Avoiding Video Network Pitfalls

The news over the past few weeks has been interesting, to say the least, when it comes to ad networks and those who  work with them.  On the heels of my publisher-directed, but advertiser- and network-relevant Insider article on auto-play video, a flurry of stories hit the wires.

First, ad verification company Mpire released a study that exposed rampant impression- and click-fraud on ad exchanges and networks that use them to source inventory. 

Next, Adweek reporter Mike Shields took the issue of auto-play video a step further and showed how it was being abused by ad networks to inflate avails and delivery of what advertisers thought was legitimate pre-roll.

A few weeks later, a massive click-fraud ring originating in China was found and shut down.

It's enough to make your head spin -- or want to take a shower -- or  both.

The unfortunate fact is that with networks continuing to gain traction as a share of marketing budget, and the low barriers to entry, the ad network business is still attractive for those looking to make a buck and not concerned with building a long-term business designed to service the Fortune 500.  Even for some established networks, there are clearly issues surrounding lack of control on a placement level (intentional or not). 

The result is that networks have become somewhat of a mine field for buyers at agencies who want the benefit of networks' reach, scale and performance, but still want to be able to sleep at night knowing that their clients' dollars are being spent responsibly -- particularly for video, where content quality is at least of equal importance as page position.

And that, my friends, is an utter shame.  Actually, that's not a strong enough term, but this is a family publication.  While my  opinion is that there will be a major vetting of network practices soon (partially via technological advancement in ad verification, and partially evolution/education), the fact of the matter is that agencies must take some responsibility when evaluating ad networks in 2009.  Outside of the usual questions of media procurement methodology, inventory nature and such, there are a few items to hone in on when it comes to video.  These should take care of 99% of the pitfalls experienced by the advertisers in the article referenced above.

1.     Pre-roll: Should be served within a new player that launches, or only when the user initiates video play in an in-page format. Companion ads should be an available option.  Consider implementing third-party ad tags to monitor ad completion.  Off-the-charts results -- good  or bad -- against  index should raise an alarm that this pre-roll is actually auto-play.  I also recommend some kind of verification technology on the companion to verify environment.

2.     In-banner: Whether user-initiated or auto-play, in-banner video should be served above the fold (the latter can be effective if done correctly). There should not be "stacked" creative on a page.  Watch for low interaction rates, such as extremely low percentages of users initiating audio.

As I mentioned,  the tide is shifting in the network space.  Technology is improving and demand for greater transparency is becoming the norm.  One day, the network space will have far less clutter in terms of players and placements, with much to offer the marketplace.  Until that time, implementing the tips above will go a long way in ensuring a productive campaign.

5 comments about "Avoiding Video Network Pitfalls".
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  1. Pooky Amsterdam from PookyMedia, October 19, 2009 at 3 p.m.

    Video is a tool and compelling medium which should be used for effective customer integration. Being able to do this means providing a video experience which is highly targeted, entertaining and for the company, cost - effective. Producing branded shows for targeted audiences and engaging that audience to play along is what the award winning PookyMedia is about.
    Beyond pre-roll, mid-roll or end-roll, the product must be involved in the video, and the video must have meaning to the person watching it. More than a billion videos are watched daily. Video is not going away, it must be maximized and produced by those who understand what the current social media landscape is telling us. Sit back & relax has become lean forward & engage. Allow people to play along with, is what everyone is doing. Bring it to your video.

  2. Elliotte Bowerman-Gilmore, October 19, 2009 at 3:15 p.m.

    In light of the recent articles and news, as well as general industry frustrations on the part of marketers trying to sort out how to use online video effectively, it seems some standards are in order.

    So many different metrics for evaluation, and everyone measures the "same thing" in a different way - it's enough to make anyone's head spin. It will be interesting to see what groups like the IAB put together. I know they're working on some items now.

    In the mean time, you offer good words of wisdom.

  3. Ron Stitt from Fox Television Stations, October 19, 2009 at 3:15 p.m.

    Buyers might actually consider the radical idea of paying a fair price for premium inventory on branded publisher sites, and dealing directly with those sites. Nah...that's crazy talk!

  4. Arthur Carmichael from HGTV, October 19, 2009 at 5:08 p.m.

    Why are we still shoving content the viewer doesn't want down their throats?

    Talk about negative impressions. Gee, lets piss off our potential customers, that should do a great job of increasing sales. Why don't we come up with an app that pokes 'em in the eye with a slick branded stick while were at it ;~)

    What ever happened to pull instead of push?

  5. Joe Cibula, October 20, 2009 at 12:31 p.m.

    InverSearch is a commercial exchange for information, opportunities, products, resources and services.

    Anyone can connect with multiple businesses simultaneously with a single confidential message, increase efficiency and reduce information overload.

    Businesses monitor and respond to consumer inquiries and deliver advertising in response to inquiries, not in advance, which results in lower costs and higher conversion rates.

    Consumer inquiries are business alerts. Business responses are consumer results.

    Inquiries and responses are always fresh, real-time and relevant because they’re user-generated content.

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