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By Erin Coker

RISMEDIA, Dec. 24, 2007-With eMarketer estimating $4.3 billion being spent in online video advertising within the next four years, and more than half of Americans who go online now watching at least some online video, it’s important that marketers know how to fully capitalize on the power of video to reach their audiences.

The following are a set of best practices to ensure that advertisers, advertising agencies and marketers get the most from their online video ad campaigns.

1. Break out of the box. The Internet affords marketers the ability to deliver video ads in unique and eye-catching ways that traditional TV advertising can’t match. Audiences are accustomed to watching video in square windows both offline and online, but break out of the TV-shaped box by creating full-banner video ads that stretch the entire width of a Web page or the entire height of a vertical skyscraper ad. Video in these unique shapes and sizes is guaranteed to catch your audience’s eye and draw them in to your ads.

2. Extend brand interaction. Marketers never would want to limit the amount of time users spend with their brands. Fortunately, online advertising doesn’t force them to. Unlike the short 15- or 30-second spots on TV, online ads easily can feature multiple videos or full, three-minute movie trailers that would be cost-prohibitive to put in TV ads. Also, unlike the linear and passive experience of TV ads, video ads online can become truly interactive. Use ideas such as interactive narratives, where users can click on a favorite character within a video and dive deeper into his or her story. With well-designed and well-executed video ads, there’s no limit to your brand interaction potential.

3. Make it Flash-y. Since Adobe Flash Player already is installed on more than 98% of Internet-connected desktops worldwide, as well as millions of mobile devices, be sure to build your video ad campaigns in Flash. It’s important to note that Flash video content is instantly viewable without requiring additional plug-ins that can be time-consuming to maintain and very annoying to the viewer. Plus, its unmatched ease of delivery and quality, maximum reach, and greater interaction capabilities all combine to deliver results.

4. Replay, replay! It’s often the obvious that is easily forgotten. After viewers experience your ad, always give them the option to replay the video. If it was funny or otherwise entertaining, many will do just that – if you provide clear and obvious prompting. It’s a very simple call to action that is proven to significantly increase ad interaction rates and times.

5. Now what? Once your audience has experienced and interacted with your video content, it is important to follow through with obvious calls to action where the user can further interact with the ad or leverage direct response functionalities. Unlike TV, online ads let your audiences participate in in-banner polls; sign up for e-mail show or product reminders; download games, videos and more; and forward your video ads to their friends – for viral brand endorsement and, essentially, “free” impressions.

Remember, the power of video on the Web is that it is versatile, interactive and unlimited. When combined with the interactivity of today’s online ads, the result is an advertising format that is unrivaled for brand awareness, interaction and favorability. Break out of the TV box, and capitalize on the power of online video ads for your next campaign.

Erin Coker is director of advertising services at EyeWonder, an Atlanta-based online rich media and video advertising vendor.