The Next Target for Advertisers? Your Office Cubicle

The following item was contributed by Ronald Grover, BusinessWeek’s Los Angeles bureau chief.

It’s a new hunting ground for advertisers in search of eyeballs glued to TV shows and other videos: your office cubicle. At least that’s what a new study by five keenly interested groups, including marketing company Havas Digital, a unit of ad agency Omnicom Group and Hollywood studio Warner Brothers, are postulating. The study surveyed 2,024 Internet users with high-speed connections, aged 13 to 54.

The fact that zoned-out workers head for their office PC to catch YouTube or the show they missed last night is hardly news. Nielsen has tracked that for months, and figures that 34% of the 170.5 million folks who watched online video last month did so at the office. But the latest report, which was also sponsored by Yahoo! and conducted by Santa Monica, Calif.-based Interpret LLC, identified the peak times of between noon and 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. for marketers to target. Not surprisingly, the times to stay away are around dinner time, which for online video users seems to be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The study basically turns on its head the notion of prime time viewing that has driven TV marketers for years, says Jason Kramer, chief strategy officer at Interpret LLC. He advises that “rather than advertisers only vying for spots on hot television shows that appear during primetime, they can leverage online video to reach targeted audiences more often than just once a week.”

That’s key, the study also found, because viewers are twice as likely to ignore TV ads as online ads. Then again, they are three times more likely to remember the ads that were featured if they appear alongside “highly engaging videos,” meaning that the ad community had best figure out which are the hot shows streaming across folks computer screens. The payoff can be even larger: consumers who watch highly engaging videos are also three times more likely to mention the brands in ads that run alongside them to someone else, hyper-charging the world of mouth that can make a modest item into a big seller.

As for whether the cubicle dwellers will continue clicking to buy something, that’s still to be determined. Even among those highly engaged video watchers, only 28% visit the Web site for the ad they watched. Then again, that’s nearly three times more often than those who watched less engaging videos.

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