More and more companies are adopting a "video-first" approach to advertising. According to eMarketer, the video advertising market in the U.S. alone is expected to nearly double over the next three years -- with programmatic ad spend leading the way.
But without strategic insight to navigate the sometimes-choppy water, video can become a siren song that lures advertisers to undesired difficulties, negatively impacting ROI. Let's first distinguish the different types of video inventory available for programmatic buying. Then let's weigh the upside and challenges. Finally, let's look at five questions every advertiser should ask before jumping headlong into the world of video advertising.
Video ad types
In-stream video ads:
These ads are displayed in the video player (e.g. YouTube, online video streaming platforms, video on demand). In-stream ads include linear video ads, which are played like a TV commercial and are displayed pre-roll (before content), mid-roll (during), or post-roll (after). Non-linear ads overlay the video content (e.g. display banners that show up at the bottom of the video player screen -- this is very popular on YouTube).
Rich media ads:
These ads are displayed on websites and mobile apps but contain video ads instead of display ads. They come in a wide variety, from standard banners to interstitial ads (full screen ads that covers the host application's interface).
This is still largely considered a separate channel, but with online streaming TV, video on demand, and others, TV and the internet are overlapping more and more.
The pros and cons
One reason video ads are popular is because they perform better than traditional display ads. This is because video ads are typically streamed in the content where user attention is concentrated and there's a higher chance it will be seen. The user has already started to watch the video, which indicates that he/she is engaged. Even better is mobile, where videos take on the full screen (including ads within the video).
Another reason advertisers find video ads attractive is because they're more measureable. Advertisers can more finely parse engagement (e.g. how many times a video ad was fully viewed versus skipped; how many users viewed the ad through 50 percent, 75 percent, or 100 percent; how many users muted the sound; how many seconds were viewable in the user's screen/browser).
Video advertising isn't without its obstacles. One of the biggest concerns with video ads is the cost. High costs are caused by two factors. First, it's simply more expensive and takes more time to produce video content than static display content such as text and images. Second, in the programmatic space, the video inventory demand far outweighs the current supply. This shortage of inventory means higher CMPs (which average nearly $25).
Another challenge plaguing video ads is the potential for fraud. According to report from the Association of National Advertisers, video media with CPMs over $15 had a 173 percent higher bot rate than lower CPM media. Going programmatic, the holy grail of hands-off media planning, makes matters worse. Programmatic display ads attracted 14 percent more bot traffic than average while programmatic video invited 73 percent more bots.
While there's no silver bullet to eliminate video ad fraud (or fraud in digital advertising period), there are many different solutions to help all parties mitigate risk. Technology companies are helping to eliminate impression fraud, click fraud, affiliate fraud, and cookie stuffing. For advertisers, one way to minimize the risk of fraud is to run your video ads only on premium publisher websites/premium inventory.
In addition to finding solutions to deal with fraud, advertisers should also be asking themselves five questions that can help boost the overall success of video ads.
Critical questions for success
Who are you targeting?
While video ads generally have higher viewability and engagement, they still need to be targeted and as personally relevant to each individual consumer as possible. This is where the potential of programmatic comes in, as it enables companies to target the right ads to the right audiences at the right time and location.
What does your ad content deliver?
As a medium, video allows companies to be much more creative in telling their brand story than static ads. But while a video ad might initially capture the user's attention, you still need to deliver content that provides some kind of value. You need to inform or entertain (ideally both) in ways that aren't necessarily a hard sales pitch. The iPhone 6S timer spot featuring Cookie Monster is a good example.
Where does your ad play?
Consumers increasingly move seamlessly from device to device. Tremor Video and Millward Brown capture the importance of this in a report: "Marketers need to find a way to keep creative messaging consistent across different platforms while leveraging the unique role of each device. Brands should design mobile video for a diverse set of potential situations, making their own luck and not relying on happenstance."
Also, according to a report from Akamai, an ad placed in long-form videos such as movies and TV episodes is 4.2 percent more likely to complete than the same ad placed in short-form video, such as a news clip.
When does your ad play?
When during a video your ad is played influences the ad completion rate. According to the Akamai report, an ad is 18 percent more likely to complete when placed as a mid-roll than as a pre-roll, and 14.3 percent more likely to complete when placed as a pre-roll than as a post-roll. That said, ad placement should be determined on a case-by-case basis based on the type of video content and the type of ad.
How long is your ad?
It's a reality that consumers today have short attention spans -- especially when it comes to advertising. While consumers are more willing to endure an ad as a tradeoff for video content they already want to view, ad length is shown to affect completion. According to Akamai, a 15-second ad is 2.9 percent more likely to complete than a 20-second ad, which in turn is 3.9 percent more likely to complete than a 30 second ad.
Despite the challenges, video advertising (and specifically programmatic) is poised to continue growing. This is because advertising will only become increasingly data-driven with a focus on measurability and contextual targeting. As inventory supply and demand comes into a greater equilibrium in the future, there will be an increase of solutions built to address the problems of fraud and transparency -- making for a better ecosystem for all parties.