The Essentials of Online Video Marketing

Thinking of jumping into online video or YouTube in addition to—or in place of—more traditional advertising vehicles? Whether you plan to do it yourself or hire someone, a good basic understanding of the terms and types of offerings available can go a long way toward helping you understand and evaluate the value of your online video investment.

Video involves an array of unique considerations, among them: how long your video should be, what sites to place it on, how the user views or interacts with it, and where it leads or lands the user to continue the selling or information-gathering process.

Types of online video

First, let’s talk types of video. An easy way to do this is to think of online video as a continuum beginning with something that is forced upon—or interrupts—a viewer (like a television ad) that goes all the way to a video that sits on the screen and only does something when a viewer clicks on it.

When most people talk about online video, they are referring to either a pre-roll video or a YouTube video. These are two distinct types. A pre-roll video is 100% forced because a viewer must watch the entire video to see the content that follows, whereas with the YouTube TrueView option, the viewer can click out after the first five seconds.

Pre-roll video is usually sold on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis. It acts a lot like a TV or cable spot, so it’s fair to compare it to those forms of advertising. Just ask your ad rep or media buyer for the CPM you usually pay for TV or cable, then compare it against the CPM for pre-roll.

Note that with this type of video, clicks should not be considered to be the only metric of success. This is because, like a TV ad, pre-roll video is pushed to the viewer. Contrast that to pull advertising—when the user is actively seeking information, and therefore receptive to the solution or search return—which generates clicks.

For a YouTube video with the TrueView option, pay per click (PPC) is a good option to consider. Because the first five seconds of your ad are free unless the user doesn’t click away (and most do), the PPC option means that many more people will be exposed to your brand than you have to pay for if—and it’s a big if—you make sure the first five seconds of your ad contains your offer or brand.

Be aware that TrueView is only one solution YouTube offers. You can also choose to have your video delivered as a search result (like AdWords) or have it served to remarket your brand after someone visits your site and then lands back on YouTube. It’s best to set up separate campaigns for each so you don’t mix and match the results.

At the far end of the continuum is the virtually passive in-banner video (IBV). This is a static video on a website that the user has to click to watch, or scroll over to start. Like a pre-roll video, IBV can be placed on an automotive-related website, or a local news site. The cost metric and expected click-through rate, however, will be much different because people will see the video only if they choose to.

Additional benefits

There are a number other benefits to factor in when you’re considering online video marketing.

  1. It’s hyper-targeted. Not only can you choose specific zip codes as well as age and sex of the viewer—and in some cases even their interests—but some sites (including YouTube) even let you choose the days of the week and the times of day you want your ads to air. This opens up some interesting creative possibilities for the ad messaging.
  2. Video is highly trackable. Because it’s the Internet, there are plenty of stats and analytics available about who went where, who clicked on what, how much of the ad was watched, and more.
  3. It’s easily deployed. For example, a standard YouTube campaign can be up in a matter of hours, or even minutes.
  4. It’s flexible. Assuming you have the ads built, it’s relatively easy to test different ideas and approaches.

When considering the last benefit, it’s important to design your ad messaging and creative to take advantage of the unique online video platform you are using.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to just throw your regular TV ad up online unless it follows some very specific rules for video ads. Also, keep in mind that in some cases, online ads are built that actually encourage the user to click away, which saves on the cost of paying for the click or impression.

All that said, online video provides many options and benefits, and when it’s done right, it can be a strong competitive addition to your dealership’s promotional efforts.

Ed Steenman is the owner of Steenman Associates (, a Seattle-based advertising agency hyper-focused on Tier 3 automotive. He can be reached at

Ed Steenman


  1. Avatar
    Anish Patel November 20, 2015

    Good points! Video marketing also has the additional benefit of being content-driven. Like its hyper-targeting, interest in video marketing is all about viewer appeal. Taking advantage of the creative space you’re given can be a great tool to promote and distribute your advertising material.


Leave reply