Video May Have Killed the Radio Star, But Who’s Killing the Video Star?


FarzadWhile video advertising continues to soar, many in the industry believe there’s more we could be doing to accelerate that growth. Farzad Jamal, VP Europe, at Vdopia, a programmatic platform for mobile video advertising, is one of those people. Here Farzad discusses how a cultural shift could help speed up the industry’s programmatic progress.

The latest IAB figures show that online video ad spend increased 60 percent in the UK in the first half of 2014 (to £200 million) and 13 percent in the US (to $1.48 billion).

The rising statistics may seem impressive but video’s share of online display advertising is just 20 percent in the UK and 23 percent in the US. Although it always takes time for consumers’ increasing consumption of new media to translate into an appropriate share of the ad budget pie, this does seem significantly behind the curve.

I believe there are four key reasons why video ad spend is being held back and, consequently, why its share isn’t more ‘appropriate’. The underlying and consistent theme beneath these reasons is there still seems to be a single mindset when talking about “online video.” To progress as an industry, we need to challenge the linear thinking about how video is bought and sold on the whole.

Fear and the lack of entrepreneurial thinking in the media space

This is as much about the inherently cautious nature of British people in general which translates into this space. Even ‘digital’ natives – supposedly a new breed of thinkers and ‘imagineers’ – quickly get stuck in an old-fashioned mindset like their traditional media planning forefathers. The term “disruptive tech” gets banded about a lot but, in reality, are media buyers behaving in a way that truly reflects this?

For instance, when “video” is mentioned, the initial automatic thought is around video content being supported by video ads. Why? Is video marketing exclusive to appearing before, during or after video content or in between game levels in Apps? This siloed, knee-jerk thinking needs to change. Buyers need to be more open to the possibilities of placing video outside of its pre-roll comfort zone.

For example, are planners aware of the ability to run video ads on premium sites’ mobile inventory (now mobile web optimised) – something that was previously inaccessible? Does this change the thought process?

To combat this reticence and make people more aware of the possibilities, the industry needs to change the way it talks. Such as expanding its use of terms such as “pre-roll” to “linear pre-roll” and “non-linear pre-roll” to take into consideration the opportunities now available in mobile which weren’t available back in 2008 when the IAB came up with online video ad definitions.

TV planners are taking control of media spend from the digital teams

In effect, this prevents media spend being diverted into online video because TV planners, perhaps unconsciously, simply naturally gravitate to what they know best.  This probably needs to change if video is going to achieve any sort of scale, particularly on mobile media.

Further to the “non-linear pre-roll” point above, it’s likely that planners could be missing out on great rafts of audiences by not understanding all the placement opportunities that potentially exist because they don’t understand the technology. For example, they may only engage with publishers who have in-built video players – not realising the technology exists to place videos on all publisher sites, even if they don’t have a native player for video content.

Only limited amounts of premium pre-roll inventory being made available programmatically

Publishers are not allowing enough of their inventory to be bought programmatically. This reinforces the point above about the assumption that video ads are only “pre-roll”. If this is the thinking, this is what gets booked which leads to a lack of available video inventory, especially in premium publishers – of whom there will be a number who don’t even have a player or video content to deliver this from! Again, not being open to, or even aware of, easy alternative options – such as in-app videos – stymies potential growth.

Not understanding how easy it is to distribute video ads across different screens

I can sympathise with this one. It’s extremely hard to keep up with the exponential growth rate of technology, such as programmatic, and how buying can possibly work across screens and devices. However, one size can fit all. For instance, we have a technology enabling video ads to be placed within any type of ad space on any type/size of screen – without requiring Flash or plug-ins.

I also sympathise with many media buyers who are genuinely fearful of acknowledging they don’t understand it all. They are not alone – this is particularly prevalent across most areas of the technically complex and fractured online advertising ecosystem. It takes bravery to acknowledge something like this, and if more people did so, the entire industry would grow more quickly.

So what can be done to address all of this and get video to where it should be?

The onus is actually on businesses such as ours to continue trying to break down doors and educate the market on the wider opportunities available. However, it’s also about changing the inherently cautious mind-set of the decision-makers who — perhaps naturally — find it easier to maintain the status quo. They need to understand that opting out isn’t a sustainable strategy. Instead, they need to adopt the type of mindset more commonly associated with Silicon Valley, where professional values like openness and a willingness to innovate are more admired, not avoided.


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