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The Year YouTube Courted Brands

Tara LevyGoogle spent the year branding YouTube as the de facto video partner for brand advertisers.

2014 was certainly active for Google’s video properties. Its ads and commerce chief, Susan Wojcicki, took the reins at YouTube as senior vice president, Google packaged the top 5% performing YouTube videos for brand buys in a program called Google Preferred and it rolled out Partner Select, a premium video marketplace.

Both premium video inventory and programmatic technology are working for YouTube. In comScore’s November rankings for desktop online video, Google Sites continued to top the list with 162.2 million unique video viewers.

But if 2014 was the year Google invested in creator content and brand advertiser tools, 2015 could be the year YouTube works to defend its position. Competitors from Facebook to new web video service Vessel are pushing to attract new video content and YouTube stars, respectively.

AdExchanger spoke with Tara Walpert Levy, managing director of global ads marketing at Google and YouTube, the former president of linear TV supply-side platform Visible World, about the road ahead.


21st Century Fox To Acquire Video Ad Platform True[X] For $200M

21truexChristmas came early for digital video ad platform true[X].

The ad platform, which serves both advertisers and publishers, revealed Wednesday that News Corp. spinoff 21st Century Fox intends to acquire it. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, The Wall Street Journal pegged that figure at about $200 million. (Read the release).

This acquisition indicates 21st Century Fox has realized the traditional ad model (17 minutes of ads per hour) won't translate to streaming or video-on-demand environments, where content isn't consumed in real time, said Jim Nail, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

The deal comes on the heels of other recent video ad acquisitions, such as German media conglomerate RTL Group's summer purchase of video sell-side platform SpotXchange and Yahoo's recent purchase of BrightRoll.

But Nail said the motivations behind the true[X] deal aren't the same.

"This is very different than some of the consolidation we've seen between ad exchanges and programmatic and technologies and data management platforms," he said.


Cuisinart Blends Static Videos With Calls To Action To Cook Up Engagement

CuisinartWhile views and completion rates are the most common video success metrics, there’s no way to guarantee a human audience.

A recent study by the Association of National Advertisers found 23% of video impressions are probably bogus. Thus, marketers are clamoring for engagement-based metrics, which is why kitchen appliances brand Cuisinart is installing calls to action in video placements.

Many brands still have a difficult time aligning their video strategy with the proper success metrics, said Jonathan Stefansky, CEO at interactive video platform Viewbix, which is working with Cuisinart.

“Brands usually say they want to drive people in-store or drive more app downloads, but when we ask how they use video to support it, they usually just say ‘pre-roll,’” said Stefansky. “There’s really no alignment between the content and the actions they want to drive.”

Cuisinart has video assets between 15 seconds to 2.5 minutes, mainly drawing from TV ad creative, said Stephen Plotsker, chief operating officer for Cuisinart’s agency, BPS Digital Media.

BPS used Viewbix to add rich media and interactive elements directly within the video container. For Cuisinart, this entailed calls to action designed to increase conversions in other channels.


Facebook Outlines Its Video Aspirations

FBvidIs a Facebook video impression worth the same as in video-on-demand?

This was one of many questions posed to YouTube and Facebook reps during Tuesday’s TV Of Tomorrow Show in New York.

Patrick Harris, Facebook’s director of global agency development, argued that “the CMOs we serve are not thinking about the value of specific impressions. They’re thinking about branding and sales lift and they’re moving from channels to audiences and trying to do it with comparable currencies.”

Ultimately, how can Facebook – or any other video provider, for that matter – compare impressions without standard metrics across digital and connected TV?

Harris conceded that while Facebook is working with the Media Rating Council (MRC), it’s still facing difficulties defining a cross-platform video measurement standard.

Facebook says ‘No Thanks’ to content development

Unlike Amazon, AOL and YouTube – which are all developing original programming, Harris insists “Facebook wants to be a friend to content creators.”


TubeMogul Dives Into Linear With 'PTV' Offering

TubeWOProgrammatic television isn’t yet a reality, but integrations between a number of linear TV inventory providers and the video demand-side platform TubeMogul may help move that needle.

On Thursday, TubeMogul rolled out Programmatic TV (PTV), a software-buying system designed to streamline the complex TV-buying process.

PTV hooks into linear supply-side platforms AudienceXpress, clypd, FreeWheel, place media, Videa and WideOrbit. TubeMogul will serve as WideOrbit's exclusive buy-side technology partner. PTV is available in platform self-serve or managed-services models.

These deals extend TubeMogul’s access to other inventory sources, following previous deals with AudienceXpress and Comcast’s FreeWheel.

Thirty campaigns run through the PTV platform from brands and agencies such as 3M, Diageo, Quiznos, Allstate, Dell , Motorola, and Gildan USA. In these initial campaigns, marketers had access to 80 networks and 35% of impressions ran during prime time, the company claimed.

“We aligned this set of advertisers and assembled test budgets in order to build this product and make these integrations happen,” said Brett Wilson, TubeMogul CEO. “This is programmatic cross-screen buying, not just TV.”

The WideOrbit connection gives TubeMogul access to about 75% of local television market inventory. WideOrbit develops a number of platforms, including WO Traffic, a system used by networks like FOX, NBC, and ABC to manage revenue, billing, orders, and ad trafficking.

TubeMogul began in digital video and is expanding into linear TV, but WideOrbit is taking the opposite path – it began in TV and is bulking up on digital video and programmatic capabilities (it has a programmatic partnership with IPG’s MAGNA GLOBAL, for instance, and has recently acquired dynamic ad-insertion and yield-optimization companies Abacast and Admeta). WideOrbit’s TubeMogul deal will help it enable digital, linear, and programmatic buys from one platform.


Digital Media Players Encourage Users To View More Content And Cord Cut

digital media playersConsumers prefer digital media players like Roku, Chromecast and AppleTV over live TV, according to the GFK study “Digital Media Players 2014.” Nineteen percent of US households own digital media players.

These preferences are changing consumer behavior, not just through cord cutting but because people who use these services find new shows and increase their TV watching. That’s good news for buyers and sellers of connected TV advertising.

Twenty-one percent to 36% of digital media player owners said they find new content through their devices, with Roku users most inclined to find new content.

The only way consumers said they prefer to watch live TV over content on their devices is if those devices didn’t provide a great deal of content. For instance, consumers who own content-light Chromecast preferred live TV.

A third of digital media device owners reduced or eliminated their pay TV service. That said, TV certainly isn’t dead, especially for live events.

“A certain amount of households have these players, but it doesn’t mean they’re giving up TV completely. A good chunk are cutting back on their pay TV service, but they’re still going there for sports, or have a subscription to access network apps,” said David Tice, the senior VP at GFK who authored the study.

Tice said devices like Roku ultimately will integrate with smart TVs.

But even if these devices go away, “the long-term business focus of content creators and distributors should be on the end game – identifying, getting built into and nailing down monetization from the devices that will make DMPs [digital media players] redundant,” Tice’s report advised.

Right now, the content space is fragmented. Roku is the only provider to stream Amazon Instant Video, for example. (more…)

Hulu’s Peter Naylor On The Future Of Streaming Video

PeterNaylorAs more networks like HBO and WWE Network develop a la carte streaming services, competing streaming video or TV providers (and some e-commerce companies, for that matter) are pressed to develop good content that resonates with subscribers.

Hulu, which pulled in about $1 billion in revenue in 2013 and has over 6 million Hulu Plus members, airs current TV episodes and full series as well as a slate of its own content, called Originals. These shows include "The Awesomes," an animated show from Seth Meyers; "Behind The Mask," an Emmy-nominated show chronicling the lives of sports mascots; and "Deadbeat," a comedy produced in part by Arrested Development director Troy Miller.

Because Hulu is also supported by ads, it demonstrates that – contrary to conventional wisdom – advertisers can capitalize on time-shifted content and binge watching, often thought to be the death knell for live TV viewing.

“Just because content is time-shifted, it doesn’t mean the ad needs to be time-shifted,” said Peter Naylor, Hulu’s SVP of ad sales and chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) new digital video division. Services like Hulu simply need to develop advertising models that fit their environments – for instance, sequential messaging can be ideal for reaching out to binge-watchers.

Naylor spoke with AdExchanger about programmatic in connected TV, standards in digital video, and why cross-screen measurement remains a thorn in marketers’ sides.

AdExchanger: Where does the bulk of Hulu’s ad revenue come from?

PETER NAYLOR: Most of our revenue is the conventional 30s and 15s [pre-rolls] that we salt and pepper with digital mechanisms, like targeting with Nielsen or comScore or behavioral or geographic filters. When it comes to the content itself, we do sponsorships, branded integrations, co-presented executions.


Vidible Enters Fight Against Fraud

TimMahlmanOne hang-up premium publishers have with digital video – besides producing enough of content – is monetizing it, especially videos distributed off-network. One problem: blocking fraudulent traffic.

In that spirit, IDG, which owns GamePro, TechHive and PC World, also uses an anti-fraud solution called Flashlight, built by video content syndication platform Vidible in partnership with ad-verification specialist Integral Ad Science. Vidible released the solution Monday.

IDG, which worked with Vidible prior to Flashlight’s release, had tried to monetize video more efficiently.

Vidible enabled IDG to automate manual Media RSS feeds and streamline the content syndication process to various publishers, said Tim Mahlman, co-founder and president of Vidible. This lets IDG attach ads to content and perform reach extension.

Yet fraud is a publisher-wide problem, and it is especially rampant in video where CPMs are high.

“Fraud discredits all of us, driving down pricing and slow(ing) adoption,” said IDGTechNetwork CEO Pete Longo. “We built out our platform (and employ) a business intelligence team who spends a great deal of time analyzing where and how our ads appear, and looking at statistics to elicit patterns that may indicate fraud.”


GroupM’s Bologna On The Economics Of Addressable TV

MichaelBolognaAlthough addressable TV advertising commands an estimated $200 million-$300 million in spend compared to linear TV’s $70 billion annual ad market, according to some TV industry execs, it promises a targeted buy down to the household level either through a set-top box or other IP-enabled device.

However, the inherent challenges of addressable TV – which include both technological hurdles and unpredictable CPMs – make some advertisers hesitant to invest in it.

“In order for a household to become addressable, aka have the ability to insert a message to the individual set-top box, a number of things need to happen,” said Michael Bologna president of Modi Media, the advanced TV advertising unit of WPP media agency conglomerate GroupM. He estimates about a third of US households – or 42 million – enable the capability for dynamic ad insertion at the household level.

Enabling addressability means participating pay TV providers must install software in the set-top boxes. And while these installations make those 42 million households technically addressable, Bologna points out a big caveat: “That’s just the ability.”

Consequently, only 8% of advertisers have bought TV in an automated, programmatic fashion as opposed to the 84% who have utilized programmatic channels for display, according to eMarketer.

Bologna spoke with AdExchanger about the dynamics of the advanced TV buy.


Streaming Video Services Pile On, With Amazon Reportedly The Latest

BattleStreamAmazon’s rumored development of an ad-supported video-streaming service was resurrected Friday when the New York Post reported the ecommerce company’s launch of a “Netflix killer” is, indeed, nigh.

Although Amazon says it often experiments with new offers and experiences for customers, it has not announced plans for an ad-supported video-streaming service.

According to The Post’s sources, the service would be sold apart from Amazon Prime membership, which gives members access to “thousands” of free movies and TV shows on Fire TV, tablets and phones in addition to iOS devices and set-top boxes. Many have speculated that Amazon will roll out an ad-supported streaming option for video die hards who don't necessarily want the whole bag of perks associated with a Prime membership.

Amazon already offers free first episodes of select Prime Instant Video TV shows accompanied with ads via the applicably named “First Episode Free” feature (Geico has sponsored pre-roll in this instance), and there are display ads, which run on shorter game and movie trailers.

As Amazon inches closer to ad-supported streaming, some video players are going the other way. Three weeks ago YouTube CEO Susan Wocjicki revealed at the Code/Mobile conference (video) that YouTube is considering an ad-free, subscription offering.