Even as the economy sputters, marketers continue to spend on video advertising. With analyst and research firms like eMarketer and Forrester projecting tremendous growth in online video advertising, it's no wonder businesses small and large see video ads as the next wave of online marketing.

But do video ads work to turn viewers into buyers and passionate brand advocates?

Online advertising, compared with its offline cousins radio, TV, and newspapers, is attractive because it's directly measurable. And though online video advertising is more measurable than TV advertising, it still poses unique challenges to marketers who want to know whether their video ads worked.

For starters, measurement of the effectiveness of video ads gets bogged down by syndication, viral distribution, viewing via social networks, and many other factors. So how can you find out if your video ad "worked"—an even more important question in tough economic times when marketing budgets are tight?

First, let's take a step back and consider why you advertise in the first place. Businesses tend to advertise for three reasons: brand building, engagement, and lead generation—and often a mixture of all three in each campaign.

  • Brand-building ads are notoriously tough to measure, but there are metrics to figure out whether a campaign has boosted your brand awareness—and video ads have proven to have a very positive impact on brand image.
  • Engagement is easier to measure, because you can tell when someone sees your ad or clicks through to your site after watching it.
  • Finally, lead-generation advertising is also getting easier to measure, because you can tell when someone sees your ad, then clicks through to make a purchase or fills out an online form.

When any new advertising format emerges, marketers are tempted to use tried-and-tested metrics for measurement. However, applying old methods to new models doesn't deliver very accurate metrics.

For example, early forms of search and display advertising focused on measuring impressions, which was borrowed from the TV world. But impressions were not a very effective way to measure ads online, because, as advertisers soon found out, the fact that an ad is displayed on a Web page doesn't mean someone saw it.

That's why search and display advertisers moved to focus on measuring clicks rather than impressions. But even clickthrough is becoming outmoded: Clicks don't measure engagement, reach, and frequency. So, often a campaign with good clickthrough rates ends up not delivering conversion results, because the clicks are too frequently an attempt by users to get rid of the ad rather than engage with it.

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Diaz Nesamoney is founder, CEO, and president of Jivox (www.jivox.com), an online video advertising service for small and medium-sized businesses.