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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Festival Inspirational Madrid


Yesterday I flew to Madrid for the Festival Inspirational, Spain’s largest digital event run by the IAB in Spain. I was asked by the Spanish team to present their amazing project of The Pool. It was a privilige to be invited as so many great people worked on it in Spain so it was important to try and do it justice.

The project has been run over ten months and involved no less than 10 leading advertisers and the same amount of publishers. These were the top three publishers from broadcast, news and the digital pure plays. They all worked together on the project and that was unique in itself, companies that normally work in competition all working together. The great benefit of everyone working together like this was the fact the meetings became a great opportunity for the partners to share and learn from each other.

The event itself http://www.festivalinspirational.com was huge with 1800 delegates, a truly inspiring gathering of digital professionals, I was given the last slot before lunch so really wanted to make sure we delivered something succinct and interesting. The presentation contained an overview of The Pool project globally and then focused on the Spanish project.

When you see how The Pool can work, it is truly impressive and I look forward to getting the results back from the UK Lane and being able to present in a similar fashion in the UK and hopefully with some support from the IAB..

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

A week at The VivaKi Nerve Center

A week at The Vivaki Nerve Center


An early meeting with the WW CEO of ZenithOptimedia to discuss how the market is shaping up and what can be expected of 2012. As the conference season starts I am being pulled in a number of directions to make sure everyone who needs the latest info has it!

Later that morning a call with the boss, Curt Hecht, it’s a about planning stage and we discuss what we need to get done for 2012 and how we will work with the agencies. A lot of progress in 2011 for VivaKi and The VivaKi Nerve Center and so it makes for some great conversations for next year. More than ever we will be a very European organisation which is achievement in itself. a series of meetings with the major EMEA markets all to be planned.

A session on contracts, which seems to take up a lot of time at the moment, but we are making real progress with a number of contracts signed that will help power The Pool, Partnerships and AOD.

End the day back at the WW CEO’s office to finalise some notes for the conference and its my turn to start to prepare for the Exchangewire ATS event where I am on a panel with Nigel Gilbert from Orange, Gurman from MediaIQ, Breadon from AOL, Martin from infectious and hosted by Zuzanna at Microsoft. Will be a good day I am sure.

In the evening, I went to the Appnexus / Microsoft drinks and met with the founder of Appnexus, the new head of Microsoft, Andy Hart and a number of others. Bumped into Jakob of GroupM, always a pleasure and we had a little catch up and then I had to leave for dinner with Quantcast and Exchangewire down at BerryBros.

As usual you learn something on these nights and having spoken to a number of people from other groups, its clear to me that VivaKi are the most integrated and aligned group in this space, working hand and glove with the agencies. I hope over time this pays dividends for us all.

Tuesday – ATS Day

Arriving at the event really makes you see how far things have moved on in the last year. Ciaran’s first one was a big event but this really surpassed itself with 400+ guests. Unfortunately as the day went on it became clear that again it lacked publishers and advertisers. The more I think about this though, the more I think, why should they be there?

Morning sessions were OK but lacked direction, more moderation, different questioners and less keynotes would have improved the morning session. Keynotes fund these events but I feel having Mediamath and Rubicon and Appnexus all doing a turn is perhaps excessive.

Microsoft did a great session, slick presentation and I think surprised everyone, he even presented an Apple Ad, which was the talk of the Twittersphere..

The afternoon panel I was on was billed to be controversial, I knew it would not be, for two reasons. The first is we have said this before and the second is that people in the audience don’t want to stand out and make issues. The bigger these events become the more polite they will become. I had a couple of key themes I wanted to get across around the whole Ad Trading Desks.

1. We are not an Ad Network
2. We will cut back on Ad Network spend
3. We will be aiming to centralise all retargeting and we think it’s the right thing to do
4. We work with a number of DSPs just not in the UK and we know what is what

I made all of these statements as well as suggesting Ad Nets use client data across their campaigns and received no resistance so, if it was not controversial, it was not because of me! Feedback has been that it was too about positioning of each others company etc but you go where the questions take you.

All in all though, a good day, got to catch up with some great people from around the business and generally enjoyed it all.


We march on with an exciting morning meeting with a large European company that is soon to become Vivak’s first VNC Partner in EMEA. We have of course high profile relations with Microsoft and Google as well as other US companies, but this is the first at scale. We worked through the opportunities, what we need to do together and how we can help each other, a great start to Wednesday and we look forward to releasing that news soon.

Later that day, I 100% focused on The Pool. We have been delayed on this but we are ready to go again, very exciting, there is other info on The Pool elsewhere on my blog Later this year I am presenting at the IAB conference on Spain the results of the Spanish Lane and some of the work that’s been going on in the US, I am really excited about the results that have come from this work.

We have three great publisher partners and already two major clients so things are looking great in that regard, there will be more to come on that subject shortly.

The day ends meeting a team of senior Google Product managers who are trying to work with us to provide insight to power Audience On Demand. It’s these meetings that the Google partnership is founded on, not media spend and discounts. It was a really interesting session and we learned alot about what is coming up. Invite will be a very powerful proposition.


A quieter day on the meetings and valuable time to catch up. I did meet up with the CEO of Vindico and team who have big ambitions in the UK. We work with them on The Pool and they are a great outfit. Its time we need to get over the control issue around video adserving, we have been through this once with display and its time we moved on when it comes to video. We are used to substandard, early 2000 type tracking and reporting which is not acceptable.


A chance to discuss everything we have been doing and seeing this week. A morning appointment with a client with a brief to talk them through all the things The Vivaki Nerve Center are working on, went brilliantly and we will be doing some great work I hope. They showed the kind of interest in innovation that makes it all worth while.

A run for the train from glamorous Slough with just enough time to read the placard under the stuffed dog at the station and down to Microsoft to present to their regional scale display teams and talk about the importance of agency trading desks. Quite a turn out and some great questions from the group, I hope we can act on some of the discussions and continue to grow our global partnership.

I end the week with some time to keep up momentum with The Pool, discuss with thepaulsilver the final touches of an exciting launch next week and what I am going to do when he is on holiday!

The Pool launch today

As I sit at the end of the day we launched The Pool, Lane 4 I am pleased with how things panned out. We had our publisher partners turn up in the form of Channel 4, Fox networks and Youtube as well as a further large broadcaster. Colleagues from ZenithOptimedia and Starcom also came along as well as some of the technology companies we have been working with on the project.

Here is a view of today’s event as we wait for everyone to arrive

We launched the event in The House of St Barnabus, No1 Greek Street which was great as a venue and gave everyone a chance to catch up and discuss the latest on the project. Curt Hecht, Global CEO of the Vivaki Nerve Center set the context and explained the inspiration behind the Pool and touched on the project’s development in China, France and Spain. Our colleagues from the US gave an update on the latest results their work and showed the recently released results from Lane 2.

This project is new and challenging and we hope will get the market place excited and start to create a thouroughly researched project that leads to a scalable ad format for the globe.

Latest PR can be found at www.nma.co.uk

or here at www.brandrepublic.co.uk

or here at www.campaignlive.co.uk

or here www.mad.co.uk

Its a good start overall, lots more work to go!

Vivaki Nerve Center launches The Pool video lane

When I started in the Vivaki Nerve Center I had quite a few things on my to do list. One of the most exciting was getting ‘The Pool’ live.

The Pool is a vehicle through which we would bring together advertisers and publishers to participate in a project that would shape the market in whatever field it is concerned with, drive future facing ad formats and hopefully drive revenue on both sides. It was designed to be objective, a consensus approach but based in consumer insight. The Pool started in the US with fantastic results, if you want to read more about it, click here

Video advertising is the subject of choice. Why is that? Well there are some fundamental factors that lead video to be an ideal Lane in any country. Firstly we all know its growing hugely, unstoppable and more and more quality content is migrating to the web which is not being followed by advertising pounds. That leads to the next couple of issues. The ability of publishers to monetise has been difficult due to the constant erosion of pricing and lack of research to prove it works and secondly it’s a chaotic ad market in terms of formats. If you work on the basis of 50-60% of TV ad pounds go against a 30sec Ad it’s easy to ramp up investment rapidly. Anyone who has done video advertising knows there are too many formats, too many creative approaches and publishers all have their own model. The Pool aims to solve that.

Tomorrow sees the launch to all the major publishers in the UK of The Pool Lane 1 in the UK, Long form video. Vivaki Nerve Center with close collaboration from ZenithOptimedia and Starcom will be aiming to get publishers on board with the project to find the single best Ad format for video across a range of categories of results. Once on board we will work through field research and with the help of clients to identify the winning Ad format.

It’s an exciting project and I hope very high profile, the end result should be a win for the publishers, a win for the advertisers and a win for the agencies in the Vivaki groupe. I hope by the end of this there will be a model that becomes second nature to planners and allows scalable spend in video which has to be a good thing.

I will then be turning my spotlight on mobile. Mobile suffers similar issues if not worse and needs to have a greater industry focus put upon it. The levels of spend in mobile display are appalling when compared with the time spent on mobile devices so I hope in 2011 The Pool approach will drive some great new learnings for mobile.