Videology Takes 'Cartesian' Approach To TV/Online Convergence

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Scott Ferber, CEO, Videology 2013The time when the blanket label "video advertising" will replace references to TV, PC, mobile, or tablet ads is still a long way off, but a new marketplace offering from Videology promises to advance that cause by letting buyers and sellers unify guaranteed and non-reserved ad deals.

Dubbed "Descartes," the system is named for the inventor of analytic geometry. But the French philosopher is probably better known for his existential phrase "I think, therefore I am" and certainly, Videology CEO Scott Ferber believes that getting buyers to think about programmatic tools for TV buying will make convergence more of a reality.

"On most systems, buyers have to choose between using one technology solution for branding and another one for direct response, while using multiple programs to buy on one device or another," Ferber said. "If I'm running a grocery store, does it make sense to have a separate check out line for bread and milk? No, it doesn't, but that's how digital advertising is still sold."

Descartes lets users access Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings and comScore Validated Campaign Essentials as a basis for audience and demographic targeting. Clients can also use the system to build custom reports.

Cheryl Stump, director, AOD Video of Publicis' VivaKi, has tried Descartes and so far likes what she has seen. She praised its "more seamless workflow" of both guaranteed and dynamic inventory sources into one platform. Stump also was impressed by the ability to better control audience overlap and frequency of messaging for different campaigns.

"While standardization of audience measurement and tracking on emerging screens are still barriers to advertisers comfortably spending more ad dollars on video, Videology has taken a major step in the direction of an ideal video ad buying world, where there is a means to buying across all screens and sources of inventory within a single platform," Stump said in an email.

Mary Shirley,VP, Digital Activation for independent media buyer Horizon Media, also gives Videology high marks for creating what appears to be a more integrated system for reserved and non-reserved buys, though she remains unsure about how far its targeting capabilities go.

She said Videology's new unified dashboard sounds interesting for buyers since it can help with planning forecasts, monitoring campaigns and reporting on effectiveness.

"All networks/exchanges serve up their targeting capabilities to best hit the audiences," Shirley said. "Videology in particular has positioned their targeting approach as unique in the market for some time. I’ve liked the idea of how they use multiple sources of data to target audiences, but I haven’t pressure tested how accurate their targeting is versus other approaches."

But Shirley wonders if Videology's unified system is window dressing. For example, just this month TubeMogul released its new digital GRP product. Horizon has been monitoring and buying on a demo guarantee/GRP basis in the RTB space for the last year, mostly with Adap.tv, who Shirley said "has been willing to take on the risk of selling this way."

"Ad networks are confident enough now in how they’ve refined their targeting capabilities so that there’s less risk for them to undertake these types of [GRP-based] buys, and they’re more willing to tout the capability and sell more inventory on a demo basis," Shirley said. "The notion of share shift between TV and online is hotter than ever, although it feels like we’ve been talking about it forever. Plus, the timing of the announcement is key since money is moving—either in sync with TV upfronts or immediately after upfronts are closing—both approaches seem popular with brands that do upfront digital planning."

Since the release of Nielsen's OCR and comScore's VCE last year, there has been more focus on aligning TV and video buys by incorporating GRPs for online video, Shirley noted. Products like Nielsen's cross-platform XCR tool take planning a step further to better understand segments of audiences under-reached by TV. But OCR and VCE have presented some planning challenges for publishers and especially networks/exchanges, since the tools are post-verification.

Ari Bluman, chief digital investment officer at WPP's GroupM, also said that he hopes to see more seamless buying, planning and reporting tools for cross-platform video of the kind offered by Videology. In order to see greater convergence from TV to online, viewability is one of the bigger issues for ad tech companies to address.

"Anything that eases the operational obstacles around reporting, like Descartes seems to do, will help advance convergence," Bluman said. "Right now, greater insight on viewability and verification will do miraculous things for the business, particularly in cutting down on phantom impressions. The erroneous research causes major complications."

This is an interesting time for the video ad space, as the rising tide of video ad spending continues to promote large investment from venture capitalists. Videology completed a $60 million funding round in May, while video demand side platform TubeMogul raised $10 million that same month. Meanwhile, video ad network Tremor Video has gone public, video cross-platform specialist YuMe is next in line, and two other major video ad marketplace operators -- Adap.tv and BrightRoll  --are considered likely IPO candidates.

In its bid to stand out from the crowd, YuMe unveiled its multi-screen Household Targeting tool with client Hyundai this week. The targeting product promises to deliver custom video ads across devices to members of single household through YuMe’s Connected Audience Network, which claims a reach of more than 147 million viewers in the US.

So as video ad tech companies race to gain greater share of the TV and online pie, expect to hear more promises of simplicity around reporting and ad delivery in the months to come. Media agencies, in particular, will be asked to test drive new features that promise to deliver programmatic and brand awareness tools to all screens before the fall primetime season gets underway.

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