It may seem weird, but I’ve been eagerly awaiting the day when I see ads in my viral video. eMarketer expects online video advertising to nearly double in 2008 to $1.3 billion, but no one’s really nailed a scalable ad platform for video. However, Google’s been quietly testing their own system and there are a bunch of other startups tackling it as well.
There are a couple key issues they’re all struggling with as they try and generate the greatest amount of ad revenue. There’s still some uncertainty about where to put the ads (pre/post/interstitial?). Even the type or length of the ad is up for debate. A recent study found longer ads were more effective at branding, while conventional wisdom has cast doubt on users sitting through the longer plugs.
After deciding on the format, determining the content of the video in order to generate relevant ads is yet another tough problem. It’s also a dire matter for big brands that don’t want to risk being associated with inflammatory content. Finally, these ad platforms will need publishers, advertisers and a marketplace to trade in.
Here’s a look at what people are doing in video advertising:
Definitely the team to watch, YouTube is treading carefully, experimenting with text ads running along the bottom of the video that users can click on for a full video ad. They’re going to be testing the system with some of their top content producers and word on the street is that the terms are pretty good. Revver splits ad revenue 50/50 with publishers. They run ads at the end of viral videos, which might mean that people are still paying close attention after watching the main content. However, this also means they lose some precious real estate to help drive traffic to other videos on their network like YouTube does. Revver filters the content themselves, tying in the appropriate ads. Similar to Revver, VideoEgg helps publishers deliver and monetize their video inventory. It’s a very hands on approach suitable for larger brands that have tight control over the quality and context of their content. They serve up over 20 million videos daily across their EggNetwork. Ads show up alongside lead ins to other videos as well. ScanScout’s technology scans each video and determines content, with ads delivered contextually to match each scene. They run text ads along the bottom of the videos based on context derived from audio analysis and user behavior.
They’re like adsense for video, tying contextual text ads based on the content of a video. It looks similar to what YouTube is aiming for. When videos play, Adap.tv digs up relevant Amazon products and Looksmart ads to populate an ad bar on the bottom of the video at key moments. They use tags and other meta data, as well as speech to text translations to find out what the video is about.
AdBrite was one of the first to overlay ads on videos with their InVideo platform. Adbrite has created an embeddable video player similar to YouTube. If we choose to show a video on TechCrunch, we can use this embeddable player, and at our option it will include Adbrite ads and our logo as a watermark. Anyone who takes the content and embeds it on their own site will show the same video, with the same ads and watermark. And all click backs on the video go to the original site.
The most interesting ad play, BroadRamp wants to make everything you see on your video a possible point of sale. See a t-shirt you like? Just click the video to buy it now. Tagging or programmatically generating the links to products from the video may not scale or prove too difficult. Their core business is still video content delivery systems, however.
Formerly Podzinger, Everzing searches audio and video. Since they don’t own the content they can’t insert ads on the video content, but their speech-to-text transcription means they can help solve the problem of finding out the subject of a video.
A video search engine like Everyzing, Blinkx analyzes videos speech and meta data to tease out the content of the video. They also claim to use visual recognition as well. However, Blinkx has also leveraged their technology to launch adHoc, contextual advertising based on the content of the video.
Another video search engine currently running in private beta, Cast.TV looks at a video’s meta data and surrounding links to determine more context around the video. We’ve been impressed with how well it works. They haven’t discussed plans to incorporate advertising, however.
Coming up with a kick ass, scalable ad platform solution for social video that satisfies the needs of publishers, advertisers, and viewers is only a piece of the problem. While finding the most effective format will take a lot of testing until consumers reveal the most effective methods, the platforms will also need video content to monetize. Since well defined video properties with targeted content can work with sponsors on established video ad networks, the ideal market for these platforms remains effectively monetizing the jumble of amateur viral video floating around on social networks and YouTube. However, YouTube, which currently owns the lion’s share of video on the net, seems to be taking their time developing the solution in house.
That leaves becoming a destination, partnerships, or acquisition as possible outs. Video search sites like Blinkx and Everyzing are currently monetizing their search pages, but can’t take full advantage of their platforms by embedding ads into the content they link to. While these sites offer deeper video search, existing as a destination site is also a tough path that goes up against established web properties like Google, Yahoo, and AOL. In a slightly different way of going it alone, AdBrite has been going directly to publishers with their InVideo player. Adap.tv has been testing out partnerships, trying their platform out on MetaCafe.
As with most ad platforms, advertisers and publishers will be trying them out for effectiveness. In the end, the startups that can deliver the most return to these two will win out.