Online Video Ads: Can't We All Just Get Along?

More than seven months have passed since the GoogTube deal gave online video advertising a jolt of credibility -- and still adoption lags. The space is in dire need of standards, which requires more willingness to cooperate and experiment among publishers, advertisers and vendors.

Online video advertising draws more attention than all forms of marketing combined. You can't argue with an advertising union that boasts the power of TV's "sight, sound, and motion" and search marketing's targeting and accountability. So, how can a space that demands 99% of the industry's attention draw less than 1% of ad budgets?

Many reasons account for the disparity -- not the least of which is Madison Avenue's skittishness to experiment more outside traditional media. But, much of the responsibility falls on us.

Publishers, networks, and technology vendors are doing a poor job facilitating this new media's transition. It's on us to reduce the costs and inefficiencies of the planning, buying, and trafficking of online video ads. We need common denominators for measurement, serving protocol, and creative formats.



By and large, online video standards will remain a moving target until the countless combinations of existing and emerging business models, delivery methods, and creative formats reveal significant evidence that supports a winning formula.

It's unrealistic to think that advertisers, publishers, and vendors will collectively agree on a formula that satisfies their individual agendas. Nonetheless, the opportunity in online video advertising is so great that it affords more than enough room for compromise.

Online media buyers must reach a consensus on the metrics that spell success -- valid impressions, CTRs, CPCs, interaction rates, abandonment rates, etc. Most vendors already have the technological capabilities to measure accountability in ways that shame traditional media measurement.

Stop wasting time looking for the Nirvana metric and leverage the information that is already accessible. Taking advantage of even the most fundamental online targeting and analytics can only substantiate the case for moving TV budgets online.

Publishers are free to go it alone and more power to them if they have an audience that can demand one-off media buys. However, the fragmentation of the online audience coupled with the unpredictable liquidity of traffic patterns makes a compelling case for ad networks.

Premium publishers will always be able to sell premium inventory, but unless they plan to browbeat consumers with the same rotation of ads, they will have to employ frequency capping.

So, assuming they care about consumer experience, they are always going to be faced with a checks and balances nightmare of having too much or too little inventory. Publishers will need to work with networks if they want to offer a good user experience and maintain consistent inventory liquidation.

That said, the networks need to offer a variety of integration and ad serving options to meet the technological capabilities and requirements of individual publishers. Whether or not the technology toolbox can be simplified by a universally accepted serving protocol is up to groups like the IAB, whose members are working overtime to establish standards.

A standard for trafficking ads is by far the most important element to the business side of the space.

Hopefully vendors, publishers, and networks can quickly get on the same page just as they did in the early days of search marketing. The explosive success of search can be attributed to the implementation of XML feed standards that facilitated the creation of enormous reach, better relevance, and higher value for advertisers.

In terms of standardizing creative formats, we can undoubtedly do better than pre-roll, but it's readily available, easy to implement, and remains the best option when compared to subscription or paid download models.

For ad length, cut it down -- no one wants to watch a 30-second spot before a two-minute clip. For now, repurpose those expensive TV spots -- is the audience really any different? And use existing metrics found online to measure message interaction across as many publishers and networks as you see fit.

You don't have to be cavalier with your approach to discover what works, but marketers are going to miss the boat unless they take chances. A little initiative will go a long way in helping advertisers shape the online landscape.

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