Outstream Ads Can Solve The Premium Video Ad Unit Shortage

On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Dario Diament, vice president of product and strategy at Headway.

Video advertising has become the marketer’s top choice for reaching and engaging consumers, with pre-roll ad units being the most favored format. But as anyone who has tried to launch a pre-roll ad campaign at scale knows all too well, the pool of available pre-roll inventory can’t keep up with advertiser demand.

To be sure, publishers are keen to meet the demands of advertisers and have responded by creating as much pre-roll inventory as they possibly can. But despite their heroic measures, publishers have needed to embark on new sources to create ample supplies, such as inserting video units into traditional banners.

But are in-banner video ads the right solution? True, they offer high viewability rates and respectable play times, but they come with certain challenges.

To begin, a video ad that plays automatically in a 300×250 banner will be viewable if it appears above the fold, but it isn’t guaranteed to get a consumer’s attention. The longer playtimes could be due to the time it takes for the user to find the X that stops it. In worst-case scenarios, in-banner videos, particularly those with autoplay, may annoy the consumer, consequentially leading to a poor brand experience for both the advertiser and publisher.

This also comes at a time when the quality of video ads keeps getting better. Brands are making significant investments in their creatives, with ads that tell compelling, inspiring and often hilarious stories. We know these creatives delight the consumer by the sheer number of times they’re shared in social media and viewed on YouTube. This is phenomenal, given the growing number of ad blockers installed.

That’s why I think publishers and their tech partners must do more to help advertisers show their video ads as the valuable content assets that they are. To do that, we need to consider how and why consumers engage with content and design ad units that respond to that behavior.

For instance, when people go online they’re almost always on a quest – for information, entertainment or to fulfill a specific need. Consumers respond to many different stimuli and messages, including ads, and they respond most positively when they’re in control. This is why I’m very intrigued with outstream video ad units, which appear within the content itself and are designed to eliminate interruptions.

This last point is crucial. Outstream ads tap into the consumer’s current online quest by giving the consumer complete control over if and when to view it. The video ads are located within the content of an article and revealed as users scroll through the page. If the ads pique the consumers’ interest, they simply hover over them, causing the units to expand and play the videos. Perhaps view rates won’t be as high as they are with pre-roll, where the user has no choice but to sit through an ad, or in-banner videos, but one can easily argue that every view is more valuable.

But what happens if every publisher opens the floodgates, offering the ad unit on their pages? Will consumers learn to ignore them, as they have done with other ad formats?

I actually believe quite the opposite will happen. New inventory will mean additional opportunities for advertisers to achieve efficiency with their video distribution and incent them to invest more in the channel. For agencies, it will mean that all that work already invested in pre-roll ads can be redeployed in scroller ad placements, conveniently executed the same as any other programmatic video buy. What’s really exciting is the freedom marketers will have with the creatives. For instance, they can include vertical versions of their ad or even apply haptic effects on the experience.

In the end, this approach also shows respect for the investments the advertiser makes in creating great video content, and it respects the motives that drove the consumer online to begin with. And not for nothing, these units earn higher CPMs for publishers, making them a win for everyone.

Follow Headway Digital (@HeadwayDigital) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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  1. Am I reading this correctly? In banner videos having a high viewability? Establishing that as point of reference is just…wrong. I would very much love to see a marketer or agency saying a 300×250 in banner video actually helped them gain viewability.

  2. Alex, thanks for the insight on the scroll video placements. I think the answer to this problem for advertisers and publishers rests within one of the points you made. Most online activity is to resolve a query, and as such, we will most likely see more video responses to those queries, with ads inserted into the videos. The two will marry, to make the experience seamless, painless, and more accepted by the viewer.