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Video Advertising Afterschool Session: Understanding Video Ad Impressions

The digital marketing space changes constantly, which is wonderful for innovative startups and adventurous brands, but difficult for would-be prognosticators. Too often one January's bold predictions ("The Year of Second Life!") become the following December's sheepish footnotes. One of 2010's few safe bets, it seems, is that broadband video advertising will continue its rapid growth.

Advertisers and publishers are still working out basic issues, however, including the challenging question of how to classify and determine the relative value of different types of impressions sold as "online video," particularly as consumers watch more content in syndicated players that can appear in many different contexts on a web page.

The savviest media planners we work with at YuMe understand these intricacies, and rely on that knowledge to develop consistently successful campaigns. Let's take a close look at three key questions you should be asking before you pay for online video.

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Is it really video? When you think about watching a video online, you probably imagine finding a page built around the video you want to watch, hitting play, and then focusing on the content within the player, maybe even expanding it to take up your whole screen.

That attention is the reason video advertising is a premium product that sells for a premium price-advertisers know that customers will be paying attention to their ads. This "in-stream" context is far more valuable than the fact that the ad units themselves can include video, which is why rich media banners do not perform as well or command the same prices.

Many publishers and ad networks that don't have large audiences for in-stream video content have tried to create video inventory by placing video ad units in display banner slots. This "in-banner" video looks and performs much more like rich media display advertising than like in-stream video.

Are people watching on purpose? Some publishers set videos to "autoplay," or begin running when the web page they are included in loads without any user interaction. Imagine if TV sets worked this way: when you walked into your living room to read a book your TV would turn on automatically. You would be oblivious to what was happening on the screen.

Advertisements that played when you sat down on your couch to watch the big game would be worth far more than those that played while you were reading a book in your easy chair.

In the online video world, those advertisements are called "user-initiated." They only play when a user has taken an action indicating they want to watch a video-either by hitting a "play" button, or by clicking on a URL that goes to a page that will obviously play a video (such as a link to a YouTube clip).

Is the video visible on the page?  In the display advertising world, advertisers are charged for an impression whenever a page containing an ad is loaded, even if the banner is located "below the fold" and a user never scrolls far enough down the see it. Thus "above the fold" display advertisements are far more desirable than below the fold units.

When it comes to video advertising, the original location of a video player on a page is far less important than the fact that a user has chosen to focus their attention on a video. If a user-initiated video player is located below the fold, it makes little difference, since it will never play an ad unless a user chooses to scroll to the player's location on the page and initiate playback. Ads appearing in an autoplay video player located below the fold, on the other hand, are almost worthless (they're the equivalent of the ad that plays in the living room when you're taking a nap).

So what should you pay for?

When it comes to online video, there is no such thing as remnant inventory, only rich media trying to be something it's not. This concept follows the belief that a true online video impression occurs only when someone has actually watched an ad in a video player.

If you insist on paying video CPMs only for impressions that meet this standard-that means in-stream ads running with user-initiated videos-you'll agree with the belief (and dramatically improve the performance of your campaigns).

1 comment about "Video Advertising Afterschool Session: Understanding Video Ad Impressions".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, January 27, 2010 at 3:13 p.m.

    An excellent post Jayant.

    To follow on the thread of auto-play below the fold, what about video playing on tabs that don't have the focus, or when a user has multiple browsers open and the video is served to the browser not in use? One has to hope that 'auto-refresh' on video doesn't plague us as well.

    The moral of the story is that data based on "files served" - be they content, banners or video - is merely the maxima of what could be seen - the reality from an audience perspective is that the views are a LOT lower.

    The industry does itself a great disservice by continuing to focus on what they are serving as opposed to what is being consumed. And the sad thing is that some agencies and many advertisers out there believe such data reflects reality and pay good money on that basis.

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