By Barry Flynn, Contributing Editor
ITVâ€™s new low-entry VOD advertising format, Ad Show, has been used by 14 brands across 16 campaigns since launching last September, mainly advertisers new to TV â€“ including publishers Hodder & Stoughton, car dealerships such as Pentagon Group and Midland Vauxhall, and Princes Foodsâ€™ Napolina brand.
However, well-established TV brands such as Everything Everywhere and Panasonic have also experimented with the new concept.
Ad Show is the creation of Jon Block, controller of commercial digital products at ITVâ€™s commercial and online division, and was joint winner of the 2014 Future TV Advertising Screenings last December.
Ad Show not only allows advertisers and agencies to create interactive VOD ads for less than a thousand pounds, but generates significantly higher brand recall and purchase propensity than print and radio.
â€œThe whole concept is about trying to open up premium interactive video advertising to advertisers who donâ€™t have a TV spot,â€ says Block, citing a production company who recently told him that the average cost of filming a 30-second spot for UK primetime TV was Â£167,000. â€œThe problem with VOD is that in order to advertise on ITV Player you need to have created a broadcast spot and that’s a high barrier to entry.â€
Ad Showâ€™s cost efficiency derives principally from its ability to re-purpose existing print, radio and display assets, such as a glossy high-quality images from press or poster campaigns and commercial radio audio-tracks, together with the use of pre-defined templates to turn these into an interactive 30-second audiovisual sequence.
Block gives the example of the book publishing industry, where a publisher might typically have a marketing budget of around Â£20,000. â€œThey canâ€™t consider a broadcast spot because theyâ€™d have to pay half of their budget just to make an ad â€“ and then theyâ€™d only have ten grand left. It doesnâ€™t make sense to spend so much on creative and leave so little for the media buy.â€
Block says that a typical Ad Show advertiser pays under Â£500 to record a voice-over, and if they wanted to enhance the creative further they could consider buying a Â£500 video from a stock library to use as a background.
Screenshot from Hodder & Stoughtonâ€™s AdShow commercial for a DCI Banks novel
The ad-creation tool, provided by partner Brainient, a UK-based interactive video provider, is also very straightforward to use, requiring minimal training.
Block says he is keen to â€œput these tools into the hands of the agencies and advertisers so they can actually build [ads] themselves.â€
In an unusual move, in agreement with Brainient, ITV is making the Ad Show format openly available in Brainientâ€™s web-based creation tool â€“ dubbed the Brainient Studio. In theory, that means an agency could use it to create an ad for any VOD platform, not just ITVâ€™s.
In the images shown below, a still taken from furniture company Arighi Bianchiâ€™s print campaign for its Halo line is turned into a 30-second VOD commercial which could be inserted into an ITV Player stream by the addition of â€˜hotspotsâ€™ linked to the items shown.
Still from Arighi Bianchiâ€™s print campaign for Halo
Screenshot from Arighi Bianchiâ€™s Ad Show campaign showing interactive hotspots
By default, the hotspots automatically animate to show extra information in sync with the audio-track (see below)
Screenshot from Arighi Bianchiâ€™s Ad Show campaign showing hotspot animation
Viewers are free to engage with the ad at any point (short of fast-forwarding through it) and can click on any of the hotspots themselves to find out more, and if necessary, complete their purchase (see below).
Screenshot from Arighi Bianchiâ€™s Ad Show campaign showing viewer interaction
Block explains that the ad will keep on â€˜playingâ€™ after the 30 seconds is up if the viewer is still interacting with it, effectively extending the length of the â€˜breakâ€™ and therefore the viewerâ€™s engagement â€“ a plus for advertisers.
ITV, in association with consultancy Decipher, carried out some in-depth qualitative research into how viewers rated this new type of ad using focus groups. For Block, one of the things that stood out from the results was that â€œthere was this massive halo effect of the ITV brand.â€ Respondents felt that â€œif an advertiser was on ITV Player they must be doing something right.â€
Block was also surprised that â€œthey all thought that the ads were really high quality. I was worried that people might think it was too simple. I can only assume that they realize itâ€™s an interactive ad on an interactive platform and that gives it a massive quality boost.â€
Quantitative research carried out by ITV/Decipher as part of the same study showed that â€œtop of mind brand recallâ€ (when respondents list a brand first after being asked an open question about which ones they can name) was significantly increased by using Ad Show, delivering a three times greater uplift than press and radio.
Meanwhile, of those who interacted with the new format, 55% expressed â€œpositive sentimentâ€ about the ad, with the same sub-group delivering a purchase propensity of 28%, double that of a control group, representing an uplift five times greater than print and radio.
â€œThis is an innovation that’s for the good of the entire VOD industry,â€ concludes Block. While â€œitâ€™s going to reflect well on ITV too, hopefully it should be bringing in more money for everybody. Itâ€™s opening up premium VOD to new brands and I think thatâ€™s a very exciting thing because it could bring truly new money into the VOD market.â€