More On Tackling Video Click-to-Play vs. Auto-Play Pre-Roll Advertising

Two weeks ago I discussed the first five realities of video click-to-play vs. auto-play pre-roll advertising. Here come the next five:

Reality #6: It's all about ROI and Accountability

All marketing needs to back into some kind of return of investment (ROI): the campaign objective could be branding, traffic or sales.   Most likely, as in online display advertising,  the future evolution of video market pricing will see two separate markets for "filet mignon" and "burgers", which will be driven by the price of grades of "beef" (quality levels of video inventory, adjusted for targetability).  Sadly, thus far the markets have blurred with the clientele too often eating in the dark without knowing what it's eating.

The appeal to advertisers should be: "If you can pay the premium and want the highest grade of video ad inventory, by all means go for Click-to-Play Pre-Rolls.  But, if you desire a far lower cost, higher reach vehicle then you might consider Auto-Play videos."

It is not either/or, it is about creating a strategy that yields the most value, the biggest bang for the buck.

Reality #7: Push vs. Pull

It is important to stress that Auto-Play video is going to reach more people by "pushing" a marketer's message.  This offers a lot of value, although on a per-stream basis it definitely should not command the same rates as the Click-to-Play view that is "pulled" by the user resulting from actual viewer engagement.  In effect, one could argue that Click-to-Play video as a medium has it all backwards: demanding a Call to Action for the viewer before the content can even be viewed.

While "Pull" environments (like Click-to-Play and Ad Selector) do not guarantee attention by any means, most of us tune-out when a pre-roll ad precedes a video, prompting one to grab a beverage, find headsets or even check email in another browser.

However, if one is reading an article on Florence and sees a video profile of Florence alongside the article -- preceded by a relevant ad for Florence hotels -- we have marketing nirvana: highly valuable messaging.  It is hard to deny the power of contextual relevance. When audience and behavioral segmentation are added to contextual relevance, both "Push" and "Pull" approaches to less-than-premium video elevates the whole market. Certainly most publishers and networks, almost all of whom have difficulty creating video inventory, will benefit from this coming value-added capability.

Reality #8: Don't annoy the viewer, publisher or marketer

Taken to an extreme, we are not suggesting to place a video player below-the-fold with the sound off as this will not have much value.  Ads should be above-the-fold (or alongside the main content on a page, since above-the-fold placement risks ads disappearing when a viewer scrolls down below the horizontal navigation bar and leaderboard). 

We believe that automatic sound-on an Auto-Play video pre-roll turns off viewers and alienates publishers.  Further, we believe sound should be "on" in a Click-to-Play environment, but should be set in the "off" position (viewer-initiated) in an Auto-Play environment.

In fact, much the same way that online media professionals get nauseous when they see a TV ad repurposed for online, we get queasy seeing a TV-ad-repurposed-for Click-to-Play-Pre-Roll that is repurposed for Auto-Play-Pre-Roll. When reading an article and seeing a video ad on mute, most of us will be curious to learn more, but run audio automatically and you will likely turn us off. 

Running pre-roll video ads in-banner and on Auto-Play reduces goodwill between the viewer and the brand if the audio is automatically on.  As an advertiser you are inserting rich media without the user's expressed content, enabling audio automatically is set to backfire. 

When it comes to video ad pricing, the sweet spot for many may be between what:

-        a publisher commands for standard display, and

-        an advertiser will pay for the Click-to-Play Pre-Roll.

If a publisher offers a marketer video content in-banner, preceding it with a pre-roll ad in a sound-off environment on Auto-Play alongside contextually relevant areas and throwing in a companion 300x250, you will find demand.

In this scenario, pricing it at a premium to traditional display banners, but at a discount to the Click-to-Play Pre-Roll variety will find takers.  Ultimately, marketers are buying reach in this example.  Ideally, marketers are also buying Click-to-Play Pre-Rolls and judging the ROI on each.

The only reasonable solution in this example, as so many others, is total transparency and candor with the marketer and his agency.

Reality #9: Marketers and their agencies will spend in the short-term, but you cannot build a strong foundation for a new medium on the back of ignorance.

Clients appreciate and are generally aware of the benefits of this approach.  The click-through-rates are so different when a video pre-roll is run as Auto-Play (versus Click-To-Play) that they cannot possibly not know, right?  But, while some Chief Marketing Officers may spend all of their budget in one year to get no less spending money the following year, unless marketing objectives are reached, enhanced video ad spending at the rate of growth we all seek will be unattainable.

The problem occurs when some marketers are led to believe that they are getting Click-to-Play Pre-Rolls for single-digit CPMs when they are really getting Auto-Play pre-rolls (or, quite often, Auto-Play in-banners with no content following the video advertisement).

That's when we-as an industry-are falsely conditioning marketers feeding them hamburgers priced as filet mignon.

Reality #10: There is a real opportunity here for all video stakeholders.

The objective isn't to render the Auto-Play Pre-Roll obsolete, to the contrary, it is to encourage sellers and buyers to be more candid, transparent and careful as they price each accordingly, as the act of not differentiating Auto-Play views from Click-to-Play views renders true Click-to-Play views less valuable.  

A special thanks to both William Lederer, CEO of Kantar Video and James Conley for their feedback, contributions and insights.

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