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Given the increasingly high demand, pre-roll inventory is going to be scarce ahead of November, but don’t despair, say online strategists. Campaigns still have plenty of online advertising options.     

Those pre-roll spots, the 15 or 30 second ads that run prior to an online video playing, have garnered lots of attention over the past few weeks. Pre-roll may be hard to come by on sites like YouTube, but campaigns looking for alternatives can explore banner ad options, or look at additional ad rolls.    

Jim Louderback, who heads the Internet TV network Revision3, notes that pre-roll inventory can still be found on less popular video sites, and in-banner ads hold interactive potential that should attract campaigns. 

“I do think it’s interesting that you’re seeing an increase in the available inventory by adding more ad rolls,” says Louderback. If viewers are more likely to sit through pre-roll ads than some other forms of online video advertising, he argues that mid-roll and post-roll ad placement is well worth considering.      

Revision3 has seen pre-roll click through rates as high as 5 percent, but mid-roll and post-roll ads are gaining traction, according to Louderback. He notes that mid-roll spots now make up a third of available online video ads, and post-roll ad placement is growing at a rate faster than that of pre-roll.

The primary trouble with pre-roll, explains CampaignGrid’s Jordan Lieberman, is that given the geographic targeting capability, swing states have been flooded with pre-roll ads. The result is a lack of inventory in key battleground states where down ballot candidates will want it the most.  

“If there are multiple high-dollar races overlapping in the same geography, video advertising will run out,” Lieberman says.  

The best solution is buying space early, because what’s left will cost twice as much in September and October. As Colin Delany pointed out on his blog last week, Lieberman’s firm is turning the pre-roll inventory squeeze into a sales pitch, making the case for cookie-based targeting to potential clients. 

Lieberman and other strategists are also talking up in-banner display and video ads, which some argue are more plentiful and allow for interactivity that doesn’t happen with pre-roll.  

“A plausible alternative would be transitioning to in-banner ads,” strategist Brandon Howell of Hynes Communications wrote in a recent post on Campaign Insider. “Given that traditional banner advertising does not share the same level of high demand as pre-roll, incorporating your campaign’s 15 or 30 second video as a rollover from a viewer scrolling over the ad is a logical option.”    

Others aren’t so worried about scarce pre-roll inventory on major sites. Increasing costs-per-impression reflect the limits of video ad inventory on popular sites like YouTube, largely due to reserve buys, but that doesn’t mean space will completely run out, says Amy Niles Gonzalez, president of the online media firm Blueprint Interactive.

“It’s very much a television phenomenon applied online,” Gonzalez says. “That‘s really not the dynamic that we have here in my opinion.”

Gonzalez notes that some space will remain available through auction, so campaigns willing to stomach the high cost can buy late. And Gonzalez says she likes voter file targeting as an alternative option.

No matter what the online advertising format, campaigns shouldn’t get hung up on advertising on a particular site, says Romney Digital Director Zac Moffatt. The key is locating your target audience.

“I don’t mind if you come to me and tell me that site X is sold out because I’m not looking for site X; I’m looking for the audience on any of these sites,” Moffatt says. “I know who I need to talk to in order to be successful. I don’t mind if find them on Yahoo, on Town Hall, on Drudge or on a local newspaper site.” 

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