Pity the poor unicorns. These days, they're dragged metaphorically into blog posts to make a point -- just like those in the famous Cloisters tapestries.
I read with bemused interest Jason Burke's July 6 Video Insider, "Video Ad Exchanges Aren't A Silver Bullet." Burke attempted to make the case that buyers on exchanges are chasing "unicorns" -- bargains that don't exist. Exchanges may indeed have limitations, but let's keep it real. None of the points in his article are new or unique to exchanges. In fact, exchanges are eliminating "unicorns" by actually improving brand protection, transparency, ad units and standards for online video advertising.
Consider the following facts:
Exchanges are Advancing Brand Protection
All major video ad exchanges employ technology and use independent verification services to ensure a brand-safe environment for advertisers. In fact, exchanges are leading efforts to bring more clarity and accountability to how video is sold. Three major video ad exchanges (along with several video ad networks) recently participated in an IAB working group that identified guidelines for classifying and categorizing video inventory clearly. This is good news for video buyers and bad news for unicorns.
Exchanges Provide Greater Transparency
On this point, Burke nailed it. Smart video ad buyers are insisting on transparency before and after their video campaigns run. Exchanges enable buyers to determine the exact set of sites on which their ads are eligible to run. The best exchanges provide complete reporting on where ads actually ran, along with the relative performance for each. What's more, real-time bidding is enabling buyers to bid and pay for each impression on each site. Buyers on exchanges know what they're buying and pay just what it's worth.
Exchanges are Enabling Wider Adoption of Advanced Ad Units and Standards
Most video ad exchanges require direct integrations with publishers, and all support the IAB VAST/VPAID video standards. Any "communication breakdowns" are easily identified and can be rectified during the integration and testing process. As a result, exchanges are able to offer interactive video ad capabilities across an unparalleled amount of inventory. Most of all, by bringing massive amounts of supply and demand together, exchanges in themselves create a powerful force for standards adoption.
The rise of video ad exchanges marks an important maturation point in the video advertising industry. They're enabling new and scalable approaches to reaching audiences with powerful video messages. Burke and I can agree on one thing: exchanges won't replace networks. Networks will continue to play a critical role in the video advertising ecosystem by providing managed services for agencies and advertisers. In fact, networks comprise some of the largest buyers on video ad exchanges today. The transparency and efficiency exchanges provide benefit the entire video industry, meaning they won't be galloping off into the sunset anytime soon.