Can't start a fire ...
Microsoft agrees to buy online ad firm aQuantive in a deal for $6 billion. Google, on the heels of its 2006 acquisition of YouTube, antes up $3.1 billion for a deal to buy interactive advertising pioneer DoubleClick.
Seemingly, these are marriages made in multimedia heaven. The big technology guys are focusing on online advertising. Advertisers love the impact they can generate in the 30 seconds of a tightly produced television commercial. Any day now, Madison Avenue reps should be lining up around the block to plaster their video promotions on the web.
Trouble is, that would-be torrent of online video advertising revenues continues to look a lot more like a trickle. Video represents only a sliver of the $16.9 billion in 2006 online advertising revenues estimated for the industry by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.
One doesn't have to look far for excuses. Some criticize unimaginative advertisers for their unwillingness to experiment. A lack of widely accepted technical standards certainly does not help the cause, either.
But let me humbly suggest a more fundamental reason that the market for television-style commercials online is not skyrocketing: Television commercials are not the best way to use web multimedia for marketing.
Instead of pitching itself as a poor man's answer to television, the web has to distinguish itself by the end-user marketing experiences it alone can deliver.
It just so happens that businesses are looking to capitalize on the strengths of online multimedia as well. In a survey of 1,200 corporate executives conducted by Interactive Media Strategies in the first quarter of this year, 88% of respondents said that they view online multimedia as an effective marketing tool.
But not any ol' online multimedia marketing will do for Corporate America. Only 20% of overall respondents reported that they would believe any form of online multimedia--including television-style commercials--to be effective.
Rather, the emphasis of respondents is clearly on driving results via the avenue of online multimedia. Of those surveyed by Interactive Media Strategies, 68% reported that they view online multimedia as effective only when it is used to reach registered users. Essentially, this is a fancy way of saying businesses want to use online multimedia to generate tangible, identifiable sales leads.
You're not going to do that by plastering brand-building snippets of 15- and 30-second promotional spots in between YouTube clips. A better alternative is developing worthwhile informational content related to your product and/or industry sector that encourages would-be customers to provide their registration information in exchange for access to a company's online multimedia presentation. Think of it as the multimedia equivalent to the time-honored B2B marketing tradition of publishing and distributing white papers to a targeted audience willing to share their contact information.
Recognizing the proper venue for implementing online multimedia marketing is only half the battle, however. Once executives are sold on the idea of using web audio and video to reach out to a relevant set of registered users, the challenge is finding the budget to apply to these emerging forms of marketing. Indeed, the top barrier to the implementation of online multimedia marketing programs is that the "budget is not allocated" by companies for such activities.
Of those surveyed by IMS, 27% cited budgetary restrictions as the top impediment to deploying online multimedia marketing events. Budget issues were cited almost twice as often as the factors "ROI not proven" and "Can't reach target audience," which were both cited by 14% of IMS survey respondents as the top barrier to online multimedia marketing.
In short, don't bet the farm that marketing revenues are going to roll into the online multimedia sector over the short term. Generally speaking, marketers don't see the web as a venue for the brand building that's so successfully delivered via television-style commercials. And they have yet to recognize the ways that online audio and video can be leveraged to drive sales leads.
Never mind that video is the most powerful venue for communicating a message. Forget that the web is the world's most flexible platform for delivering a message to a target audience.
At some point, savvy corporate marketers will connect the dots and recognize the potential for marrying web video with targeted multimedia marketing messages. The technology is in place to spark a marketing revolution. Now, let's go find some marketers willing to light the match.
Steven Vonder Haar (email@example.com) is research director of Interactive Media Strategies.
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