Meeting In the Middle

There's an inventory drought! There's no inventory! It's too hard to get enough inventory in the long tail! I don't want that inventory!  It's enough to drive any media planner back to running static gifs.

"There's no question there's a lot more inventory out there," Yahoo's Chief Sales Officer, Wenda Harris Millard, told a UBS global media conference in December. "And since the explosion of user-generated content, there's a lot of inventory."

So which is it? Fortunately for media planners, Millard is correct. There is a lot of inventory available. However, we all face the same challenge of finding "viable" video inventory for our media plans -- not just volume, but the type of video content that we want our brands associated with.  Even more fortunate for media planners, this isn't a new problem.

Today, brands want reassurances that their ads won't run next to questionable content, no matter how it may be targeted.  Unmonitored user-generated content offers low-cost, low-value inventory, but presents a higher level of risk to media buyers.  When bottom dollar CPC is the goal, a blind ROS buy makes a lot of sense. But for brand-oriented marketers seeking more, delivering high-quality impressions is a top priority.

Just below the household names like Yahoo, ESPN, iVillage and CNN, and delivering significantly more traffic than Joe's Blog, lie the publishers that make up the "mid tail."

The mid-tail publishers represent the sweet spot for advertisers trying to squeeze every last penny out of their ROI. They deliver high quality, contextually relevant content without the marked up CPMs of premium, and often oversold, publishers and channels. The simple economics of supply and demand can push the CPMs of the most recognizable and sought-after video channels out of the reach of ROI-driven marketers. However, the mid-tail provides reputable brand-name content without the luxury-brand price tag.  

For years, ad networks have done the heavy lifting for media planners -- finding massive amounts of inventory, categorizing it into channels, and making it readily available to buyers on a grand scale. But today's ad networks are no longer clearinghouses for remnant inventory. The top networks have developed into specialized, strategic partners bringing expertise and consultative services to their clients, who are continually faced with one obstacle or another. 

In fact, one of the most important functions an ad network (or rep firm) can perform for a brand is finding and securing the best possible content to associate their ads with. Even more so when it comes to rummaging through the sea of video content flooding the Web daily.

As media planners and buyers already know, the new breed of premium, specialized ad networks have been doing their homework. These networks understand the challenges facing marketers and are finding solutions -- and inventory -- for them. 

Beyond viral and user-generated video, there is an explosion of professionally produced content appearing daily on an equally impressive number of broadband video channels. Sites like Ruckus and ManiaTV offer vast amounts of video without the premium label and without being overrun with user-generated silliness.  Ripe.TV offers sports, music and beautiful women, perfect for extending your "Men 18-34" buy. LX.TV covers food, nightlife, style, health and other channels targeting the uber-hip, mostly in Vegas, New York and Los Angeles, while Boston.TV does the same for...  Boston.  How-to sites, like ExpoTV, VideoJug and ExpertVillage, have videos that explain practically anything you'd need to know. How many of these sites are part of your day-to-day discussion of media buys?

As marketers struggle to implement their video strategies, whether they include viral, syndication, podcasting, or any other means of leveraging video, planners and buyers should do what they've always done in a pinch: turn to the experts for help. They've helped you with your gifs. They've helped you with your rich media. And they'll help you get the most out of the burgeoning new medium of video advertising.

In an interview with the Associated Press discussing the wide range of video available on the web, Jupiter analyst Joe Laszlo said it best: "In the middle is where things get interesting."




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