Demand for video advertising is soaring with annual double-digit growth projected for the foreseeable future. This means now is the time for the industry to develop adequate checks and balances to ensure advertisers are buying what they think they’re buying when they launch their video campaigns.
Because in my experience, they are not.
To understand why I say this, let’s go back in time. When video ads first arrived in the market, nearly all appeared in-stream (i.e. pre-roll format) and were displayed only when consumers requested access to content. Advertisers could count on captive audiences, since most consumers were highly motivated to watch desired content, and their ads appeared in video players that were squarely in the consumer’s field of vision.
Additionally, this was the early days of video exchanges where syndicators and publishers worked together to serve video ads in as many pre-roll spots as possible.
Some engaged in questionable practices. For instance, to fulfill large video orders, certain publishers would play the advertiser’s ad in every available video impression across their sites and network of sites. A consumer who visit three or four pages sees the same ad over and over again. As a result, the advertiser pays a premium for impressions that have diminishing returns.
Not surprisingly, demand for video advertising outstripped the available in-stream inventory, so publishers looked for other inventory options.
The recent response has been in-banner video inventory, which is essentially limitless. That’s why today we see video ads appearing all over web pages, from top to bottom. Much of it appears in video players that are too small to do anything other than annoy consumers.
This begs a multitude of questions. Do all video ad formats offer advertisers equal value? Is a video ad that’s squeezed into a side ad unit and runs in-banner without any real video content after it capable of delivering the same impact as one that appears as a pre-roll to desired content? Does the content of the actual video matter? Does size of the video player and the surrounding content matter to campaign performance?
And if so, why are many of these factors virtually unknown to buyers?
Despite this obvious lack of clarity, it is clear that there is a significant difference in quality. However, there isn’t a commonality for advertisers to know or control which format they’re buying, or if those ad units offer the quality they expect.
That’s why the industry needs to ensure advertisers have complete transparency into all video formats and attributes, especially when served in a moderated environment.
If we don’t establish any checks, limitless in-banner inventory will likely lead to mistrust, decreased demand and plummeting video prices – bad for publishers – as well as an increase in worthless inventory, which harms advertisers.
Viewability is now a currency for purchasing video inventory, but that metric alone isn’t enough to ensure ad quality. There are a host of attributes that affect value, including video format, size of video player, placement on page, and the subject matter of the actual video content.
Advertisers can’t optimize their campaigns for performance in any meaningful way until they have the means to understand and control those attributes.
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