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Interactive Video Ad Campaigns: 5 Tips to Use Enhanced Functionality for Improved Response

SUMMARY: Interactive video ads, which let users click on active links without leaving the hosting site, can capture even more attention than regular videos. However, not every publisher can host this type of video advertising.

Read how a software company designed an interactive video ad campaign that made the most of the advanced functionality – achieving a 100% increase in CTR over their typical rich media ad – but was still flexible enough to run on sites that could not support interactive features.

Interactive video ads can generate better response than a standard video spot. In fact, 73% of video marketers said incorporating more interactivity in video advertising lifts performance, according to MarketingSherpa’s Marketing with Video Report.

Morgan Hudson, Senior Manager, Americas Consumer Marketing Group, Symantec, and his team used interactive online video ads in Fall 2009 to help realign messaging around their Norton consumer security software brand. The ads were central to the team’s campaign and were very successful, Hudson says.

“Just from a media tracking perspective, interaction rates, dwell time, traffic—it all just blew the doors off of what we saw in the past.”

The team wanted to create video ad that users could interact with—not just watch passively. But many media partners didn’t have the capability to host ads users could click with without driving them to a different page. So the team had to design their video campaign to reach their audience through multiple formats.

Based on this experience, here are five tips on creating a video campaign that takes advantage of interactive features but remains flexible enough to be run on sites that can’t host that functionality.

Tip #1. Craft message that resonates with audience and inspires interaction

The team designed the campaign to move away from the technical language of its previous messaging about online security. They created humorous videos depicting cyber criminals to help emphasize “there are actual human beings behind all these threats,” Hudson says.

To provide interactivity, the videos included “allow” and “deny” buttons that viewers used to select the outcome of the story.

For example, one ad asked viewers to imagine a raw chicken as their hard drive and 1980s heavy metal band Dokken as a computer virus aiming to destroy it. Viewers were then prompted to click “allow” or “deny” to see one of two video endings (see microsite linked below).

- Call-to-action matched theme of campaign

“Allow” and “deny” buttons are often used on security alerts when an outside program is trying to access a computer. Users click “allow” or “deny” to grant or deny access to the outside program.

“It was critical for us to ingrain that ‘allow’ or ‘deny’ choice into their brains,” Hudson says.

- Video style matched target audience

The team targeted a young, online and technologically-savvy audience—a group known to enjoy and share funny videos.

Tip #2. Create variations of content for different platform capabilities

The videos comprised the bulk of the team’s media plan, and they had to ensure they could repurpose the videos for several different applications. The team had an ideal design for the ads’ look and functionality, but not all rich media advertising vendors could accommodate those needs. Many weren’t equipped to host interactive video ads.

“During the development phase, we try to keep in mind the different size and length restrictions that come with an online media buy. Ultimately, we know these will be viewed on a smaller computer screen surrounded by editorial and distractions, unlike on a TV screen,” Hudson says.

- Create a microsite

The team created a microsite to centralize their campaign. The site included:
o Five interactive videos
o Educational presentations on cyber crime
o Norton product information
o Buttons to share the videos on social networks including Facebook and Digg

The team directed all online traffic for the campaign to this microsite. The microsite delivered the team’s target message when certain ad placements could not offer the “allow/deny” buttons within the videos.

Users viewing a standard video ad could click on it, arrive on the site, and experience the full functionality.

Tip #3. Seek innovative partners

The team looked for websites that could reach the target audience and support an interactive ad experience. The team sent many RFPs and found most sites could not accommodate its needs.

However, one online property—a popular video search engine—agreed to collaborate. The two teams created a pre-roll video ad that offered the full functionality the team desired. The page hosting the ad also included a display advertisement with a picture of Norton’s Internet Security 2010 product (see creative samples below).

The team secured the advertising at a similar rate to what they’d pay to host interactive display ads users could click through without leaving the site, such as widgets.

- Innovative approach attracts attention

The team’s ad was able to capture more attention than previous campaigns:
o The interaction rate (percent of users who clicked the ads without leaving the hosting site) was more than 500% higher than their previous rich-media ads
o Clickthrough rate was about 100% higher

Tip #4. Use additional formats for supplemental placement

The team needed more than one advertising partner for the campaign to succeed. So they worked with a large variety of websites in the entertainment, gaming, sports and technology space to host different variations of the ad.

Some sites, for example, were only able to host hyperlinked video pre-roll ads. The team made up for these ads’ lack of interactivity by linking them to the campaign’s microsite, where visitors could see the full experience and learn more.

A key to making the campaign work was the flexibility to repurpose the ads to meet the campaign’s goals and publishers’ specifications. Other types of advertising the team ran:
o Expandable videos
o Mid-roll videos
o Standard banner

“Either people rollover to see [the video] or click to the microsite to see it. Either way, it’s a provocative way to capture attention,” Hudson says. “We’ve driven more traffic than we’ve ever driven in previous campaigns, by far. We’re very happy with it.”

Tip #5. Reuse content to get the most from your investment

Even after the campaign, the team continued to use some of its video content for standard online video ads, such as hyperlinked pre-rolls, and also continued to host them on the campaign’s microsite.

The ads’ relevance to the team’s target market ensured the videos would continue to resonate.

Other places the team used the videos:
o Internal presentations
o Customer and industry events
o PR

“We have those assets and we want to get the most out of them,” Hudson says.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Symantec’s interactive video campaign

MarketingSherpa’s Marketing with Video Report: Online, TV & Mobile

Members Library—Innovative Online Video Captures Customer and Media Attention: 4 Steps to a 15x Lift in Web Traffic

Members Library—New Chart: Marketers Want More Interactivity in Video Ads

Norton Antivirus 2010: Every Click Matters microsite

GREY Group San Francisco: Helped the team with media buying