Commentary

The Next Challenge: Technical Chaos Stalls Digital Video Advertising

All of us are watching network and prosumer Internet video consumption explode on the Web. Yet, despite collaboration among many members of the media ecosystem and the Internet Advertising Bureau to create a comprehensive set of guidelines and standards for in-video advertising and make the promise of broadband-delivered and interactive video a reality, every publisher still has its own video player implementation. On top of that, there's a variety of downloaded players that support both streaming content and locally played content.

This situation is creating "technical chaos" -- that is, a different set of implementation requirements among video publishers to accept ad formats and media buys. Media buyers and video publishers need to develop a unified approach, just as television once did -- eliminating technical chaos with standards for ad delivery, insertion, playout and video player control -- in order to achieve ad buying scale to make Internet video a sound business,

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Not only did the television model eliminate all technical chaos in advertising, but television's in-video playout and control standards are so successfully abstracted from media buyers and video publishers that they are taken for granted. Television standards summarized: "pause video at frame; play ad spot at frame for specified duration; restart video at frame." Very few of us are aware of these standards, and that's the entire point. Television ad buying is an easy decision, as ad integration is never even considered by buyers and sellers. There is no technical chaos; it just works.

On the Internet, video publishers want higher CPMs and more value for their content. The viewers are coming; the CPMs are there; and media buyers and their creative groups have the capabilities and desire to craft the most engaging experiences possible. But for Internet-distributed video to become a successful business, our industry first needs to take steps to flush out and develop standards for ad delivery, insertion, playout and video player control. With standards in place, media buyers and their creative teams can drive ads that not only engage consumers but also scale to work across multiple publishers and distribution points. That's when we will have a successful business!

So what steps can media buyers and video publishers take to ensure the groundwork is laid for unification of ad delivery, insertion, playout and video player control so ad buys can scale? Our thoughts include:

  • While the IAB is taking a great first step in developing standards, the online video advertising industry is so nascent that we really need a consortium similar to the group formed by television, The Society of Cable and Television Engineers (SCTE).

  • This consortium should be made up of the largest stakeholders -- technology companies, publishers and media buyers -- who have the most to gain by unified ad delivery, insertion, playout and video player control standards.

  • The consortium needs to look at today's technical capabilities and the future capabilities of digital video and what they mean for advertising, branding, commerce, engagement, and consumer interaction opportunities when creating standards.

  • After standards are created, the consortium should promote them and lead utilization by those implementing video players, publishing video inventory and making media buys. The consortium should also develop ongoing efficacy projects that analyze opportunities in digital video advertising so standards can be expanded as our industry progresses.

    All of us realize Internet-delivered digital video allows for more advertising engagement and consumer satisfaction than television. Ad avails are unlimited and ad formats will continue to evolve as the combination of software tools and creativity drive innovation for new and more captivating ad experiences. But if we don't get ahead of the technical chaos issue we will drown, and the efficiencies, accessibility and scalability of the Internet advertising ecosystem will be unrealized.

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