There’s no question that we’re entering a post-literate age. Every young person today who wants to get into journalism, marketing, advertising or some other communications business is encouraged to stress their video, social media and Web-building skills, not their writing chops.
Video is taking its place alongside banner ads as the major advertising format on the web, with projections showing that spending on video ads will come close to matching the spend on banner within the next few years.
Videos and slideshows are the currency of the Internet, and marketers have developed a toolkit to make sure we click on them. I’m as susceptible as anyone; I can find it hard to resist come-on lines like “Celebrity Plastic Surgery Nightmares” or “Kitties Freak Out Over Stuffed Bobcat.”
But advertisers and marketers still haven’t developed standard measures of video effectiveness; in many cases, they can’t even agree on what the metrics should be. Even so, many advertisers have come to believe (PDF) that video ads are more effective than nearly any other format.
As we spend more time on the Web — and we see more advertising videos there — I often wonder when consumers will reach the limits of their patience. Many TV viewers now aggressively use their DVRs to avoid watching ads; how will those people respond when continually forced to watch a 15-second or even 30-second video ad before they’re allowed to view the web content they’re seeking?
I recently found myself in the absurd position of having to watch an ad before I could watch an ad. I was looking for some of the best ads from this year’s Super Bowl, and I had to watch a sales message before I could see the ads I was looking for.
Personally, I much prefer reading to video when I’m merely seeking information. I’m a fast reader to begin with — and if I’m in a hurry, I can skim an article quickly, find the main points and move on. If I’m watching a video, I’m tied to whatever presentation the video makes. I don’t know when a key point might arise, and I have no choice but to absorb the information in the order in which the video maker chose to present it. Instead of facing an article that might take me 60 seconds to read, I’m stuck watching a three-minute video.
For web advertisers, the question of how to get people to watch your videos will eventually be answered by quality and creativity. If you’re going to ask people to spend their time — even 15 seconds — on a video they didn’t ask to see, it had better be good.
Web advertising videos, by necessity, will become either intensely informative, extremely entertaining — or both.