Are we ready for Video Ads In Search?

rais1-300x203When Yahoo! first launched RAIS (Rich Ads In Search) back in 2009, Search Engine Land was asking “Are Video Ads Golden?”. 3 years on, the RAIS are back on the Search Alliance Network and yes, they really are a golden opportunity. To quote Latitude, video ads in search are “a must for any serious advertiser”.

Dubbed to provide an “effective and clever approach to cross-channel marketing”, Rich Ads In Search really do what it says on the tin. I first ran the original RAIS in summer of 2011. The results were great. The CTR was 2.4 times better on brand terms and sales followed. However the billing process could have been easier. Three years on from the initial launch, this has been sorted out – the ads are now priced on a CPC basis and no prepayment is required.

Here at Harvest, we re-visited RAIS as soon as they reappeared in the post-Search Alliance era. So I was curious to see who else is running tests. And surprisingly enough the answer is: hardly anybody.

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Even Christmas-focused gadget stores and luxury brands are not interested. Amongst the few examples we could find were a bacon-loving new-kid-on-the-block and a toy super-brand (although Lego are using the format to display their logo rather than a video). Presumably everyone else is happy enough with their paid search performance and sees no need to experiment!

Our own data showed CTR rates up by 52% for RAIS with videos in 2012. And this is for big household names, which normally show exceptional CTR% anyway. What’s more interesting, conversion rate improved too – by 27%! Which meant the CPA came down by approx. 10%. Any ad that can do this to your brand is worth shouting about.

But here’s the surprising thing: whilst video ads in search generate a lot of clicks, hardly anybody clicks on the video itself. In fact, the majority of users still clicked on the underlined title and just fewer than 14% clicked on the deep links provided. The difference was tens vs. thousands.

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So this is strange, because we all love watching online videos. But perhaps we just aren’t quite ready to interact with a video play button on a search ad?

So what is it that makes video ads in search work so well? It looks like the CTR% doubled just because… there was a video thumbnail image next to it? It appears to be so. So maybe the famous toy brand above actually got it right – skip the video and just have a logo. I believe there will come a time when an typical user will look out for the “play” button, but we might have to wait a while.

In the meantime, Google are slowly opening up the gates to people who want to have expandable video joy on the SERP’s, but you have it be in categories like Music, or Games, or Movies to get it. Will they ever open it up to the masses –time will tell.

Until then, keep your eyes open for video ads in search – and feel free to buck the trends by clicking those “play” buttons!

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