Bad Ads Spoil Premium Content. But That's Fixable

Forrester’s June 2015 study “Solving the Digital Video Advertising’s Premium Dilemma” does a good job at outlining the issues. As the study points out, advertisers and agencies want more transparency and better standards on viewability and measurement so they know they are getting the audience and views they paid forand they are willing to pay a premium for it.

But what’s missing from the report is the realization that better delivery assurances alone won’t make more premium inventory magically appear. Publishers restrict supply to protect their audiences from bad ad experiences. In my own conversations with publishers, this is the real issue—terrible ad creative quality that is chasing viewers from their site.

A bad ad, even if well targeted, is a lost opportunity, or worse, a lost visitor.

The industry has caught up to the fact that sight, sound and motion are the most impactful and effective means for a brand to connect with consumers. Video will continue to grow as a result, but CPMs and production costs are much higher for video.

And just because you produce a video doesn’t mean it’s any good. Many digital video campaigns seem to have forgotten the most important rule of advertising starts with “Right Message!”

Better ad delivery won’t solve the premium shortage. Context won’t solve it. Targeting won’t solve it. Improving ad creative quality will.
In fact, improving creative quality floats all boats in the ecosystem:  Publishers are happy preserving or even enhancing user experience on their site with high-quality creative experiences. Advertisers are happy because performance is better, and their ad content has value. And, of course, viewers are happy because they aren’t exposed to poor advertising and a bad user experience.

Facebook was one of the first to stand up and say that there is a cost to showing viewers terrible ads when they launched their premium auto-play video units. Not only a cost to the advertiser, but to Facebook.

The cost of potentially losing viewers is high—and one that is often unaccounted for. Publishers will make more premium inventory supply available when the quality of the ad creative improves.

But how do you ensure creative is good? It needs to be measured.

Adopting an independent creative measurement standard in programmatic video ad systems will achieve this.

One of the findings of the Forrester study was Advertisers, agencies, and media companies must build an accountable, transparent video ad market.”

If you want more premium inventory, make advertisers accountable and transparent about the quality of their creative in addition to the publishers’ ad delivery metrics. You can’t just have transparency on one side of the equation for the system to work.

That’s the solution.  And, the good news is that these creative quality metrics exist today and can be applied to every ad in the ecosystem, with robust norms and competitive context. Objective and impartial creative metrics that not only assess the quality of the ad once it’s viewed, but also predict completed views after only a few seconds.  

Metrics that can predict viral sharing. Metrics that can prove the value that great creative brings to the ecosystem, and have them available and used by both buyers and sellers. These metrics exist today; they just need continued adoption.

That will come when all parties realize that they can make more money with higher quality ads. As the study points out, media companies and publishers are interested in video because of higher CPMs, but it implies that these are automatic. They are not.

Video CPMs will only stabilize if the quality of the ad is worth their viewers’ attention. The creative needs to deliver. When it does, everybody wins. But just assuming CPMs will remain high while the user experience is poor is a myth. High CPMs are earned by both audience quality and by ad quality.

Technology will continue to improve how video gets delivered, but technology alone can’t solve how good the creative is. And it’s simple economics that more bad ads will just put downward CPM pressure, as experience has shown us for display.

The lack of premium inventory is a by-product of treating ad creative as a commodity, which it is not. So why do our current programmatic tools treat all impressions as if they are the same?

Creative quality measurement for video ads at scale is coming, with several pilots underway as we speak. These are demonstrating that measuring ad quality unleashes value for the ecosystem. Using these metrics will improve the overall ad quality.

When advertisers match the quality of the premium inventory with high-quality creative, publishers will unleash more valuable inventory into the system.

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