Changes are in order for in-stream video to
reach its revenue potential
In-stream video is a massive — but still not fully
developed — source of income for online publishers.
According to one nationally recognized online
research firm, streaming video revenue in the U.S.
will double over the next three years to more than
$7 billion annually. Chances are it would grow
even faster, were it not for the reservations of
many advertisers and ad agencies.
Today, the majority of online video ad spending is concentrated
on a small number of “safe” websites. ABC, NBC,
CBS and Hulu, with a small number of other sites sprinkled
in, are where most major advertisers spend their online
video ad dollars.
Why isn’t video spending spread more equitably across
the broader Web marketplace? BrightRoll, in its 2011 survey
of ad agency media buyers, found that 22.3 percent of respondents
felt that “limited reach” was the top factor restricting
the growth of online video. Another 15.2 percent
cited “lack of targeting capabilities,” while 9.8 percent
pointed to “poor inventory quality.”
Clearly, leading advertisers and their representatives are
seeking the same kind of accountability and transparency in
online video buys that they enjoy in display advertising. Yet
no commonly held, trusted framework exists to provide assurance
for video placement.
The reason is that online video buys — a purchase that
demands consistent, responsible and identifiable attributes
— are anything but standardized. Adjacent site content,
physical placement and viewer targeting are just some of the
variables that make in-stream video the untamed Wild West
of online advertising.
On every website with video playback capability, programming
surrounds the video frame that may or may not
complement the advertiser’s content. It may be irrelevant,
unsuitable or even objectionable. Then there is the issue of
location. Is the frame above the fold? Is it placed within a
banner? Many sites offer video placement as part of a game
or within a social media context. It may be auto-play, continually
streamed, or on-demand. It may be high-definition
. . . or of only moderate quality.
Ironically, many site publishers are eager to self-report
on their suitability for major video ad buys. Online ad networks
offer some help with this, through limited pre-buy
analysis and centralized, server-based video delivery methods.
But without a unifying standard for both video run
quality and suitability of content, such attempts — for the
media buyer, at least — are cumbersome at best.
To fix the situation, advertisers need a virtual seal of approval
for online inventory. An industry-standard metric,
recognized by parties on all sides of a purchase, will create
the accountability that major brands must have to justify
their investments. With such a standard in place, video advertising
revenue can finally reach its potential.
To be useful, such a standard must cover qualitative as
well as quantitative variables; a site’s audience profile, content
suitability and click analytics must be combined with
player type, rendition quality, pass-along tracking and
many other attributes. It should give publishers objective
data they need to provide assurances of site quality and
audience reach, and it should support the creation of new
services such as inventory segmentation and improved
Finally, results must be made available to both agency
and advertiser through a convenient dashboard that supports
comparisons against campaign targets for adjustment
and optimization, all in real time.
Another advantage of an independent, universally accepted
rating system is that it will provide pricing efficiencies.
For the first time, advertisers can confidently stratify
their purchases through pricing tiered for both reach and
quality. If budgets are adjusted, buyers can quickly move to
those sites most effective in achieving campaign goals.
Such auditing and evaluation standards for online
video are sorely needed — and long overdue. The Web is
arguably the most powerful, pervasive and targeted
medium ever created.
With online video rating sources now coming into existence,
ad networks and site publishers would do well
to encourage the use of such standards as a uniform
and defensible mark of quality for their offerings.
Moreover, media executives should encourage
their use for the benefit of their agencies as
well as their clients.
About the Author: Brian Mandelbaum is the founder and CEO of Clearstream, a video evaluation
platform for advertising
agencies and marketers.