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A Complete Guide of The Evolution Of Digital Video Advertising

Mar 27, 2020

Digital video advertising is one of the fastest-growing sectors of digital marketing.

In fact, digital video advertising may be one of a marketer’s most powerful tools.

84% of people say they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.

However, digital video advertising as we know today has had a short history in comparison to the ideas and concepts behind it.

Advertising dates back to the beginning of basic societies, and to fully understand what digital marketing is, we need to understand how it has evolved over time.

In this blog, we will go over:

What Is Digital Video Advertising?

Digital video advertising is simply the process of marketing your business or company in a video format online in order to build brand awareness or sell a product/service.

This can be done through a bunch of different platforms, some of which we will get into later in this blog.

Back To The Beginning

Long before dollar bills were accepted as currency, trading and bartering was key to sustaining the livelihood of your family within the community.

Bartering for goods allowed individuals to no longer have to provide every necessity for themselves.

Instead of being responsible for providing food, clothing, shelter, hunting tools.

They could now use their talents to maximize what they were best at and trade with other community members for the other necessities.

Once communities were big enough to have multiple individuals holding the same commodities advertising was born.

Now not only was having a trade and a product necessary but sales also became a necessary skill, having individuals trade with you over what another person could give them.

This is by no means the way we think of advertising today but it was the start of the concepts behind today’s advertising.

Differentiating yourself from the competition for your own benefit.

These are still the concepts marketers focus on today; consumer behaviors, market research, how to sell value, how to differentiate yourself from other comparable products and services.

The largest difference is simply the medium in which we communicate our messages.

No longer does every product require a face-to-face sales pitch.

Communication has evolved and every new medium that has been invented, humans have worked to capitalize on it at a mass scale much more effective than the previous one-to-one sale.

The richest and most compelling medium to date, video, has provided a new dimension of advertising that was never available before a narrative and that narrative is still important today from the first television ad 79 years ago.

The First Television Advertisement

It was July 1, 1941, when a regular-season game of America’s pastime, baseball took place.

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field that day 6-4 but the real history was made before the game even took place.

Just prior to the game, aired a 9-second television ad for Bulova watches, a brand that is still prospering today.

This was the first-ever video commercial to be aired on television.

The ad would be considered incredibly basic as of today’s standards as it was a simple black and white clock in front of a map of the United States with a voiceover of the tagline “America runs on Bulova time.”

At the time, however, it was a revolutionary step forward in the world of advertising.

The advertisers and viewers of this ad in the New York area likely did not know it at that point, as that commercial cost only $9 to air, however, those 9-seconds were the early start of a worldwide billion-dollar industry in video advertising.

The Normalization of Television Ads

When Bulova watches aired the first commercial, they were well ahead of their time.

In 1941 most Americans had not yet heard of television let alone owned one.

The radio was still the most relevant medium of information for things such as the commentary of baseball games.

This ad was only seen by about 4000 people in New York at the time, these individuals were technology innovators or friends of one in terms of the technology adoption curve.

It was not until after the end of World War II in 1945 that the popularity of the television took off, but that did not stop ads from following suit with Bulova to start their advertising on television.

Brands such as Colgate and Coca-Cola would often sponsor programming to have their name front and center at the start of programming.

Then by 1952, Mr. Potato head became the first toy to advertise on television in which proved successful as they sold 2 million potato dolls that year.

1952 was also a big year for politics as related to video.

This was the first year that political campaigns were run on television.

The presidential election in 1952 was between Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Democrat, Adlai Stevenson.

Eisenhower won by a landslide which can be in part attributed to his catchy television campaign.

The minute-long video ad featured a tune titled “I Like Ike” and was animated by Walt Disney Studios.

It featured cartoon humans and animals all marching to take Ike to Washington.

In this time of early majority having televisions in their homes, it worked to help the public see “Ike” as a likable guy that deserved to be in Washington.

This was the start of a long history of video presidential ads, now video ads are a huge factor in getting your message across to voters and making sure they are aware of your platform.

The medium in which the public consumes the ads has now evolved to different mediums such as social media and YouTube advertising but the messaging has not.

Candidates use tactics to appeal to voters emotionally and connect with their audience to drive influence in decisions at the polls.

Even though the medium has again changed, the impact video ads have made on elections over the years started with Ike in 1952.

Superbowl Commercials

While the first television ad was shown preceding a baseball game, in current society the most expensive television commercials are during the biggest United States sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl.

Each year major brands spend millions of dollars to reach a wider audience.

This started back in 1967, the year of Super Bowl I, at that time it cost a max of $42000 to advertise a 30-second commercial.

This is expensive even by today’s standards for an average commercial, however, is marginally cheaper than the $5.2 million it will run brands today.

That is a 12281% cost increase in just a 54-year time span.

Brands find value in being able to reach such a large audience across all ages, genders, ethnicities, in one $5.2 million opportunity.

Commercials have become such a prominent part of the Super Bowl experience that it is one of the only times per year that Americans actually look forward to ads.

Some viewers even claim that they watch more for the commercials than the game.

This tradition came about as Super Bowl commercials have a reputation for being the best of the best in terms of video advertising.

This makes sense as if a company is willing to spend $5.2 million on 30-seconds of air time they want to make sure their message makes a significant impact during that duration.

Advertisers look to arise emotion out of viewers whether it’s humor or sadness they want to make a lasting impression.

Every brand strives to be that one commercial that everyone is talking about in the following days and weeks after the big game.

They can even overshadow the main event of the game depending on how the teams perform that day each year.

Infomercials – The New World of Video ROI

In the mid-1980s after the Federal Communications Commission lifted regulations of time limits on advertising air time, video ads took on a new form.

The typical 30-second commercials evolved into 30-minute infomercials.

Infomercials first arrived on scene in the 70s but took off in the 1980s.

Although these ads were delivered through the same medium of television this reinvented the way viewers consumed product information.

No longer was a short jingle the best way to capture the attention of your audience, brands were now able to display, demonstrate, and explain the value of a product over an extended period of time.

These long-form commercials were great for brands that sold household items as they often required a lower production budget.

Budget was needed to spend on the “actors” demonstrating the items but not on any advanced production tools.

This is still a prominent tool used today, as there are full television channels dedicated to infomercial programming.

The biggest game-changer that infomercials provided was the power of attribution.

No longer were advertisers reliant on waiting until the end of the month or quarter to see if they noticed an increase in sales, after airing a commercial.

Infomercials allowed for a direct return on investment tracking.

For example, if an infomercial aired between 7-730pm, in that 30-minute window, data analysts would be able to see how many orders were received and what the value of each order was during that exact time frame.

Those specific numbers were never before available when tracking the impact of video ads. ROI attribution gave marketers the tools to optimize their campaigns based on definitive, concrete data for the first time.

Based on collected data they could determine, when was the best time of day to run these ads, at what point within the half-hour were the most calls generated, what selling point seemed to drive viewers most to pick up the phone and order.

This ability showed direct value in video advertising that is the groundwork of why digital is so important today, attribution!

World Wide Web

For a long time after becoming a common household item in the mid 1950s the television was the only screen in the household.

It was even a rarity to have more than one television, as it was often seen as a group activity.

This was also due to the limited channels, programming and hours per day that content was available.

It wasn’t until the 1980s when computers were introduced as a household item that things started to change at an incredibly rapid rate.

In the thirty years from the 1950s-1980s Americas went from having one to two screens per household on average.

In the thirty years from the 1980s-2010s households went from having two screens to on average seven per household!

This was due largely in part to first the amount of content available, where each person in the same household may want to consume different content at the same time.

In addition the introduction of so many new devices with screens, mainly cell phones, and tablets.

This quick development over time is now allowing more outlets than ever before for advertisers to reach their message to their audience.

Through; video streaming sites, social media platforms, websites, video ads are everywhere and the more screens available the more opportunities created for marketers.


The internet took off in the 80s but the introduction of a specific website in the mid-2000s changed video forever.

YouTube was introduced to the world in February 2005.

It was a new concept where anyone could upload video content and have it be streamed by any viewer, and users grew at an alarming rate.

It was only a year and a half before it was bought by Google in October of 2006. Google saw it as “the next step in the evolution of the internet” and they were absolutely right, as today more people watch YouTube than anyone television channel.

Then in 2007 YouTube became a new way for advertisers to reach their audience with commercial messaging.

In-stream ad space became available on the platform and the YouTube partner program was launched.

This program, through this day, allows creators to monetize their content by “selling” ad space on their personal content.

Advertisers now had a new outlet to share their commercials and creators had a way to make an income off their content giving them more incentive to upload engaging quality content.

This introduction allowed advertisers an innovative way to reach their audience through online targeting.

Where television ads were served to a mass audience and advertisers hoped that someone in their target demographic would be tuning in, this was the first opportunity to target not only the content being watched but the individual end-user.

By serving ads to the specific consumer not the masses it allowed for more niche targeting than previously available.

Their video ads delivered within the then Adwords platform developed overtime to reach end-users through very tactical targeting options.

Today, using the same platform, now called Google Ads, advertisers can reach users based not only on what type of content they are watching but on a demographic level can select a specific gender, age, household income, or parental status.

Google’s plethora of knowledge about its users works to the advertiser’s advantage.

Beyond a demographic level is where the power of the YouTube and Google partnership really becomes powerful in the way of targeting.

Collected information about users on the Google search platform allows us to target them with ads on YouTube based on interest and exact searches.

Custom Intent Audiences allow advertisers to serve ads based on exact keywords consumers are searching for on Google.

This cross-platform integration embraces making the consumers’ ad experience as relevant to them as possible, as consumers want to see ads for products or services most significant to their needs.

In addition, advertisers can also take advantage of Custom Affinity Audiences to serve ads to those that have visited websites with relevant content to what they are selling.

Ads on YouTube, unlike other formats, allow your ads to be any length, so now you are able to only use the amount of time you need and not be forced to stick within the traditional 30-second format.

Another important feature though is that there is skippable and non-skippable content.

This has altered the way we work to deliver a message, it is now more important than ever on this platform to include branding or the most important part of your message in the beginning of your ad as viewers can often skip after completing the first 5-seconds.

This also provides a unique benefit where you have the opportunity to make branding impressions at no cost if a viewer does not complete your ad.

These tools have revolutionized video ads. Having the capability to serve ads to individuals based on past internet activity brings video advertising lower in the funnel than previously possible.


Facebook although founded a year before Youtube in 2004 did not have a video centric platform.

Their advertising for a long time focused on display and banner ads. It wasn’t until February 2013 that video ads were released.

This is integrated with their current business manager platform making all their available targeting applicable to this new video format.

Video ads provided a more engaging medium to catch the eye of Facebook users as they were scrolling through their timelines.

Facebook is an advertiser’s dream because users give so much information directly to the Facebook platform on a regular basis.

Facebook knows their exact age and gender upon signing up for an account and the more you use the platform the more it tracks your activity and gains valuable insights on your likes and dislikes.

Their algorithm can even pair “lookalikes.” This tool allows you to utilize the power of already determined customers and target audiences who are similar to them.

Often audiences who are similar to your current customers will also have an interest in your product or service.

Serving engaging video content through this medium can drive extremely relevant customers to complete your advertising goals, whether it is to drive awareness, leads, or e-commerce.

Based on our own 2019 Conduit insights video ads outperform static images. Driving a bigger reach and a higher click-through rate.

One of the biggest things to note with Facebook videos is that, unlike YouTube, a majority of video content on Facebook is consumed without sound.

This again has changed the way advertisers need to connect with their audience.

As Facebook users scroll through their timeline, the default for videos is to be mute, and the majority of users view content this way.

Since silent movies it has never been so important to design video to be consumed by viewers on mute.

This can be achieved through different strategies, including making your imagery stand out and tell a story on its own, this can be difficult but also very powerful, the other important optimization would be to always include captions on Facebook video advertising.

Having a user view your ad and not understand the message is an incredible missed opportunity!

Not adapting to the way users utilize video on the Facebook platform can hinder your campaign performance by not properly conveying your message.

The Challenge of DVR and Ad-Blocker

As previously mentioned the Superbowl is the one time per year that individuals look forward to seeing commercials.

On a day-to-day basis, commercials are more perceived by general society as a nuisance that interferes in their viewing process.

So while advertisers work to utilize new mediums to reach their brands to consumers there are now more ways than ever to avoid this messaging.

When television ads became popularized in the 1950s the only way to avoid it was to leave the room when it came on screen.

Now advertisers struggle with the introduction of items such as DVRs and ad blockers allowing users to fast forward through or avoid ads for what they deem a better-uninterrupted viewing experience.

Video platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Hulu are as well are struggling to find the optimum balance between an optimal viewing experience and advertising as this is how many make their profits.

Over The Top (OTT) streaming services often have multiple pricing options, where customers can purchase the basic option with ads or pay a premium to have an uninterrupted viewing experience.

This has been one of the biggest influences in making in changing the way advertisers present their products to consumers.

Video needs to be presented in a more seamless format now.

In the digital world, video ads need to be the opposite of infomercials.

Their focus cannot be a hard sales pitch but a storyline where the consumer is taken on a journey to arrive at a conclusion that lines up with a brand’s goals.


While Facebook and YouTube are dominating the small screen in terms of video, bigger screens are also still very important to a full-funnel video marketing strategy.

Over The Top Television is an internet-based, video-on-demand content format.

As more and more consumers, lead by the millennial generation are cutting the cord and are focused on streaming, Over-The-Top advertising has become imperative in reaching your target audience on the bigger screens.

This platform is the closest to traditional television commercials where ad formats allow for 6, 15, 30, or 60-second ads most often watched on a big screen and are often consumed by multiple people at once.

This is because households are likely to get together to watch OTT content as a group.

This platform is unlike television though as it allows for advanced targeting capabilities to reach those who have already expressed interest in your brand or related products, then provides the added bonus of there being extra viewers in the room.

Our Conduit insights recommend utilizing 15 or 30-second ads on this platform to best engage your audience.

This is what best captures the attention of your audience and to always include a strong Call-To-Action such as a prominent phone number or website you would like your audience to visit as unlike other online platforms ads are not clickable to redirect the audience to further information.

Short Form Video: TikTok and Snapchat

As generations evolve so does social media.

Newer platforms are being built around shorter attention spans.

Snapchat and Tik-Tok are among the growing platforms that are centric on short-form content, 15-seconds or less.

Both channels have their own advertising platforms to share your ads with their viewers.

This again has revolutionized video ads, making sure they are concise and as to the point as possible is more important than ever.

Short-form ads on these platforms allow for little interruption between already short content.

This keeps audiences engaged as the disruption only lasts a few seconds and is often non-skippable.

This again is another platform that combats the growing expansion of ad blockers and consumers trying to avoid ad content.

Non-skippable ad space with video content behind it that a user is waiting to watch is extremely valuable to marketers, especially on such large and growing platforms like Tik-Tok and Snapchat.

The Influence of Vloggers

The importance of the storyline is where influencer marketing makes a huge splash in the world of video advertising.

Instead of using traditional commercial style ads looking to make an emotional connection with a potential customer, in 60 seconds or less, influencers are able to utilize their already established connection with their audience to convey the value of a brand or product.

As in any relationship, trust is built over time, and many viewers feel like they have a relationship with influencers.

Even though they have likely never met in person regularly seeing them online allows them to bond.

Connecting with their audience on a regular basis allows influencers to employ their relationship when promoting a product.

When viewers see influencers that they “know” vlogging about a product it is perceived more as a friend giving a recommendation rather than a sales pitch trying to pressure them into purchasing something.

Consumers often view ads as untrustworthy.

This is where the human connection of influencers and vloggers can make all the difference.

Influencer marketing can be viewed as product placement on steroids.

This is not a new concept, just a different platform.

For years people have seen products used by their favorite film stars or professional athletes, in movies, television, and commercials.

This is the same principle; that people buy products from people they like and people they trust.

Society and Privacy

Another major issue facing digital marketers is privacy restrictions.

This has always been in place for sensitive topics such as healthcare, where due to HIPAA restrictions things like remarketing for health industry campaigns were not available for obvious reasons.

Now, however, people are becoming more conscious of “big brother” and are worried about the information these platforms have.

Over the years as the personal information we supply to the internet has increased more laws have been created to protect users.

Some countries have stricter guidelines than others in what they find is acceptable information to target users based on.

The more these laws develop and take away our targeting capabilities the more challenging it will be for marketers to reach their video messaging to the right audience on the right platform.

This is why not only learning who your audience is but what they are interested in is extremely valuable, in being able to reach them in different ways.

Video ROI Today

Infomercials made direct attribution and return on investment analysis available for the first time with video advertising.

With digital marketing, we have now taken that to the next level.

We can not only track direct ROI but different steps in the funnel and watch the entire consumer journey unfold in analytics.

Through proper tracking, we can see how consumers interact with our website from each different video channel from programmatic, to YouTube, to Facebook.

These platforms all work together along with a comprehensive remarketing strategy to drive the consumer down the funnel and we are able to see just that.

Through proper implementation of website analytics, we can determine every action taken by individuals once reaching your website.

This allows us to determine the effectiveness of your video marketing strategy and make adjustments towards your goals, whether they are eCommerce or lead generation based campaigns.

The Future of Video Advertising

Video advertising has come a long way since its introduction in 1941, in terms of what kind of content is considered engaging, to the platforms ads are consumed on, to the attribution capabilities.

As technology advances and still new platforms are created marketers will work to capitalize on their capabilities.

We are sure that video advertising will not go away anytime soon but it will continue to evolve.

Soon the up and coming craze will be virtual reality.

While this technology is available today and is quite extraordinary it has not yet evolved to being adopted by the majority as a regular household item.

As virtual reality gaming and experiences expand so will marketers’ capabilities in reaching this audience.

We see this being the next step in the evolution of video advertising and will be focused on the growth of this industry and who its audiences will be.

Wherever video heads, virtual reality, or otherwise we know two things are very important when it comes to video advertising.

First is that adapting your strategy based on the individual platform is a must.

One 30-second “television style” commercial will not be applicable to all video channels.

Having an irrelevant format running on the wrong channel will hinder the success of your campaign.

For example, designing to deliver your message without sound on Facebook or keeping your ad under 6-seconds for Snapchat.

Using the right platforms but failing to adapt your strategy to the right format can lead to an underperforming video campaign.

Second, always keep the storyline at the heart of your ads.


By utilizing digital video advertising for your next marketing campaign, you can increase your ROI in ways that traditional marketing never could.

Video is an extremely rich source of media and compared to all other forms gives the biggest opportunity to spark an emotional response.

While platforms and media channels may change human emotion will not, providing a compelling story will always drive the performance of your content.

If you are looking for a white-label provider to fulfill your digital video advertising needs, don’t hesitate to contact Conduit today!

Our experienced and certified OTT and Youtube Advertising teams have the capabilities to bring your digital video advertising campaigns to the next level!

If you would like to speak with an Expert at Conduit about how Youtube ads or Over the Top television advertising can be the best strategy in today’s advertising age, contact us here!









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