Technology

Amazon tests personalised video ads

Personalised video advert demo
Image caption Mr Smith demonstrated examples of the "dynamic" adverts at an event in London

Amazon has revealed it is experimenting with personalised video adverts.

The clips feature images and text about products the US retailer has detected the user has shown interest in.

Amazon regularly displays customised static ads on third-party sites, but the videos have the potential to be more eye-catching and appear in more places.

One expert said the idea had potential but Amazon would have to be careful that its ads did not seem creepy.

"This is something we've only experimented with at very small scales," Graeme Smith, managing director Amazon's software development centre in Edinburgh, told the BBC.

"They have been out there in the wild.

"I'm not able to share any more details of where, but potentially anywhere you can see a video is potentially somewhere you could consider running personalised video ads, right across the internet.

"It's still very early days for this technology, but it's something we are really excited about with a lot of applications."

Image copyright Amazon
Image caption Amazon already uses cookies to target static image ads at internet users

Mr Smith showed off one of the ad designs at a press conference in London.

But the company declined the BBC's request to show the footage, saying it was still in a testing phase, so too early to share widely.

Dynamic advertising

Video ads have long been targeted at users on services such as YouTube and Facebook via cookies and other means that track their identities.

But rather than just directing pre-made clips at targeted audiences, Amazon aims to make its adverts more effective by creating them on the fly, tailored to each user's interests.

It is able to do this by using graphics templates, whose elements are superimposed with images and text selected by the company's algorithms.

It is not uncommon for commercials to be created using such motion graphics templates.

But they normally require a human to arrange and edit their parts using specialised software - a time-consuming and potentially expensive activity.

Image copyright Motionvfx
Image caption Several design companies sell motion graphics templates that need to be adapted by a human

"Video has always been an incredibly effective way of advertising," said Maisie McCabe, acting UK editor of Campaign.

"Technology is now enabling brands such as Amazon to combine the power of video with the precision of targeted online ads.

"However, this must be done sensitively and openly.

"Brands must be careful not to scare off potential customers by abusing the trust people place on them when they allow companies to track their data.

"Moreover, there's a big difference between what people expect from a static display ad and online video.

"Amazon will need to make sure its personalised videos are more engaging than the functional shopping ones they serve at the moment."

Unique messages

Although the idea of dynamic video ads is new to Amazon, other brands have teamed up with digital marketing companies to explore the idea.

Image copyright Cadbury
Image caption The Cadbury Glow campaign included a video that featured personalised elements

For example:

  • Israel's Idomoo created a video ad for Cadbury's that could be customised by its viewers to feature their own names
  • Cofactor built web videos for Toys R Us stores that were targeted at people living nearby, which automatically determined the products to highlight by taking into account both the shops' inventory levels and local demand
  • Impossible Software created a campaign for Nike that made personalised videos for every runner in a Paris race, featuring their own finish times and course photos alongside graphics showing the sportswear company's logo
Image copyright Nike
Image caption The We Run Paris dynamic video ad was created last year

Perhaps most prominently of all, Facebook has created a variety of personalised videos based on images and posts its members' have uploaded to its service, which it shows from time to time to help keep users loyal.

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