Why Contextual Advertising May Not Work For Video

from the square-peg-in-a-round-hole dept

There’s been an explosion of interest in online video, not only from the likes of YouTube, but from established media companies, like Disney. Of course, there’s always that prickly question of how to go about monetizing it. While some think that consumers will be willing to pay to download shows, some are banking on advertising, which would seem like the best option for the more viral type of online video. One startup, Dave.TV, is hoping to apply Adsense-like contextual advertising to video. For example, using speech recognition, they would insert an ad about computers if computers were being discussed on the video. While contextual advertising works very well in search, it still hasn’t been shown to work nearly as well in text (when people are reading where they are, instead of searching to go somewhere else). Taking the same approach in video may be even more problematic. Imagine trying to serve ads for an episode of Lost based on what the characters are talking about. You’d get a bunch of ads for deserted islands. The current system, whereby ads are shown for cars, movies, and future sporting events would probably work a lot better. To understand the problem with contextual advertising in its current form on the web, consider a website for digital photography enthusiasts; text ads for digital cameras aren’t likely to work very well since all the readers probably have them. On the other end of the spectrum, contextual ads aren’t ideal for general news sites either — an ad for Burger King isn’t likely to play well when you’re reading an article about a shooting at said restaurant. While ad-subsidized online content may make a lot of sense, simply trying to apply the same model across different kinds of content is a bad idea.

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Comments on “Why Contextual Advertising May Not Work For Video”

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Jeremy mikkola (user link) says:

It may not work very well that way, but I think that there is a way that it can be done. The content provider provides a description and keywords, maybe even a information field just for the add targeting. Then the add system would chose an add based on the supplied information. Of course, this can still have the described problem if done improperly.

We’ll just have to wait and see how well those adds work.

Blbpaws says:

Not a good photo example

It seems to me that, while your comments are on the whole good and valid, your backup is not. I would think you’d find many more ads for cameras on a photo site, and rightfully so. If you view the purpose of advertising as a) taking advantage of awareness, leading to a sale or b) creating awareness, then I think it’s reasonable for such ads. A camera company wants to make interested people aware of their product. It makes much more sense running ads that are relevant to the site.

Alessandro says:

Closed Captions anyone?

This could be great to encourage all video streams to be coupled with closed captions too! On top of the advertisement gain, you would force the studios, tv stations and apliances to all have captions too, making the streams available for people with disabilities for example. This could be a great idea…

Todd (user link) says:


Video contextual advertising will work – but using speech recognition is too fine grained ( yes, the lines spoken by actors on Lost would generate kooky ads ).

Something that operates at a lower resolution like “psycho-demographics” would be better. If I am watching Lost my sense of escapism would make me receptive to ads for vaction destinations. If I am watching Extreme Home Makeover I would be receptive to home improvement loans and ads from the Home Depot, etc.


Eric (user link) says:

Why tie ads to the content?

I’d always assumed that this was where Google was headed with Google Video – when they announced the pay-per-download model I was actually surprised by that. Dynamically inserted advertising seems to better play to their strengths.

Television advertising as it stands now is woefully inefficient. Advertisements are tied to the content based on demographic data which may-or-may-not be accurate. The end result is that I, a 23 year old male, see ads for a lot of stuff that just isn’t relevant to me: everything from tampons to cars I can’t possibly afford.

What needs to happen, from the advertiser’s standpoint, is to divorce their ad from the content, and put it in front of the viewer they want to target regardless of whether I’m watching CNN, Comedy Central, or Nickelodeon. Tie the ads to the user, rather than the content – even asking age, gender, and income would deliver more relevant ads than the kind we’re used to seeing now.

Which is why I’m actually scratching my head over the strategy here – context sensitive ads won’t be much more effective than demographic-based ones, and as noted, probably even less relevant.

AdWords works because they’re tied directly to user intentions – I search for something I’m interested in, I see ads based on that. But contrast that to AdSense for content. On my own blog, I’ve written posts slamming GWB and gotten ads for GOP fundraisers… I’ve written how stupid I think the PSP and UMD movies are only to have ads appear for both… right now there’s an ad for “Liberal News” with “Republican dating” right below it. If Google can’t even figure out what side of the political spectrum I’m on, I have a real hard time believing that context sensitive video ads will be any more accurate.

me says:

Re: Why tie ads to the content?

“Television advertising as it stands now is woefully inefficient. Advertisements are tied to the content based on demographic ”


“Tie the ads to the user, rather than the content – even asking age, gender, and income ”

Eric, isn’t basing ads on demographics pretty much tying ads to age, gender and income.

Steve Taylor (user link) says:

contextual != desirable

I use google adwords for a sudoku (puzzle game) site I run, and their marvellous contextual superwpowers don’t do much for me – I end up with a site full of ads for other people’s sudoku sites! I’d feel happier – and I suspect get more ad clicks – if I had the option of nominating that I wanted to run “general interest” ads.

Google seem to be acting as if the only type of ad that matters is one that’s directly related to whatever you’re currently reading about.

Bill (user link) says:

StreamerNet MVP for video ads

For those readers looking for an easy software tool to create, host and deliver Video Advertising, then take a look at the StreamerNet Mobile Video Producer.

The company has released the first “plug-and-play, click-and-stream” software program (WinXP) that lets you create your do-it-yourself sales commercial and upload it to your private StreamerNet video library. Simply place the provided link within web sites or AdBoxes and subsequent click-thrus will stream the video ad to the viewer.

More details at http://www.streamernet.com/html/videoad.html

This product is a swiss-army knife which enables simplified creation and management of all things video, such as video email, live streaming, media conversion, podcasting and more.

Busy (user link) says:

Don't quite get it

I see some things here that don’t quite make sense to me. 1st, the context of ads isn’t decided by the ad itself, but by the keywords assigned to the ads. So you may very well get ads for buying cars, movies, and other sporting events if, for example, an advertiser ties those ads to the charachters names, or other details that will only appear in a discussion of “Lost”. The inappropriate ads are partly from the fact that the contextual system isn’t perfect, but also from the fact that it’s hard to pick the right keywords for your ads.

Also, The Great Eric mentioned ads for the wrong side of the political spectrum on his blog. Now a common theme of most political blogs I’ve seen is a tendancy for heated debate, which means that even though the blog writer may be very left, the blog readers span the spectrum. So there are people reading that the ads may very well be relevant for. In fact, you can’t click on your own ads anyways, so it really matters even less what you are. (Of course I understand that you might not want to advertise for the other side, in which case you can start blocking sites from showing ads on your site)

I think this applies to a lot of ads that some people may think are wierd to show up. As Eric said, “tie ads to the user” and you will get the most relevant ads, but until we can do that without infringing on people’s sense of privacy (is that even possible?) I’m going to stick with context ads and affiliate programs.

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