Monday, February 25, 2008

Making Branding Accountable Online

I wasn’t at the Engagement Debate hosted by VideoEgg last week in New York. But from what I could decipher through the press afterwards, VideoEgg is now offering a cost-per-engagement model for video advertising online.

According to VideoEgg, if a viewer initiates the interaction with a video ad by rolling over it, or clicking into it, that constitutes engagement.

And, in a sense, they’re right. The viewer has “engaged” with the advertising message. And that should indeed be worth something to an advertiser.

But so too should the length of time that the viewer stays involved with the message that they’ve engaged with. And, as far as I could tell from what I read, viewer time-spent data is not part of the VideoEgg offering.

Which means, viewers could “engage” in a sixty-second spot and leave after only one second. Or, viewers could “engage” in a sixty-second spot and watch all sixty seconds.

The cost to the advertiser, according to VideoEgg, is the same. But the results certainly would not be.

In the example above, having viewers watch 100% of the spot certainly offers more “engagement value” to the advertiser than having viewers watch just 1% of the spot.

Can VideoEgg charge for this added value?

No. After all, they, themselves, did nothing to create the value. Once viewers click into the message itself, the responsibility for the time-spent, or not spent with that message, transfers to the agency that created it.

But while VideoEgg can’t charge for actually creating this value, they can certainly charge for the information that reveals how well the agency’s efforts did, or did not, work.

In other words, the viewer time-spent data.

When VideoEgg decides to take this next step, they have a chance to break Internet-advertising wide open.

Because what they would be offering to advertisers is not just another measurement metric, but a way for branding to become accountable online.

Why is this important?

Simply because the largest budgets advertisers have at their disposal are their branding budgets. What advertisers like about the Web is its accountability. It’s been difficult to secure branding budgets for online simply because branding, up to now, hasn’t been deemed to be accountable.

But if one looked at the job of branding as that of creating long-term relationships, rather than creating short-term sales, then the online platform has a chance to make branding accountable.

Relationships between people are built through time-spent together. Are relationships created differently when it involves a brand and a person, rather than two people?

I think not.

If that’s the case, then the more time a viewer spends with an advertiser’s brand, the stronger the relationship has a chance to become.

Or, in other words, viewer time-spent data starts to make branding accountable.

Viewer time-spent can be accurately measured online if the viewer is allowed to initiate the interaction with the message. This “user-initiation” is what VideoEgg measures and has now monetized. And while that’s certainly a step in the right direction, stopping there means that what VideoEgg is actually offering is a cost-per-click for video, not a true cost-per-engagement in the message.

Engagement, while still poorly defined by our industry, does require three things for it to occur, each of which can be individually measured. 1. Exposure to the message. 2. Interaction with the message.
3. Involvement in the message.

The modern day advertising industry was built upon monetizing impressions, or exposure to a message. It was the best that could be done in an analog world.

The digital marketplace offers greater granularity. So congrats to VideoEgg for being the first to say the old ways are broken and offering a way to monetize initiation rather than impressions.

You’re certainly headed in the right direction.

Don’t stop now.

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