The Digital Shift In Video: Making The Most Of An Imperfect Storm

steinberg-twc-sell-siderThe Sell-Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Jeremy Steinberg, senior vice president of digital ad sales for The Weather Company.

You know a big storm is brewing, but you’re not quite sure from which direction it will come or how it will impact you. This situation, to me, is a suitable analogy for the future of video.

Already, video dollars are quickly shifting to digital. Look no further than this year’s TV upfronts: Volume is down across the board. In the meantime, demand is way up in digital (based on just about every third-party research study, and confirmed anecdotally). But while there’s no doubt some of that TV money is going digital, it’s unclear where in digital it is going. If you’re like most digital-ad publishers, you’re not yet sure how you’re going to net out when all is said and done.

Why all the uncertainty? First of all, there’s a complete lack of consistency in what marketers want when it comes to digital video. They want Online Campaign Ratings and Validated Campaign Essentials guarantees, which are great because they bring TV metrics to the digital realm. But marketers are all over the map in terms of which measurement platform they’re choosing, and media companies haven’t yet come to an agreement about whether those competing metrics are even the correct currencies to trade in. And the list of inconsistent needs and desires is seemingly endless: dismissible ads, competitive separation guarantees, appropriate billable-impression definitions, annual CPM commitments, opt-out-of programming, fluidity of pricing and fourth-party inventory tracking.

At the same time, viewership is exploding while the definition of quality content is expanding and audience targeting is becoming more important than context and experience. All of this is putting intense pressure on price.

What’s a digital-ad publisher to do? Here are some directions for preparing for the imperfect storm:

1) Targeting: Premium publishers’ lack of targeting will continue to keep prices low as long as video-ad networks exist. To differentiate your offerings from bulk video buys, it’s imperative to push your product team and tech partners to help you better target your content to your target audiences

2) Measurement: With measurement, there’s a complete lack of consistency, so nobody knows where it’s going yet. But the train is leaving the station, so you’re going to have to hop on board and see where it takes you. I’d suggest working with both OCR and VCE, because it’s too risky to choose sides right now.

3) Dismissible Ads: I was initially skeptical of dismissible ads, but it now seems like they may be here to stay. Start testing them now so you can be ready if and when this trend becomes the new normal.

4) Programmatic: You may not like it, but you will need to be proficient at managing your video business through programmatic channels. If you think programmatic will skip video, you are mistaken. So start dabbling in it now, so you’ll be ready when marketing partners ask to participate.

5) Local: Find ways to capitalize on the huge local spot-TV market. That makes up a huge pool of dollars that is coming to digital. It will behoove you to be ready to capitalize on it.

6) Sponsorships: You already have great content, so find new ways to package it up into integrated sponsorships that will differentiate you from the larger plays.

7) Off-Network: Look for new distribution channels, especially in social, where you can put together an integrated sponsorship.

8) Fluidity: Even if you don’t have a TV network, I bet you will soon be offered TV rates. Be ready to say yes.

9) Scale: Growing to some scale is the key to solving some of your problems and enabling you to capture some of the influx coming to digital video. But remember that, without the above-mentioned capabilities, you will continue to see pressure on price.

Follow Jeremy Steinberg (@jeremysteinberg) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. Agree. Today’s video advertising is sold like display, not TV. Typical, audience-only programmatic-style buying leads to the wrong content. Simple solution … Follow broadcast advertising best practices. 1.) Start with content discovery (i.e. programs/videos that align with the ad message); 2.) Build a target list of URLs, down to the video-level (avoid domain-only buying, in TV you don’t buy the channel, you buy the program); 3.) Consider the price difference between buying a broad demo (that hits your target) vs. only buying the demo. You may be able to get additional reach for a total lower cost; 4.) Determine whether Nielsen OCR/comScore vCE metrics justify the price premium of the buy (i.e. higher cost of inventory to hit the requirements); 5.) Identify a performance target … even for brand advertising. Bottom line: Online video = Next generation broadcast.