Going Beyond 'Click-To-Play' For Mobile Video Ads

Buyers and sellers of online video advertising have been expanding the scope of T/V (Television/Video) ad messaging from the “click-to-play” constraints of pre-roll and mid-roll “instream” formats to “outstream” formats that run within non-video environments in either an “auto-play” or “view-to-play” manner. Things have been changing rapidly in the mobile video sector as mobile publishers and tech providers look to bring these newer online video formats into the mobile ecosystem.

Beet.tv presented a summit this month at Mindshare presented by eBuzzing & Teads on “Life Beyond the Pre-Roll”. (Full disclosure: eBuzzing & Teads is a client of the writer’s consulting business). The half day conference aggregated different publisher and advertiser/agency points of view on these new ways of expanding video ad inventory online and in mobile by running ads “outstream”. If “instream” is the method of attaching T/V ads to online video content, then “outstream” formats place T/V ads independent of existing video content, such as between paragraphs of text articles, blogs, comments sections, photo galleries and home page content blocks.

Outstream ads solve a problem for publishers and advertisers alike. They increase the available inventory so advertisers can shift dollars more definitively from traditional TV and User Generated Content (UGC) pre-roll to premium publisher sites unencumbered by the need to wait for a user to click-to-play. Advertisers now can buy quality inventory with guaranteed viewability at scale, since a great deal of pre-roll avails at premium publisher sites are sold out.

The new online outstream formats are largely not click-to-play – some are auto-play, which have a bad reputation in the ad-buying community because of the potential that the ads will run off-screen and out of view.  The most sophisticated of these new outstream formats use view-to-play, which is a kind of auto-play tied to the structure of the web page so it only plays the ad when within view of the viewer/reader. When the video ad scrolls out of view, it pauses/stops. When in view it runs. In that way, the % of ad that is viewed is captured within the reporting metrics, and ads that don’t run either the minimum or contracted amount of time with the majority of the unit’s pixels in view are not counted against purchased impressions. In my mind, this is the only way a video ad should be purchased with any kind of auto-play technology, and the only kind that should be carried by publishers who care about their users’ and advertisers’ experience.

There are still some challenges though as universal mobile video outstream ad acceptance has been limited by differences in auto-play policies on mobile operating systems.

Unlike online streaming video advertising which runs over hard or Wi-Fi internet connections, consumer mobile plans often have limits on the amount of gigabytes used in a month. For many years this steered the industry away from mobile video. Some publishers tried to solve this by making all outstream video ads click-to-play, creating the same limitations on inventory that online pre-roll does, or by focusing on in-app which also limits scalability.

Now that it is possible for publishers to only deliver view-to-play ads on mobile web when the user is on Wi-Fi, demand for outstream units on mobile has been kick-started, leading us to a new challenge. Different operating systems on different devices have varied policies on anything that looks like auto-play, so much so that view-to-play has not yet seen universal acceptance across operating system platforms.

Of the two dominant mobile operating systems, Google Android, which is much more open to outside developer work than Apple, has benefited the most from this new demand because it allows publishers to employ view-to-play technologies on web app sites.

Apple, which is more restrictive around outside development, can allow web app view-to-play on iOS tablet platforms, but does not allow it on iOS for iPhone. This presumably is because of the data plan issue which would be more prevalent on iPhones. With Facebook’s wide use on iPhones, and expansion into video ads running between posts online, perhaps Apple will reconsider its iPhone restrictions. On the other hand, Apple may want to keep it within the walled garden of its own iAd App Network, which is consistent with how it approached the changing business model for music with iTunes.

I love that innovation around the traditional television ad has exploded in ways that now give us an emerging T/V (Television/Video) ad-supported marketplace, fueled by the distribution miracle of the internet. Here’s hoping the big players within the ecosystem that helped bring us here can continue to be creative and open-minded and drive more of the brilliant ideas that got us here. 

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3 comments about "Going Beyond 'Click-To-Play' For Mobile Video Ads".
  1. Matt Cooper from Addroid , August 20, 2014 at 2:17 p.m.
    It's tacky as hell to plug your own company but in the interest of getting the right information presented in this post up to date and correct... Addroid has this problem solved. Specifically our video units auto-play OR view-to-play depending on the preference on ALL mobile devices and OSs without the need for an SDK. This means the units doesn't just work inApp but also on the mobile web. Because they are SDK free they also work with the DSPs. I just wanted to be clear that we've had this product in the market place for 3 years. The only problem is that no one knows about us. Yet. Coop
  2. Roger Furman from Voodoovox , August 20, 2014 at 3:23 p.m.
    where is this "premium content" everyone talks about? is there a list of sellers that offer this? I have not found this as of yet, but everyone says they have PREMIUM CONTENT???
  3. Michael Tuminello from TV Guide , August 22, 2014 at 11:18 a.m.
    "Outstream" = in-banner video, no? Interesting article, but not sure we need any new terminology in the online ad industry. I humbly request that noone adopts usage of the term "outstream" :-)