AppNexus: Late to the Video Game But Clients Say They’re Catching Up Fast

AppNexusIt’s no secret that AppNexus were late to the game with video advertising. By ad tech standards — and for a company with ambitions to become a serious rival to Google’s DFP and DBM products — for a long time video appeared to be something of an afterthought. Instead the company chose to focus on the low-hanging fruit in mobile advertising, which — given video’s supply constraints, and assuming it really was an ‘either-or’ decision for Appnexus’s engineering team — probably wasn’t such a bad idea.

Last June the company finally launched its video product at their European summit. Eric Hoffert, Appnexus’s affable SVP of Video Technology, played to the company’s existing strengths in display, saying that advertisers would have exposure to ‘250 billion video impressions per month’. Hoffert was of course counting display impressions as potential video impressions, which as we noted at the time wasn’t an entirely unreasonable claim given the large amount of online video ads that are currently served into MPUs (300 x 250 ad units) by pretty much every video SSP in the market.

Over the last 10 months or so, Appnexus have been pumping out stats highlighting the growth of the video product. Some of the stats will have led to some industry eyebrow-arching, such as the one about how AppNexus’s audience reach is 10x to 100x better than competitors, or the one about how video costs for buying are 30 percent to 60 percent lower than competitors. Without independent verification or a breakdown of the costs we’re talking about, it’s best to take such claims with a pinch of salt.

AppNexus Video Impressions by Region

For the most part Appnexus’s marketing messaging has been on ‘bursting the cost bubble’, reach and a commitment to the open trading (as opposed to Facebook’s walled garden, and how Google has ring-fenced YouTube inventory for DBM). The company had also been keen to promote how Xaxis EMEA have been using the video DSP in multiple European markets, suggesting the 15 percent stake WPP took in the AppNexus in 2014 is now paying dividends.

To get a better handle on the progress of the AppNexus product, VAN spoke to some AppNexus clients. It’s worth noting that these interviews were carried out independently and that AppNexus and their PR representatives weren’t involved in any way, shape or form. I’m particularly keen to stress that as on the whole the reviews were positive.

One of the sell-side clients we spoke to was Jochen Witte, COO of Stailamedia, a Zurich-based ad network that focus mainly on the DACH region and Italy. Stailamedia are the type of company that are a sweet spot for AppNexus. They’re tech-savvy to the point where they require a certain amount of customisation, yet it wouldn’t make commercial sense for them to build and maintain their own ad tech stack.

Jochen Witte, COO, Stailamedia

Stailamedia had been working with AppNexus for years on display for a few years now. Prior to using AppNexus video, they were working with LiveRail, who they were happy with right up until the Facebook acquisition. From that point on, Witte says that the levels of service his company received from LiveRail went downhill. Needless to say, LiveRail’s decision to bow out of the ad serving business was great timing for AppNexus (and for every other sell-side video ad server of course).

“The video product didn’t work perfectly out-of-the-box from the very beginning,” says Witte. “But we were coming from LiveRail, which hadn’t worked well for us for quite some time. We have found that the Appnexus engineering team really have been keen to work with us and to fix any of the bugs we have found. We also feel they’re committed to building something that simply works, which is what our experience has been with Appnexus when it comes to display. However, with video they obviously have obviously had to fix a few things around things like some of the video-specific measurement metrics, but the product is already working better for us than LiveRail was.”

John Goulding, Head of Product Management, Media iQ
John Goulding, Head of Product Management, Media iQ

Over on the buy-side, John Goulding, Head of Product Management at Media iQ, is similarly upbeat. Media iQ have also been using AppNexus for display, and while Goulding concedes that some of the out-of-the-boxes on the video DSPs have more features than AppNexus, a big draw for Media iQ is the fact they now have access to a unified stack.

Having everything in one place enables them to use the targeting, reporting and insights features they have already built on top of the AppNexus platform. “The fact that we can now run integrated full-funnel campaigns, sequentially message from video right through to performance messages, and then have a unified set of data at the end of the campaign, all of these things are major advantages for us.”

He adds, “While AppNexus have been late to video in comparison to their competitors, they have been extremely fast-moving since they launched the video product. For example, back in Q4 we presented them with a big wish-list of features, many of which we were already using on other DSPs. They have added those features and more on top now, and at an impressively rapid speed, so we have access to all of the major exchanges we want to work with now, as well as things like video ad serving capabilities, reporting and targeting parameters.”

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