LiveRail, which counts the primetime TV digital units at CBS Interactive, Major League Baseball and A&E networks as customers, has debuted a product that supports the sale of such ad pods as slices of real-time bidded inventory.
The company's new "pod-management" solution promises to create an experience similar to TV, where the same ad will not show up repeatedly in the same commercial break and that rival brands will not bump up against each other within a session.
"We're seeing more broadcast clients starting to deploy programmatic sales," said LiveRail CEO Mark Trefgarne. "As a result, more long-form content is coming into the market, along with the opportunity to have breaks with more than one ad. That also brings with it a certain amount of complexity. That's what we're working to address and simplify."
Among the questions that a video publisher might face is what to do with those two minutes of online ads. Is it better to fill it with eight 15-second ads or four 30-second ads? By putting out those various combinations for RTB, publishers can get an immediate answer of how to structure and slice their online inventory, Trefgarne said.
In a sense, the move reflects the need for companies to develop a clear strategy for handling mid-roll ads. For the most part, mid-roll ads are generally repeats of the pre-roll a consumer saw, something that tends to draw more annoyance than engagement. The problem up to now is that there wasn't much interest from buyers in mid-roll. But the numbers are starting to show some growth there.
LiveRail pointed to research claiming that mid-roll video ads were the most engaging ad format, achieving completion rates of 87% -- about 30% higher than pre-rolls.
Separately, video ad-management provider FreeWheel's Q2 ad report found that long-form ad loads for "Linear+Digital" rose 12% over the same period the year before. In comparison, mid- and short-form ad loads stayed flat. Despite the increased interest in long-form ads and expanding digital video ad pods to match linear, comScore research shows that online still has a long way to go in catching up to TV.
When it comes to the share of ad time in a given hour of video viewing, TV's share is 23.2%, while long-form-video (which comScore calls "premium") is 10.3%; short-form video represents a mere 1.5% when looking at the portion of ad time it captures in a collective hour of views.
The growth of long-form video and the greater tolerance for larger ad loads is the result of cable and broadcast networks' embrace of "TV Everywhere."
"With video consumption up across devices, brands and agencies continue to look for the most innovative, engaging ways to reach consumers," said David Shapiro, VP of business development for DataXu. "Ad pods offer the potential for more inventory available programmatically and new, better venues for brands to reach the right audience, at the right time."
Buyers are giving more thought to the notion of the "right time" within the small space of a mid-roll ad pod, Trefgarne said. At the moment, the company is still in talks with its publisher clients about the recognition of the varying levels of value for video ad slots during a break.
"We're talking a lot about 'position targeting,' where you only want certain buyers to be exposed to the last slot in a pod because that's the most engaging," Trefgarne said. "And the easy ability to set price floors for those slots will be attractive to publishers as they realize the demand for different slices of their mid-roll inventory. We fully expect all of our clients to be using this sort of tool in the near future."
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