What Video Learned From Display

I have two children. My daughter, age 12, looks at her 10-year-old brother and tells him he has it easy. "It’s easier for you," she tells him. "I have to do everything first and you can learn from me. Any mistake I make you can learn from."

"That’s rubbish," says my son. "Everybody thinks I’m just like you and I will do all the things you do. I want to be seen differently."

I give you this tale not as an insight into the inter-sibling sniping that occurs in Oakes Towers on a daily (alright, hourly) basis, but to illustrate the slightly difficult relationship between the video and display advertising worlds. At a recent roundtable I hosted, the CEO of Coull, Irfon Watkins told me something that I’m surprised I haven’t already picked up on. "The great thing about being in video is that we can learn from all the mistakes the display boys made. Understanding the value of content and indexing that content to express the value to advertising buyers is really important. I don’t think that was done very effectively with display. We have an opportunity with video as an industry to do a much better job." 

As we know, display was the first medium to fully embrace programmatic buying, and the direct-response orientation focused on driving conversions and ROI. But as the digital ecosystem evolved in scope and complexity and programmatic video began to emerge, marketers realised that the environment in which the ad appeared is as important to video as the call-to-action is to display. Concepts like site-level transparency, viewability and clarity in pricing have become more important because the end goal was fundamentally different; with video, the context is equally as important as the content. Thankfully, display paved the way and laid the groundwork for video to tackle these issues. 

I spoke with Nick Reid, UK MD of Tube Mogul, the video ad-buying platform, who told me, "although it's undeniable that video has benefited from more developed technologies and learned from some of display's growing pains, a large part of video's success in programmatic comes from a nuanced understanding of how automation can help brand marketers achieve their goals." The important part of that is "brand" marketers. As the industry wrestles with the hoary old topic of whether RTB works for a branding campaign, that’s never been an issue with video. And increasingly, with clever overlay technology such as that used by Coull, video can deliver direct response for advertisers as well. Lesson learned.

We also have to remember why video is naturally considered more "premium" than display, both in terms of viewer experience and inventory. Video ads use sight, sound and motion and are featured prominently in the same video player as the relevant content, rather than running passively on the side of the screen like display. Lesson learned.

The other thing that video learned is that you need to get your own house in order, or at least make the first steps to doing so. Video across many publishers is difficult because of the technical challenges: different ad servers, different SDKs in place, but I think the industry is doing a lot of good work with standardising video trading using VPAID and VAST formats. I’m also a big fan of the way that Tube Mogul organised a group of fellow video ad tech vendors including BrightRoll, Innovid, LiveRail and SpotXchange to support OpenVV (or Open VideoView), a viewability solution for in-stream video ads. Trying to sort your problems before others impose a solution on you or things get so bad that some lose faith in your industry seems to be a great idea. Another lesson learned -- and another reason why I expect video ads to go from strength to strength.

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