Earlier this year, Taboola acquired ConvertMedia in a bid to ramp up its video efforts. Up until that point, Taboola specialised in helping publishers to monetise their sidebars and the bottom of their pages by using Taboola’s ‘content discovery engine’. The model has been hugely successful and it’s hard to find a major publisher who hasn’t worked with Taboola or one of their competitors at some point.
Thus far, the focus has been mainly on promoting articles and sponsored content, but Yoav Naveh, VP Video at Taboola (formerly ConvertMedia’s CEO & co-founder), believes that the bottom of the page might eventually become a better home for native video ads. “We’ve seen a huge number of options arrive for publishers to consider, that go beyond the pre-roll,” says Naveh, “Whether it’s autoplay, vertical, outstream, in-banner, Facebook/SnapChat, video content syndication, etc. However, I think we’re now reaching a point where things are starting to settle down and the industry needs to stop focusing on having video for the sake of video, and to focus instead on what all of this actually means for advertisers, publishers and the end user.”
“A lot of the solutions currently out there still look a lot like pre-roll because that’s what advertisers know and therefore what the currently want to buy. Publishers play an ad, and some piece of content after it – which is not always related to the page. Moreover, I think a 30 second autoplay that has been embedded in an article is a very different user experience to a YouTube pre-roll for example, yet occasionally you’ll find people still describing the former as pre-roll,” he said.
Another concern of Naveh’s relates to ad experience. “As we have a mish-mash of new formats offering things like 360, live and even VR-like experiences, we need to think more carefully about what we’re delivering – and where – to the end user. For example, you can’t have a 360 video embedded in the middle of an article without offering a poor experience to the advertisers, the publisher and the user. Mid-article is just not the time or place to allow the user to really dive into the content in those marketing formats,” he added.
“Another issue is that many advertisers produce 15 to 30 second creatives that are often designed to be enjoyed with the audio-on. Yet the reality is that most advertisers would have to pay considerably more if they’re going to deliver those video ads online with audio-on at any great scale. We have just not seen publishers accepting audio-on formats at the current rates, and it would take something significant to have them change their mind on that. So advertisers have to be inventive and create custom creatives. When it comes to platforms like Facebook and perhaps even Snapchat, there’s probably a strong enough case for going the custom route, such as adding captions and making sure the brand is immediately visible. But everyone outside of the social walled gardens probably needs to come together to think more carefully about standards and formats. The open web continues to be a huge opportunity for advertisers but we just need to see a little bit more co-operation between the various players,” he said.
Naveh said that whilst the mid-article position has become the most commonly used native placement, the reality is that many publishers still don’t relish the idea of inserting ads into their articles. “Those placements have formed a very large part of our business and they have served advertisers well by giving them front and centre engagement, but is it really sustainable?” he asked. “Are we essentially giving the user a pop-up 2.0 experience in the middle of the article, and inserting a commercial break where there is no natural break in the flow of the content? Then we also have to consider whether a user is going to want to engage with a brand mid-article, or if it’s appropriate for them to pause mid-article in order to use features like 360 video that go a bit deeper.”
One alternative, Naveh says, is to capitalise on how Taboola and companies like them have created what he calls a ‘moment of discovery’ at the bottom of an article. “If you give someone a relevant piece of snackable content at the bottom, the user – having finished what they were reading – will often be in the right frame of mind to engage with it. This of course also has a huge impact on the type of creative that an agency should be using. Whereas an eight second ad might be appropriate mid-article, an advertiser could afford to be more adventurous with longer content or even a 360 video at the bottom instead. There is a time and a place for innovative formats and advertisers need to plan their creative accordingly.”