Mobile Video Advertising Is Riding A High - But What About Brand Safety And Viewability?

Mobile video advertising has to be the hottest industry subject right now, so it's no surprise to see Instagram launching video ads with great fanfare and Channel 4 introducing its desktop ad units to mobile.

The latest IAB figures said it all. Mobile video advertising spend trebled year-on-year during the first half 2014. It has to be said that trebling to £63.9m underlines the modest beginnings, but even so, you can't ignore where ad budgets are flowing. 

The reason is pretty clear. Mobile video consumption has quadrupled over the past two years, according to research from Ooyala -- and as always, where people go, advertising follow.

The interesting part, however, is the difference between the channels. It's pretty intuitive, but four-fifths of video consumption on a desktop and 70% on a tablet is watching videos that last longer than ten minutes. On smartphones, long-form video accounts for half of video consumption. Put simply, people are using the appropriate device when they are catching up with television shows or watching longer-form videos. 

When people are catching up with a show or investing time in a long-form video, you can pretty much assume it is something they know they're going to enjoy on a channel they trust. This is very much the area Channel 4 is playing in as it rolls out four new types of video ad unit from desktop to mobile.

For me, the issues will come through the half of mobile video consumption devoted to short-form viewing -- i.e., the Instagram or Facebook type of autoplay right in your news feed. 

Just as with video in digital display, the big issues here are exactly what ISBA, which represent British advertisers, has been talking about for quite some time -- viewability and brand safety.

Will a video be deemed viewable if it remains in view for the required two seconds -- and will it be deemed viewed if it has been allowed to play, presumably with the sound off, by a person who is not actively navigating away?

These are major issues. No brand wants to appear in unsavoury surroundings -- and intuitively, you would have to suspect that this is more likely around places where people are watching short-form video, rather than long-form shows they know.

They also don't want to be short-changed, paying for adverts that are deemed viewable and viewed even when they have been actively ignored and most certainly not engaged with.

So I think we're going to see a typical digital story here, emphasized by the rush to be relevant in the busy Christmas shopping season. 

Ad budgets are going to rush in to mobile video before the really serious questions are given due consideration. 

How do I know my adverts were both viewable and viewed? How can I rest assured they were not served against unsavoury, unsuitable short-form video content that is definitely not where it should be seen?

The growth will be 2014's story, the questions, 2015's.

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