New Ads Pop Up In Video Blank Spaces
November 10, 2008
video pre-roll ads, but viewers find them annoying.
Overlay ads are less intrusive, but have not caught on
with marketers. Now technology startup Keystream is
introducing a video ad alternative that it believes will
prove superior to pre-rolls and overlay ads placed at
the bottom of the screen.
Its system scans video content for "blank" spaces--such
as a bare wall or a grass field--and sticks an overlay
ad there, without interrupting the programming. Instead
of covering the lower portion of the screen like the
current crop of overlays, Keystream's SmartAds are
intended to pop up anywhere that won't block the action.
The ads, which typically play for 10 seconds every one
to two minutes, can be targeted contextually and by
audience demographics. Web publishers also have the
ability to limit how often and where ads appear within
In testing across 6,000 videos of varying lengths and
types of content, the SmartAds have generated
click-through rates in the high single digits and
overall interaction rates of better than 20%, according
to company executives. The trial includes 1,500 videos
shown on the local programming site of British
broadcaster ITV, Keystream's initial client.
"We have not had any negative comment or feedback," said
CEO Schuyler Cullen, who co-founded the Mountain View,
Calif.-based company in 2004 with Edward Ratner,
president of research and development. Keystream's
platform uses Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight software
to power interactive features such as roll-overs,
animation and links.
The ads are sold on a CPM basis and come in three
varieties: a static logo, a round clickable unit that
lips around to allow messaging on both sides, and a
rectangular one that expands when rolled over. The first
type might show an Adidas logo against an unoccupied
expanse of infield during a baseball game.
A "flip" ad highlighted in a Keystream presentation
showed the unit in a video for a cheesecake recipe
appearing next to a slice of cake with "Hungry?" on one
side and the Pillsbury logo on the other. A conventional
overlay would have blocked out recipe instructions at
the bottom. Another, for Snapple, popped up in the
background near David Letterman's head during the
monologue on his show.
The roll-over format showed a banner overlay in the
right corner of a baseball game video that expands in
the upper left of the screen without blocking any of the
infield action. Unlike the "virtual" ads seen during
television sports broadcasts, however, the Keystream ads
do not appear as actual billboards or on-site branding
to the viewer.
Still, the ads represent another option for monetizing
Web video that may offer advantages over pre-rolls,
according to Caroline Dangson, research analyst for new
media and entertainment at market research firm IDC. "I
would think they're a good alternative, if not a perfect
solution," said Dangson.
She noted that in a recent IDC survey pre-rolls ranked
as the third-least-favorite form of online advertising
after pop-ups and page takeovers.
Chris Allen, vice president and director of video
innovation at Starcom USA, expressed skepticism about
whether consumers and advertisers would embrace the new
format. "I'm not so sure they would be a viable
alternative," said Allen, who had not yet been formally
briefed on the SmartAds.
He added that marketers might be hesitant to employ the
ads because of the uncertain reaction from viewers. "For
right now, and in the next couple of years, I think
you're going to see the pre-roll dominate," said Allen.
But Schuyler is confident that the Keystream ads will
catch on. In addition to positive feedback from the
dozen advertisers in the ITV trial, he said the company
is already getting interest from at least four other
major brands interested in trying SmartAds. And while
Keystream is presently focusing on broadband video, its
ad technology can also be applied to broadcast TV.
Keystream is not the only company exploring new ways to
monetize online video. Last week, Silicon Valley startup
Auditude announced a partnership in which its platform
will insert overlay ads into MTV Networks videos
uploaded to MySpace by users. The goal is to offer an
alternative to unauthorized clips simply being removed
from MySpace or other sites due to copyright violations.
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