The online video advertising offerings continue to expand and I thought I would go through the whole list of them and give some of my thoughts on the pros and cons of each. I won't go too deeply into specific products from ad networks, just a general overview as they all fit into one category or another. Where possible I give some examples so you can better visualize the ads themselves.
In-Stream Video Ads
The major type of video advertisement that people are familiar with are the linear video ads, sometimes incorrectly called in-stream ads, which play in the video player before, during or after a piece of video content. All of the in-stream ads are played within the main video player where the actual content will be viewed.
According to the IAB, In-stream is a larger category that includes Linear Video Ads and non-linear ads.
Linear Video Ads
These are ads that we commonly call pre-, mid- and post-roll ads. The key to a linear ad is that it takes over the full video player space. This type of ad can also include an interactive takeover, for example an overlay that gives a user a choice of which ad to watch or when to watch the ad. They're linear because they run in line sequentially with the content as in ad-video, video-ad-video or video-ad.
Linear ads are, again according to the IAB, either 15- or 30-second spots. They can be less but should not exceed 30 seconds. Do not allow for fast forwarding through the ad. The ads can be 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio, however, 16:9 is far more common nowadays for online video players.
Types of Linear video ads:
- Pre-roll - Runs before a piece of video content Pro: must be viewed before content is played. Con: could cause viewers to click away before ad fully plays.
- Mid-roll - Runs somewhere in the middle of a piece of video content, pausing the content and resuming it when complete. Pro: Gives viewers time to get hooked into the video content before displaying, possibly reducing abandonment. Con: Intrusive, like TV advertising and on shorter pieces of content could still cause abandonment.
- Post-roll - Video ad plays at the completion of the video content. Pro: Least intrusive of these ads. Con: No motivation for viewer to watch as content has already completed.
- User Ad Choice Overlay - An interactive overlay that offers a choice of ads for the viewer. After a specific amount of time, a default video ad will play, usually as a pre-roll. Pro: Better targeting of ads as users decide which brand or product they want to see. Con: Could cause abandonment if the timer is too long and the viewer gets restless.
- Interactive Video Ad - These types of ads take over the full screen and preempt or pause the video content. They allow a variety of interactions, like clicking for more information, signing up for a newsletter, locating a store, etc. Usually are a mix of video, animation or static images as well as interactive elements. They can show up before, during or after the content plays and usually play for 15-30 seconds. Pro: Allow for further viewer engagement with the brand as well as interactivity that either expands in player or clicks out to an advertiser website.
Non-Linear Video Ads
Overlay Video Ads
This type of video advertising runs simultaneously with the video content, usually in the form of an interactive banner ad in an overlay. Clicking on these ads generally pauses the content and either a full player ad is shown or the user is taken to an advertiser's website. Some ads will, after a set period of time, collapse into a smaller "bug" so as not to cover a sizable portion of the video content. Some ads also have a "close" action which does the same thing. These ads could display over linear ads also. Generally, a non-linear video ad will run for 5-15 seconds before rotating to another ad or reducing itself in size. Usually only cover the bottom 20% of the video content.
Pro: Are displayed without making the viewer wait for the video content. Can be reduced to a small 'bug' but remain present as a persistent brand or product reminder while the content is played. Viewers are familiar with this ad type as there are similar ads on television. All interactions with the ad are user-initiated as they are not required to interact in order to view the content.
Con: Could inadvertently cover important information like subtitles, captions or other information in the video. Movement in the ads could be distracting and annoy the viewers causing abandonment or lowering of brand reputation with them.
Non-Overlay Video Ads
Some ads can run concurrently with the video content, in the video player and not actually overlay the video content. Usually used as an 'invitation' to interact with the brand or other video content. Very similar to the overlay but removes the negative impact of covering the video content.
Pro: Are displayed without making the viewer wait for the video content. Are a persistent brand or product reminder while the content is played. All interactions with the ad are user-initiated as they are not required to interact in order to view the content and the ad does not cover the video content.
Con: Movement in the ads could be distracting and annoy the viewers causing abandonment or lowering of brand reputation with them.
Companion ads are, by definition, in addition to the video player and any ads that run within it. They are displayed in the web page around the video player and often take the form of display banner ads of standard IAB sizes like 300x250, 728x90, etc. They offer a persistent visual for a brand or product during the video content play without taking up video player space. They can include text, static images or rich media.
Pro: Do not interfere with the video content playback. All interactions are user-initiated.
Con: Can easily be covered if the video player is changed to full screen mode. Movement in the ads may be seen as distracting, annoying the viewer and potentially lowering brand reputation with them.
In-Banner Video Ads
In-banner video ads, or ads that show video in a standard banner size and placement which may or may not be expandable, can be companion ads meaning they are displayed on a page with a video player. They can also be stand-alone placements on pages without video players and the ad engine handles the playing of the video ad in the banner. Varieties of this include collapsible in-banner video ads which start as a larger area of the web page and either shrink down to the standard banner size automatically or through user interaction or expandable in-banner video ads which start as the standard banner size playing the video but offer the user an option to expand the video and watch in a larger area. These types of ads, when expanded, overlay the content on the web page.
Pro: Interactions are user initiated. Do not interfere with content of web page in the case of the expandable. Offer the robust messaging of in-stream video ads on any page. Can be used on pages without a video player or other streaming content. Fit into standard display banner ad spaces, for example, 300x250 or 728x90.
Con: Movement in the ads can be distracting and annoying. Usually no way to stop the video content playing.
In-Page Video Ads
These ads are embedded video players that are specifically there to show a video ad with no video content attached to them. Like in-banner video ads these need not be companion to a normal video player. Generally, require a good amount of space on a web page but some ad networks offer smaller placements.
Pro: Offer the robust messaging of in-stream video ads, but can be placed on any page where space is available and do not need to be on a page with a main video player or other streaming content.
Con: Often found very low and out of sight on a web page (shame, shame publishers...). Movement can be distracting and annoying. Usually no way to stop the video playback in the video.
In-Text Video Ads
Contextual advertising meets video advertising in these user-initiated ads. Words in the text of a web page are highlighted and when a user rolls the mouse over them an overlay pops up and plays video associated with the highlighted word.
Pro: All interactions are user initiated. Offer the robust messaging of in-stream video ads, but can be placed on any page and do not need to be on a page with a main video player or other streaming content. Work well for buy now and call-to-action campaigns.
Con: Inadvertent mouse over by user can cause frustration and annoyance. Could be detrimental to brand, product and publisher reputation with user.
Graphics and video components that are displayed in the video player, around or adjacent to the video content playback. These graphics are usually persistent through the entire video player presence and offer interactivity outside of the video playback window. Essentially, they're branded video player skins that expand outside of the video player main window. May run just during the ad (as in the YuMe ad below) or be visible through the whole playback of the video content.
Pro: Persistent visuals and optional interactivity throughout the video playback. Offer the robust messaging of in-stream video ads and do not interfere with the video content being viewed.
Con: Could be distracting for the viewer. Require wide enough main content panes on web pages to show the video content and the sponsorship graphics when shown side-by-side. Can be covered when the video player goes to full screen.
In-Game Video Ads
Video ads displayed during a game's loading or in between levels in the game. Used to monetize the game without charging the players for the game. Often seen in online, social and mobile games. Essentially, a video player overlay loads over the game while it loads up or loads a new level.
Pro: Doesn't really disrupt the gamer experience as it is done during required pauses for the game to prepare more information. Offers gamers the chance to get the game free or cheaper in return for watching the ads. Non-skippable. Short enough to reduce abandonment.
Con: Could be off putting for some
Connected TV Video Ads
I have been preaching that online video advertisers need to get on board with connected TV advertising and now there are a wide range of options available from a variety of ad networks. Ads in this category can be pre-app, as in they play while the app is loading, or in-app, as in they play like more traditional online video overlays or in-streams like pre-, mid-, and post-roll. Some connected TV ads will display right in an app store or menu and they can then be expanded to full screen takeover.
Some connected TV ads will offer more information about the specific program being watched.
Other formats include insterstitial (in between channel changes, program loading, etc) and interactive search results page ads. Connected TV ads will probably take shape a lot like online video ads have done but work more toward enhancing the viewer's experience by offering more relevant information and ads in regards to the content being viewed. However, there could come a time when these ads supplement traditional advertising and instead of cutting away from a show to a commercial break they could go side-by-side (much like FOX has started to do during some NASCAR races) with an interactive advertisement and continue the show, especially during DVRed content to continue to monetize the content by inserting non-skippable advertisements.
Pro: Brings true online video interactivity to the TV screen. Allows users deeper engagement with brands, products, shows and cast members.
Con: Could be slow on uptake depending on connected TV sales and consumer openness to new advertising formats during traditional television experiences.
Game Console Video Ads
Microsoft just recently rolled out their "NUads" which are set to run in the dashboard of their Xbox 360 video game console. These new interactive "NUads" will utilize the Kinect voice control and motion sensing technology for increased audience engagement. Ads generally run 30 seconds and offers viewers questions to be answered. For advertisers, there is real-time feedback included which allows for finer grain looks at viewer engagement, etc.
Pro: Could revolutionize advertisements for game consoles and the streaming video services that have ads on them. Voice and gesture controlled ads could make them more game-like and bring a drastic boost to user engagement with brands. Ads could be incentivized with free Microsoft points or product samples.
Con: Could totally backfire and alienate the hardcore gaming crowd which the console was first aimed at but now seems to be a secondary concern for Microsoft who is pushing the platform more like an OTT or set-top box than a gaming platform. This could have serious repercussions for them later. Could also associated brands with that negative sentiment and seriously impact brand reputation with gamers.