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May 23, 2006

AdWords Goes Video

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This could be the start of something big: Google will begin integrating click-to-play ads into its AdSense network ‘in the coming days’, according to the InsideAdWords blog. At launch, the ads will be available to advertisers in the US, Canada and Japan.

Advertisers will be able to use the ads on a CPM or CPC basis, allowing them to decide if a keyword- or site-targeted format works best for them. The ads will be placed on sites that are signed up to Google’s advertising network and will appear as static screenshots until a user opts to view them. (A non-instantaneous play feature? Thank you, Google.)Users will be able to fast-forward, adjust the volume or click through to an advertiser’s site.

As far as I can tell, there’s no word on what format Google will accept ads in (or if this will be an issue for users), though they say ads may be up to two minutes in length. Two minutes? I imagine two minutes would seem like an eternity to someone staring at their computer screen. I’m thinking advertisers have twenty seconds to make their point, unless their ad is particularly hilarious (i.e. features people falling down. Or babies).

The integration of video ads on AdWords is interesting because of the size of the AdWords audience. These ads have the potential to expose Mom, Dad and Uncle John to the effect (or maybe even to the existence) of online video. Of course, advertisers may also find video advertising unsuccessful if these same three can’t figure out how video works, what it is or how to navigate (or find) that dastardly play button. We’ll have to see.

If video advertising does take off, the real winner will be small businesses. I haven’t heard anything regarding the approval process for these ads, but assuming ads can be uploaded and live within a day or two, advertisers should find themselves with a lot of room to experiment to see what format, length or approach works best for their target audience. And think about the geo-targeting possibilities.

Google says: An owner of a small bed & breakfast in Lake Tahoe can put a video tour of his beautiful chalet right next to an article that talks about skiing the epic slopes of Squaw Valley.

How’s that for targeted advertising?

I am slightly concerned this may cause a spike in inadvertent click fraud, as most users view video as being entertainment-based. If I’m reading an article about skiing in Squaw Valley, and see a charming screenshot of a bed & breakfast sitting to the right-hand side, I may be inclined to click on it (though I know better) just to see the video, not because I have any interest in staying at a bed & breakfast, or in skiing. And I don’t think I’m the only one.

That concern gets even larger considering the “Ads by Google” marker that sits on the bottom right of each ad is so small and unobtrusive an untrained eye many not even notice it. Where are all those extra o’s when you need them? Heck, I was afraid to click on the example InsideAdWords gives for the fear that someone may get charged.

It will be interesting to see how Google, advertisers and users all connect with the new advertising format. My fear is that once the novelty wears off, most users will stay clear of that play button.

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