Washington Post Enters Ad Tech With FlexPlay Video Product

WaPo ad techThe Washington Post on Tuesday released a video product called FlexPlay that loads videos faster in diverse environments and customizes them to extract more engagement.

Advertisers can use FlexPlay for video ads that run on the Post’s website, as well as those that run offsite, in exchange for a premium on the CPM. The idea is to solve for a better user experience by enabling video content like pre-roll to keep up with different video styles, such as vertical, in-feed and mobile.

“Many consumers skip videos after seven seconds or they turn the volume off,” said Jarrod Dicker, director of ad product and engineering for the Post. “With this technology, we can understand consumer behavior and the different options to deliver the best experience, which will help pioneer the next evolution of advertising.”

The solution is a nod to both ad tech and creative collaboration, according to Dicker, who previously helped design the Huffington Post’s native ad experience. He joined The Washington Post a few months ago to create ad products for use there and elsewhere.

“Especially since Jeff Bezos bought the Post, we want to become an ad tech company,” he said. That means designing proprietary ad products instead of relying on third parties to develop them.

The Post encodes the videos using FlexPlay’s ad tech component. The first five to 10 seconds of video are turned into GIF and MP4 formats for faster loads, especially on mobile. FlexPlay can also add text for a muted video solution and encode it to load more quickly, and can add features to encourage sharing.

The creative collaboration piece is the “white glove” part, Dicker said. The Washington Post will take a 30-second pre-roll spot and cut it down to a seven-second vertical video format that could appear on the mobile device of a Post reader or offsite on Snapchat. It will repeat the process for other video formats, creating multiple versions of each ad designed for each experience.

The publisher will use its engagement data to make editing suggestions, such as the optimal video length for completions.

“I don’t think publishers are thinking about how to help the advertiser by adjusting what they’re doing,” Dicker said. “The mentality is that the advertiser wants to do it how they want to do it. We hope we can optimize what the agencies are doing and work collaboratively with them.”

The Post just started pitching the product to advertisers, so it doesn’t have any launch partners. Dicker expects that advertisers with rapidly expanding video advertising budgets will want to experiment with FlexPlay because of its promise to improve ad performance and engagement.


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