Draftfcb) observed in 1940, “Advertising is what you do when you can’t be there in person”. Historically, posters and press ads ‘ambushed’ people while they were going about their daily business and offered them something attractive, useful and/or enjoyable – something to make their life better. This was called Advertising and, as we know, a whole industry grew up around it.

Then radio was invented and soon it became possible for companies to add commercial messages to radio broadcasts.  As usual the US was first (“It’s the top of the ninth and the bases are loaded here at the Yankee Stadium but now here’s a word from our Sponsor!”) and other markets including the UK followed later. Then came TV – what an advance! The golden age of creative ad agencies (the ‘Mad Men’ of 1960s New York and London) exploded as this exciting new medium took off. So what was so good about TV for brand owners? In a nutshell: moving colour pictures with sound; truly the next best thing to putting a salesman in front of each consumer, as Mr Cone observed.

But this medium was one-way: effectively the marketer was guessing where the target audience was and shouting at them. Today we have something even better: TV ads the user can interact with. Online video advertising, whether ‘in-stream’ (e.g. pre-, mid-, or post-roll – eg. around a YouTube video) or contained within banner ads (either standard display ads or rich media) combines the best of the old interruptive TV Commercials (e.g. “Beanz Meanz Heinz”, “Mild Green Fairy Liquid”, “Have a Break – Have a Kit-Kat”) with the interactivity of the internet. The user can ‘mouse over’ to expand the banner, click the button to add sound, play the video and click to go to the advertiser’s site. S/he can enter name and email to request a quote, browse a microsite or simply sit back and enjoy a video – immersed in the ‘brand experience’. Each user will be in a different stage of awareness of/ attitude to the brand and specifically in a different point in their web session and the advertiser wants them to have an appropriate brand experience without being irritated. More than ever before, well-planned and implemented online video advertising (OVA) makes this a realistic proposition. Even better, provided privacy concerns can be addressed, the emerging discipline of Behavioural Targeting offers the tantalising possibility of serving these powerful ads only to those most likely to be influenced positively by them; the media planner’s holy grail.

Instead of segmenting by ‘traditional’ and ‘digital’ marketing, we can consider ‘broadcast’ and ‘online’ as two types of video advertising. And we know the power of video. No wonder OVA is growing fast. As connection speeds increase and the ‘always-on mobile web’ becomes a reality (via mobile, tablet, laptop or PC), as static banners merge with the wallpaper and their click-through rates plunge, OVA offers advertisers the opportunity to combine the power of TV with the targeting and interactivity that Direct Marketers have been dreaming of for years; TV ads at your fingertips; instant response capability; the right message to the right person at the right time. OVA will keep growing as Marketing Departments appreciate how much it can do for their brands and their sales. If Paid Search is a direct response medium, OVA is a branding medium with the built-in option to start a dialogue with the brand; truly ‘brand response’ advertising.

So: while we still can’t be there in person, the new online video advertising might just be the (very) next best thing…