The fact that video advertising has continued to grow steadily in spite of the countless news stories about viewability and fraud is probably masking losses that will be impossible to quantify. Here Irfon Watkins, CEO of Coull, discusseswhat he thinks needs to be done to rebuild trust in video advertising, whether the IAB standards go far enough, outstream formats and mobile monetisation for publishers. Irfon will be speaking on the panel at New Video Frontiers NYC on September 10th.
Does video advertising still have a trust problem? What needs to be done to rebuild that trust?
Yes, there’s undoubtedly a lack of trust in the video advertising marketplace and it stems from concerns about quality of inventory. Demand for what has traditionally been described as ‘premium’ video way outstrips supply, so advertisers have turned to open marketplaces where there is huge volume available but little in terms of safeguards.
It’s 2015 and video advertising should be fully automated and more efficient than ever, but the reality is we have a lot of second guessing going on around whether an ad was delivered to a human, in a viewable placement, on the domain it was intended to, and that’s frankly ridiculous. The huge demand for video ads and a programmatic framework created opportunities for exploitation of advertisers, but these problems can be solved by two things: technology and willingness.
Technology can provide us with the tools to accurately understand every facet of an advertising opportunity, but the willingness needs to be there to act on it and do so in a coherent way. As an industry we need to start being more proactive about stopping questionable inventory entering the marketplace, we need to be more transparent about how we measure metrics and we need to find some common ground in terms of acceptable thresholds for what we actually want to measure.
This alignment between the supply side, the buy side and the vendors in the middle is the only way to build trust.
Does the IAB’s definition of viewability go far enough in your opinion? Is the expectation of 100 percent viewability a reasonable aspiration for the industry to have?
I think that if we consider any traditional media space such as a billboard or a TV ad, if only half the creative was visible you wouldn’t be satisfied as a buyer. That seems to be the feeling on the buy-side in our industry too, as we’ve seen with GroupM and other media agencies coming out with their own more stringent viewability requirements to trade against.
‘100% viewability’ can mean a lot of things. Should 100% of the creative be in view? Absolutely. Should 100 percent of the duration of the video ad be seen? Well that then becomes a question of creative as well as placement, which opens a can of worms. However, there’s no doubt some form of duration metric should be applicable.
Agreeing a standard there may take some time but the more pressing issue is that we have such problems measuring any metrics at all. We test third-party viewability tech against each other, they don’t line up. We test third-party tech against our own viewability tech, it doesn’t line up. It’s a mess in all honesty. The first hurdle for the industry to solve is discrepancies in measurement, then we can solve discrepancies in standards.
The shortage of supply in video advertising has fuelled both fraud and poor viewability. Do you think outstream formats are likely to help improve the quality of supply?
I think it’s important when answering this to consider what we mean by ‘quality’. Traditionally it’s been held up as some kind of binary premium/remnant scenario, whereas I think in reality there’s a sliding scale of quality.
As a buyer you want to be assured that what you’re buying has the opportunity to be seen, by a human, and fulfils the inventory profile (url, player-size, initiation, brand-safe etc) that it presents itself as. That’s the baseline, and from there providing information to buyers lets them decide what price to pay to fulfil their campaign objectives.
Outstream is a natural reaction to the shortage of quality supply and it sits somewhere on the middle of that sliding scale of inventory quality. It’s not comparable with a user initiated pre-roll slot before a piece of high-quality video content, but for the right price it’s certainly a way for brands to reach audiences.
There’s a lot of concern about publishers being able to monetise their mobile inventory. Do you think spend will catch up over time, or are advertisers sceptical about the impact of mobile advertising?
Spend is linked to trust and confidence in the medium and mobile video currently lacks it. On desktop it’s true that while measurements of ‘trust’ metrics are inconsistent with each other, at least it’s possible to take those measurements. On mobile, it’s not possible even to do that, due to the lack of VPAID inventory in the marketplace.
This is slowly changing as publishers and players invest in better HTML5 solutions, but for the time being there’s isn’t any way for advertisers to measure their campaigns and that’s really putting the brakes on spend.