Laila Dhalen – Caught on camera

In 2006, online video sharing was predicted as the next big thing for the travel industry. The medium offered many new possibilities for travellers: everything from passing on useful hints and tips to sharing videos of experiences once home.

Now, 12 months on, those predictions are ringing true with user figures showing that the medium is experiencing explosive growth.  According to Jupiter Research, regular video usage in Europe rose by 80% between September 2006 and April 2007 and it is generally acknowledged that video also helps add colour and depth to any online campaign. 

Understandably, advertisers are reacting in kind – with eMarketer forecasting an 89% increase in online video spending this year compared to 2006. The change in the online habits of users has also made the advertising model more sophisticated. While placing banner ads next to video content is still effective, the more advanced online advertisers are now creating campaigns that enable users to engage and interact with their brand – deepening the experience for the user.

Creating a campaign where the user engages with the brand has proven to be particularly successful when user-generated content is integrated. Sony’s recent Destination Handycam campaign is a good example of this. This six-week campaign, which ran during July and August in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Norway saw Yahoo! work with Sony to launch microsites. Users were asked to upload a video of their travel experiences and inspirational summer moments to their individual country’s microsite for a chance to win weekly prizes. 

To continue the buzz, all users who submitted a video also had the opportunity to be selected to enter the Grand Prize Competition.  The final winner received an all-expenses paid trip for themselves and three friends on a luxury yacht in the South Pacific. The prizes acted as powerful incentives to involve users in the campaign.

The microsites also became very useful research tools for users looking to plan future holidays. In addition to video, they featured user ratings, video navigation and text feedback, comment and interaction. In other words, you wouldn’t just go on the site to win a prize; it was a genuinely useful holiday planning site. 

Campaigns such as the Sony Destination Handycam are also a perfect example of how video can work successfully with social media for advertisers. By providing interesting and unique content – not just simple branding – it enabled Sony to engage and interact with a key audience in a very direct manner. In future, we can expect travel campaigns to increasingly leverage user-generated video content. 

While user-generated video content was successful for Sony, how can advertisers integrate their brand into professional online video content? This debate has been topical over recent months, and has focused on which specific ad formats work best for advertisers but at the same time don’t detract from the user experience.

Recently, many in the industry have endorsed video overlays as the most effective video ad format – heralding the demise of the more traditional pre and post-roll ad formats.

However, the jury is still out about the branding effectiveness of video overlays. They face stiff competition from the other video advertising formats such as pre/post-rolls, banners and ad-funded integrations – which have all demonstrated their effectiveness in engaging with audiences. 

However, regardless of the method used, the key to successful online video advertising is relevance: the best-performing online video ads use the unique features of the web to create an interactive experience between the user and the brand in question. 

It is essential they communicate a message that reinforces brand usage, or differentiates it from competitors, to the right target audience or community.

Laila Dhalen is vice-president of marketplace for Yahoo! Europe

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