eMarketer recently came out with its latest analysis on online video advertising—and while the medium remains as popular as ever. However, although the two media are similar, it’s not expected to command similar ad dollars to television advertising for a while (2013, I think, might still be rather optimistic for spend-per-hour parity).
The problem, however, doesn’t come from the content, but from the context. David Hallerman, a senior analyst at eMarketer and author of the report, explains, “The lean-forward, immersive mindset of Internet users is often not receptive to the story-based brand messages of typical video advertising.”
In order for Internet video to grow more quickly, it needs to reach an inflection point where Web video and TV video have substantially converged.
“In the lean-forward computing mode, people are mousing and ready to click at the slightest provocation,” Hallerman said. “In the lean-back TV mode, while people may certainly click with the remote, they tend to spend extended time with the content and absorb messages with a more receptive frame of mind.”
I think Hallerman is dead right about the different levels of involvement online and on the tube. While he may be right that audiences will have to learn to treat Internet video and TV the same, I think a better way for online video to have an impact is for online video to adapt to they way Internet users consume information rather than waiting for the opposite to happen.
I think most of us are at least passingly familiar with Marshall McLuhan’s famous axiom, “The medium is the message.” The way you convey a message has as much to do with what you say—and in this case, the medium is limited the audiences’ perception of the message because of the way we’re used to interacting with the Internet.
To rely more on McLuhan without getting too abstract, the Internet is a “cooler” medium than television—by its fragmented nature, the Internet requires the audience to be more involved in interacting, putting together the pieces and figure out what they mean.
Television, on the other hand, usually supplies all the answers in a neat 15- or 30-second spot (okay, 30- or 60-minute show). All we have to do is lean back and watch. This kind of “hot” medium fills in all the blanks for us so all we have to do is watch.
And that’s just the problem. On the Internet, we’re used to leaning forward, interacting, engaging, putting pieces together. But Internet video ads tend not to let us get involved in that. They want us to sit back—maybe because television advertising has so influenced all video advertising that we don’t know how to get viewers really involved in the way the rest of the Internet does.
Online video advertising might never take off if we stay stuck in the “hot” media mode. Online video ads right now are too “hot” to “handle”—we don’t get a lot out of them because we’re trying to engage with the medium, and there’s just nothing for us to do except for watch. I think that for online video to take off, advertisers will have to find a way to fit in to the engagement level of the Internet, rather than force viewers to treat it like television ads.
It’s tough to adapt McLuhan’s theories to modern media convergence. Then again, I may be butchering McLuhan. It’s been known to happen (though I’m pretty sure he’s not going to show up from beyond the grave to castigate me):
What do you think? How can online video ads force us all to “lean back”? Or should online video ads adapt to their medium and learn how to engage viewers who are already leaning forward?