Roughly 179 million U.S. viewers watched more than 38 billion videos this past February, according to comScore, which should leave no surprise that video is an important part of every digital marketing plan. But as brands dedicate more budget to video, the pressure increases for agencies to show that money is spent efficiently while delivering maximum impact and a clear ROI. With the spotlight shining on video, it’s obvious that agencies need to own online video if they are truly going to deliver for brands. “Owning” video advertising isn’t limited to conceptualizing, producing and seeding a viral video. The goal of every agency is to drive brand lift and purchases, and that’s best accomplished through paid brand advertising campaigns. As the comScore numbers show, online video is massively popular with consumers, opening the door for a huge branding opportunity. There are scores of video-focused companies built around helping brands make ad buys. And as traditional agencies race to catch up with constantly evolving digital technology, it makes sense for many to use intermediaries to help a client run a video campaign. But third parties come with a cost, and in the agency world, additional costs and a lack of expertise in a growing channel can quickly become grounds for putting an account under review and taking it elsewhere. This year, with video accounting for a substantial portion of digital spend, it is more important than ever for agencies to develop true in-house expertise and strategic technology relationships to ensure they continue to add real value for their clients. Acquainting their in-house teams with video technology enables agencies to demonstrate higher value to clients, reduce their dependence on intermediaries and gain a far deeper insight into which portions of their clients campaign actually perform. Video is a complicated field, which is why so many third-party media sellers entered the game. The IAB has made a great effort to regulate video ad delivery through the VAST and VPAID, but publishers are still dealing with empty ad calls because of formatting issues. Even if a third party is to blame, the buck stops with the agency, and agencies that can’t follow through on a client’s wishes tend to lose accounts quickly. That’s why it’s crucial for agencies to develop a robust video strategy and directly engage technologies such as third-party ad-serving, audience targeting and verification. Consider what might happen if agencies don’t own the technological components necessary for video campaigns. Real-time bidding for ad buying essentially tripled last year, and will continue to grow this year. Trading desks are becoming a bigger part of the display landscape, and rest assured that video is already on their radar. VivaKi’s Audience On Demand and WPP’s combination of Xaxis and the Media Innovation Group will likely control growing portions of video budget by the end of this year, putting far more pressure on traditional ad networks to evolve their business models. For many ad networks, this will mean going client-direct, and cutting out agencies that have failed to demonstrate true mastery of technology. Of course, agencies shouldn’t all be expected to develop their own tools to compete with cutting-edge technology companies. They need only to reach a new level of sophistication and expertise that helps them execute their video buying, optimization and measurement. It’s entirely possible for agencies to buy video technology that helps them manage, deliver and report on direct-sold video inventory. Going forward, it’s critical that agencies deliver targeted campaigns with a greater understanding of what works. Whether it’s building their own technology or licensing a piece, agencies need to be key stakeholders in online video, from production to serving to analytics. Failure to do so is tantamount to simply giving business away.