Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Impressions Or Involvement. Advertisers Can Have One Or The Other, But Not Both.

One of the most difficult choices regarding video advertising that advertisers are going to have to make this year is whether they want impressions or involvement.

Impressions are the “feel good” way to go. They offer advertisers a big number and big numbers feel all warm and fuzzy. “You’ll be reaching over ten million people with a frequency of three,” the media agency guru will tell his clients.

Hard to fire a marketing director when he/she is talking to ten million people, isn’t it?

But an impression, or exposure to the message, isn’t the same as involvement in the message.

At any particular time, only about 10% of consumers are interested in any particular product. Which means that up to 90% of those impressions could be deemed a waste of money. Not by media agencies, mind you. Media agencies will argue that they need to reach that many to find those that are interested.

In other words, waste is a cost of doing business. True, back in the day.

But it’s now 2009. The day has become digital. And digital means that viewers are in control to decide for themselves what is relevant to them by opting-in to messages of interest.

And, when they do, what becomes most important is how long they’re involved in the message for. If the advertiser has created a :60 spot aimed at a particular market segment, and that market segment has clicked-in to find out more, the last thing that advertiser wants is for that viewer to click-out without watching the entire commercial.

Look at it this way. The viewer has come to you, the advertiser. They have knocked on your door, they have asked to find out more. If they watch just ten percent of the message that you have created just for them, ignoring the remaining ninety percent of the message, that is an opportunity lost.

And that is cause enough to fire the marketing director. Or, at least the agency that created the commercial.

Video advertising is dividing itself into two camps. The intrusive model of video advertising – pre-roll and in-stream – bought and paid for through reach and frequency, i.e. impressions.

And the opt-in model of advertising—where instead of paying for millions to reach the thousand that are interested—advertisers allow viewers to decide for themselves what is relevant through opting-in.

The former gives advertisers a big number in terms of how many are exposed to the message. The latter has the chance to give advertisers a big number in terms of how long viewers are engaged with their message.

Arguably, how long a viewer stays with the message describes the quality of the experience the viewer has with the content. And, therefore, makes one impression more valuable than another.

Advertisers constantly talk about how they have accepted that control has shifted to the viewer. They talk a good game, but unfortunately, their actions belie their words. The fact is, time spent is really nothing more than an impression in the control of the viewer. And yet, advertisers keep falling back on impressions.

In the future, intrusive advertising and opt-in advertising will exist side-by-side. The former will be necessary to create awareness about brands. The latter, to create advocates for brands.

Each will have their strengths and weaknesses.

Where we have to be careful is in deceiving ourselves that they are truly one and the same.

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