Tag Archives: video

Advertisers need to press the reset button on digital

Agency Trading Desks. Independent trading desks. RTB Networks. Data networks. Managed service Desks. We have significantly added to the ecosystem in the last few years and on balance for the better I think. Of course there are concerns about transparency and who is doing what and the advertiser is being taken for a ride so on, but in totality we now see a more sophisticated digital ecosystem than three years ago which is a good thing.

However with that comes a need for everyone to refocus. There is a whole auditing, pitch consultant business, advertiser organisation business that is focused on Agency Trading Desks. I think part of the issue around Agency Trading Desks is that they are all different. Some are an extension of the agency, some are more akin to a department within an agency, some are out there in the extreme like Xaxis that has changed so significantly that it really no longer sits in the bracket at all and everything in between.

So when it comes to pitches, auditors, advertiser evaluations of the space they obsess with agency trading desks but not the wider market. My business and that of a company like Rocketfuel or Criteo or Quantcast are the same, we do the same. Plenty of people will argue the good and bad of both including me but for now put that aside, fundamentally we are the same, we cook with the same ingredients – the end plate of food looks and tastes different but we do the same. For that reason we compete with these companies, spend that we could argue should go to us goes to those companies and independent trade desks. So for me, we should all be judged the same by advertisers. The same rules should apply, if those rules are based on genuine concerns of an advertiser about their media investments then why would they not?

So why don’t we start with what is asked of us? What do the agencies and advertisers want of us? Lets run through a few:

  • They want to see results line by line with associated cpms, cpc etc
  • They want brand safety – clear controls as to what we are buying
  • They want to know what tech we use and why – and how much does it cost?
  • They don’t want us to create large margins behind set cpas and cpcs etc
  • They want auditing rights on activity
  • They want private marketplaces and innovation with partners
  • They want detailed costs breakdowns

Those are just a selection. Articles in the past have commented on how the ATD is not held accountable but that is a falsehood. The pitch process would argue differently as well as regular reviews with advertisers that question in detail all of these areas, we are constantly evaluated on one level or another including our toughest challengers, the agencies we work with, and rightly so.

Trouble is on any plan spend is going not just to us, but to many of those companies mentioned above and many more in display, video and mobile. These companies are not held to the same standards and I think this should be investigated further. If a guidance paper for instance gets released to advertisers on ATDs, I can guarantee it will ask all those questions above (and more) but why just to ATDs? Any such guidance and evaluations now have to be extended to a wider group of companies and end the double standards.

I sat with a large group of advertisers and time and time again the issue of brand safety was raised. One of the core tenants of AOD is protection, and that is for a good reason, we are advertiser / agency focused, we know what they expect. So why would an advertiser invest in a company that provided no transparency at all? An ad appearing next to inappropriate content is still inappropriate regardless of how it got there. Blind buys should not be acceptable to any major advertiser. Why if you are concerned about how much money AOD makes do you not care about the 50-60% margins being reported in the company accounts of some of the other companies? I could go on but my point is that we cannot attach the ATD to the agency, but rather attach the RTB/programmatic industry to the standards of the agencies and ATDs, at least those like AOD. So I hope to see from the various trade bodies and the like a stance that widens the net of companies that it recommends should be evaluated in this new exciting programmatic world we live in, and avoid people having too much cake and eating it.

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Videonet interview on Programmatic video

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Broadcasters are currently resisting the march of programmatic buying and its sub-set, Real-Time Bidding (RTB), as a mechanism for selling their online inventory. While in some cases they may be right to fear it, they should understand that this is the way that most digital inventory is going to be sold, so should try to get ahead of the curve and at least start experimenting with RTB. That is the message from Marco Bertozzi, Executive Managing Director, EMEA, at VivaKi, the independent unit within the Publicis Group focused on addressable and dynamic advertising.

The main objection broadcasters have to selling through online advertising platforms that use RTB is loss of control, he says. “Traditionally they have 110% control over how advertising is delivered and reported, and they have direct deals with agencies. This technology takes away a lot of that control from them. They are uncomfortable with the idea that a platform like our Audience on Demand system would decide which advertisement is shown at any given moment. They are not keen on the idea that one of maybe ten advertisers could take a spot. They want to be the ones that decide which advertisement goes where.”

There are other objections, outlined below, but Bertozzi is convinced they need to put them all to one side and start giving advertisers access to their inventory through systems that use RTB. “The horse is bolting and there is no way anyone is going to get it back into its box. More broadcasters will find that the pressure will start mounting from buyers to engage in this form of advertising.

“Today broadcasters are very reticent to get involved in this area,” he continues. “They can resist RTB and maybe they are right to resist; they know their business better than anyone else. But the question is whether they should get on the front foot with this approach and learn about it, get better insights from it and deliver better commercial returns as a result. Pretty much all digital spend based around delivering an advert into spaces, whether that is a pre-roll or a banner, is going down this road. The broadcasters need to understand that.”

Bertozzi points out that what is happening online today on the laptop and tablet will become increasingly relevant to advertising on television screens as more TV sets are linked to the Internet and set-top boxes also become an extension of the online video ecosystem. He thinks consumers will actually come to expect more personalized advertising, too.

RTB is a process that brings together buyers and sellers of advertising for digital (e.g. online) inventory. It started life in display advertising and is now being used for advertising around online video, including for non-broadcaster premium content.

In very simple terms, when you use RTB a publisher site tells would-be advertisers that someone has entered its website on a particular page. It issues a request for an advertisement. Advertisers can assess whether the user is in their target audience based on various data points, then decide if they want to bid for the advertising opportunities on that page, which could include a pre-roll video advertisement, for example.

As the name suggests, Real-Time Bidding means an advertising platform, acting as a proxy for an agency and their advertising client, can bid on every impression, one by one. This requires a huge amount of automation. Bertozzi says the process of receiving an ad request, matching the user data against campaign requirements, making a bid and then delivering an advertisement takes 30-50 milliseconds, so this is all happening as the webpage loads.

VivaKi provides a service for advertising brands and agencies to plan and deliver their digital/online advertising requirements. It has its own proprietary Audience on Demand (AOD) platform to run at least part of those campaigns through a variety of Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) that in turn use RTB to flag and buy online inventory that could be relevant to advertisers. VivaKi also works direct with publishers and the company pools together consumer data from many first-party and third-party sources into its system so it can make the best possible judgements about who makes a good advertising target.

According to Bertozzi, there are a number of components that make one programmatic buying system better than another and which make AOD stand out from the crowd. AOD leads with its VivaKi Verified process, a dedicated team focused on the verification and evaluation of technology, data and inventory. “It is vital for advertisers to have trust in what their partners are doing in a world full of shiny new objects,” he says.

Then there is the quality of the data. VivaKi works with publishers direct to get first-party data and places more emphasis on this than some companies. The quality of the data, wherever it comes from, is key. Third is the quality of the inventory, so again, it comes down to which publishers you are working with, directly or indirectly.  “Viewability and brand safety are crucial from an inventory perspective and VivaKi Verified invests people and time in making sure advertisers can relax,” Bertozzi, declares.

The quality of technologies used by the partner Demand Side Platforms and Ad Exchanges that bring the inventory to the surface in AOD is another difference, VivaKi says. AOD is not wedded to any single Demand Side Platform but has all the big ones plugged in, and clients can choose which ones to use if they want. “No one else has gone to the same lengths to verify and stack-rank the industry’s best data and technology partners,” Bertozzi argues.

He points out that beyond these points, you need to look at the people behind the systems and their experience working in this market. “Audience on Demand launched in 2008 when most other operations were three years from fruition.”

There is a widely held conviction among the supporters of RTB that it increases advertising efficiency because of its better targeting. Bertozzi points out that a company selling mobile phones will bid higher for a 16-34 female who has recently looked at mobiles then an advertiser that just wants to hit 16-34 females. So in an auction-driven open market, each piece of ad inventory should find its true value, with that value determined by how valuable the consumer is to a given buyer at a given time. You can also adjust campaigns as you go, depending on the results from previous inventory purchases.

Bertozzi thinks broadcasters, who can already sell-out their online inventory using direct agency relationships, fear that the only way their pricing can go is down. He acknowledges that in some instances CPM (cost per thousand) rates could fall but in others they will rise because good targeting will make inventory more valuable. Scarcity drives price up. As most broadcasters explain how they are oversold, that should benefit them, he thinks.

“Today an advertiser might want to target a programme that has a high conversation rate for 16-34 year-old men. It could be football but maybe 30% of the audience is actually women. You could instead sell to males and sell to females and I would argue that you could probably get a higher CPM for those specific audiences.”

This is where we start to see the introduction of Dynamic Advertising Insertion (DAI), which splits ad break audiences and delivers different advertising copy to those different audiences. RTB/Programmatic plus DAI are the foundation stones for what could become a major shake-up in television advertising over the next few years.

Bertozzi says some broadcasters are starting to move towards a more data-driven advertising world but usually within their own walled garden and still stopping short of opening their inventory to RTB-based platforms. He points to Channel 4 as a good example.

The UK commercial broadcaster is now selling very specific audiences in their online VOD. “They have enhanced their data insights and are selling those to agencies so they have taken a step towards acknowledging that data will be the thing that informs their inventory,” he explains. “So that is stage one: engaging with data at that level. Stage two is making that data available to more external buying platforms and trading desks as the norm and that is the sticking point today.”

Referring to broadcasters generally, Bertozzi says they might stick at this position for a while but eventually will have to take that second step

Interview with Beet.TV at Monaco Media Forum – Programmatic video

Each year I go back to Monaco the subject of Real time bidding, programmatic buying and data rises up the agenda. Year one there was little or no coverage of the topic. Last year we had a side room break out on the topic, not attended by anyone outside of those who worked in it. This year I was interviewed on the topic, and the panel regarding tech, data and RTB was on the main stage as well as other related round tables.

Part of that for me was an interview with Beet.TV on the growth of programmatic buying in the video ecosystem. Click on the image below to be directed through to the site.

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Why Paying to skip video Ads undervalues what we do

My Opinion piece in NMA this week on the new Skipit service,  link here but behind a paywall

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In December 2003 a version of skippable Ads opened, it was called the M6 Toll road. Designed to make life easier for drivers they were offered the chance to pay a small fee and skip the bad traffic on the normal M6. Surely it is better to pay a couple of quid and get a luxurious stretch of tarmac without delays than have to sit in traffic for hours, especially when we are so time poor? Well the reality appears not. Demonstrating we are not as time poor as we thought. The toll road traffic has consistently fallen since opening, showing that perhaps paying to avoid inconvenience or bad experiences is not as high up on our agenda as some would have us believe.

And that is my view of the new format from Skipit where you can pay 10 cents to skip an Ad. You can build up credits through other means, by liking an Ad or interacting on some level with an advertiser, which I feel equally uncomfortable with.

Let’s stick with the principle of paying to skip an Ad though. Really? I am intrigued as to which Ad is going to push a person over the edge and make them sign up to an account. I find the idea of idly watching some content and then deciding ‘enough is enough, I am going to go to all the trouble of signing up to an account just to avoid a couple of minutes of Ads’ a stretch. As my colleague Paul says, perhaps it will improve completion rates as people are forced to establish the real cost of sitting through an Ad? Perhaps this system will improve performance on average Ads as people realise that it is not a big deal to watch them as long as they are engaged with the content.

Also, this isn’t going to pave the streets with the Gold that publishers might be expecting. To make this a meaningful revenue stream would require LOTS of video content being consumed outside of YouTube and the BBC. Recent Comscore research tells us this isn’t true. Google accounts for nearly 30 million uniques, the BBC accounts for nearly 7.5 million and VEVO (which again has most of its volume within YouTube) accounts for over 11 million. Consumers would also need to be willing to dip their hand in their pocket time and time again. Lastly, the rollout of such an initiative is unlikely to sit within the premium long form content owners. This is important considering the video Ad lengths which dominate the short form content space; am I really going to pay to skip 10/15 seconds of Ads being played on content that I am not really that engaged with anyway?

Now there are skippable Ads and skippable Ads. This approach is the caveman’s club vs. the surgeon’s scalpel where Google’s skippable Ads are the more sophisticated. Their approach is to incentivise advertisers to improve the quality of Ads by penalising bad creative; surely that is the right way round, not giving money to a publisher who carries bad Ads that people don’t want to see? VivaKi’s The Pool and their ASq® format offers users a chance to choose the Ad they want to watch, the impact on completion rates, engagement and memorability is considerable and encourages our advertisers to constantly see their video creative as something that should receive the same level of attention as their TV ads, but differently and with the end goal of their content being chosen over content from another advertiser.

Our job in this business is to make people realise that Ads pay for content, that Ads should be as high quality as possible, and that advertisers need to create content people want, whether that is an Ad or a short film or whatever. Paying for likes, watching an Ad to get something, all these models are blunt instruments and undervalue what we do. They are not what we should be aspiring to. 

Online video – time to fast forward. Paul Silver’s perspective

Time for @thepaulsilver to write his second post for my blog and today he covers the video marketplace and what needs to happen to realise the potential that is clearly there.

Online Video – time to fast forward

Online Video is at an interesting place. It’s poised to accelerate digital spending over the next few years. But it’s stuttering somewhat. Given the time of year, this is not about predictions, but what needs to change if Video is to fulfil its promise.

Planning

Advertisers and agencies alike need to change their planning mentality when it comes to Video. Rule number 1, it is not TV so why plan like it is?
Video planning is still dominated by replicating a TV spot buy online. In a world where we now have the ability to address and optimise at scale, why create a plan that is not suited to the strengths of the medium? The Video industry needs to embrace the move to programmatic, audience led buying. There are new ways to reach and engage audiences; TV targeting models simply are not transferable.

We also need to define premium. Advertisers (rightly so) are sensitive about content and environment but to the detriment of innovation. It seems to be a belief that only long form broadcaster content is deemed premium. Id argue that reaching & captivating your precise audience and demonstrating engagement and interaction would be a premium buy? I’m not discounting the value of broadcaster content, but it should sit within a blended schedule that really maximises audience reach and the ability to optimise.

Personalising

A lot of our research from The Pool suggests users want a different online experience, different from TV. All the more reason why we should not be repurposing a TV strategy online. Users want personalisation, they want more relevancy. Our research has shown that if ads are more relevant, users are more engaged. Users understand the web economy; if they need to be exposed to advertising in exchange for content, they want it more tailored. This is another reason why innovation is needed. A change in the way we serve ads, using data (in the same way we do for Display) to customise creatives on the fly. We simply have to.

Measurement

Speaking of optimising brings me onto a fairly contentious subject: No one knows how to measure video. Over the past few months I’ve had a lot of dialogue and conversation with those within the video space and the feeling i’m getting is we buy long form content because it dovetails nicely with our TV spot buying schedules. This would then assume that it’s a reach and frequency game against an audience. However, when we start looking at reaching a precise audience, using actual data, the goalposts move. Buyers look at clicks. Clicks are the worst metric to evaluate as a measure of success for Video. Users who click are a) from a certain type of environment and tend to be a consistent type of demographic and b) are not being subjected and impacted by your advertising. Video is truly about upper funnel engagement. Regardless of whether it’s on your mobile, desktop, tablet, connected TV. Those that do click also drive, invariably, terrible bounce rates. What about connected TVs? We are already accessing inventory within these platforms. Do we expect users to start clicking on TVs??

The problem is that there is not a common currency. And whilst there is not a 100% robust methodology to bridge TV to Video using a GRP, we should be evaluating success on engagement and cost per engagement. If that happens within long form content, short form content, it should not matter. You’re reaching your audience and optimising to engagement. If ITV, et al can outperform all else on a cost per engagement model then great.

Buying

Video is still dominated by the old guard approaches to trading. There is a fear to change and innovate and often it is misplaced, perceived fear. Video publishers look at the display space with the excess volume of inventory and fear that Video will become a race to the bottom. This is not the case. You remove UGC out of the equation and you have a model that is prime for biddable trading. You have constricted supply with an increasing demand for that inventory. Anyone knows this will lead to increased pricing. Addressable video is about improving relevancy for the advertiser and rewarding the publisher appropriately. With improved relevancy and reduced wastage means less ads required to make the impact. Less ads at higher yield means a better user experience. A better user experience means more returning visitors. And then the process repeats itself.

Trading Video over a table is not the future digital model. It will become platform based. It will become technologically enabled. But as to the reasons above, this isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t mean prices race to the bottom. Change is happening and it’s a positive thing which needs to be embraced. At Audience on Demand we are 100% committed to making the Video space more efficient, more scalable and ultimately more rewarding for publisher and advertiser alike.

Paul Silver, Head of Product, AOD UK
@thepaulsilver

VivaKi Nerve Center: The Pool field trial goes live

Its taken some time I cant deny but we are now live with a great array of publishers and clients. Heineken, Samsung, O2 working with Microsoft, Youtube and Channel4 – that is not something you see often! Its really exciting and the subject of choice formats is never so relevant. The ASq, VivaKi’s own video Ad format has now been fully researched in US, China, Spain and is going to be in France, making it the most research format on the planet. The VivaKi clients and beyond VivaKi clients will be able to choose the ASq safe in the knowledge that it will be good for their clients and the publishers will also deliver a great user experience.

As we move through the initial trials and results the plan will be to roll out to other publishers and really make a consistent format cross publisher and indeed cross markets for our advertisers. Below is the coverage in NMA yesterday with some input from Ed Couchman from Channel4.

Channel 4, YouTube and Microsoft trial ad selector video ads with Heineken and O2

Channel 4, YouTube and Microsoft are the first UK publishers to launch trials of an ad format that lets viewers pick which ad they want to watch from multiple brands ahead of video-on-demand content.

The three-slate ad selector format, called ASq, has been developed by Vivaki as part of The Pool, its global research project kick started last year to identify the best ad format for the online industry (nma.co.uk 7 October 2010).

Advertisers Heineken, O2 and Samsung are the first to run campaigns using the format across the three publisher platforms, the latter of which will have exclusive use of the ad-selector format for six weeks. Vivaki will then work with ComScore to examine consumer response to the ads, including metrics, such as brand recall, view-through rates and intent-to-purchase, ahead of a full market roll out next year.

Vivaki has already established the ASq three-slate format as a standard in the US, where 30 publishers are running the format, according to Vivaki Nerve Centre’s MD of EMEA Marco Bertozzi (pictured). He said the format has seen strong results in the US market, adding that results have shown 300-400% increases spanning across metrics including view-through rates, purchase intent and brand recall.

“This is the first time three major publishers and three of the UK’s leading clients have been brought together to work on such a project and we are really excited about the results and moving towards better monetisation of the space,” said Bertozzi.

Channel 4’s commerical controller of Future Media and Advertising Ed Couchman said ASq roll out marks the latest iteration of its existing ad selector format Ad Elect, which allows viewers to choose which ad to watch from different creatives from the same brand. Adidas, M&S and Red Bull were among the first brands to sign up for the format earlier this year (nma.co.uk 3 March 2011).

Couchman said the new format ties in with its strategy to offer advertisers a different “creative canvas” beyond driving incremental reach to TV campaigns.

Meanwhile YouTube revealed its own in-slate video ad format in the UK a few months ago. However, The Pool trials represent a collaborative effort to understand the effectiveness of the selector format over the traditional pre-roll format. All three publishers will use campaigns from the same advertisers Heineken, O2 and Samsung.

Link to story is here