Every once in a while, when balking at new formats that might put off visitors, it is useful to remember that digital advertising is what keeps content on the internet free. It’s been a scant two decades since the first digital ads, and in the intervening twenty years digital advertising has been on a rocketing growth trajectory as more and more people have come online. PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts that by 2017 the worldwide market for digital advertising will reach $186 billion. Online ad spend long ago outstripped print budgets, and now it has also gone past TV spending. Every year seems to bring another shattered record, but it seems as if every dollar increase is accompanied by louder complaints by consumers that they don’t want to be targeted by advertisers.
We could understand this attitude better at the beginning of the internet, when the World Wide Web was the Wild Wild West and everyone involved was crying that “information wants to be free.” But that was when digital publishing was a miniscule part of publishing in general, and publishers thought that eyeballs alone would somehow bring revenue.
However, we are now into a generation that’s maturing without ever knowing a time without the internet, and that generation loves to watch videos, read, and play games on networked devices. In the coming generation, many household appliances and pieces of jewelry will also be networked, creating new potential advertising platforms. The public needs to be educated again about how publishing actually works and why the content it loves to consume can never be free unless it is supported by advertisers. This new generation, with its low tolerance for ads, has already caused many newspapers to go out of business altogether and others to convert full time jobs to piece work. Digital advertising still doesn’t command the rates that print and TV did, even as it becomes a larger and larger part of the budget. And yet, although addicted to real-time convenience, today’s consumers seem to be less and less tolerant of the industry that brings it to them.
In growing numbers they opt out of being tracked or targeted online and even employ ad blocking software, all in an effort to get away from the industry that delivers it largely free content.]
We like to think this is partly a problem of ignorance that can be overcome by education. But some publishers have begun to put up paywalls and others have gone to subscription services altogether. Neither of these solutions serves brands who are interested in drawing attention to their products in an increasingly noisy environment. And in the long run, neither of these serves a consumer who needs to know about new products and services, special offers, or service near her.
We need to spend more time defending the advertising ecosystem and reminding consumers they’re in a quid pro quo deal: free content means allow advertising.
2014 was the year Real Time Bidding truly took off. A subset of programmatic, RTB was met with suspicion on both sides of the ecosystem. Although at first advertisers were afraid of it, and publishers thought it would drive eCPMs through the floor, it turns out this hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite may be happening as targeting gets better and online ROI grows along with it. Publishers who know their audiences and use their audience data can offer it to eager advertisers at higher CPMs.
RTB is probably the biggest advance in online advertising in years, because it puts power in the hands of advertisers, the people who are paying the bills. However, it also helps publishers. Handled by people who know how to buy media, RTB can finally provide brands the answer to the question John Wanamaker first asked: “which of my advertising dollars is wasted?”
That’s because, for the first time, advertisers can buy individuals rather than buying audiences in bunches like grapes, according the Mike Smith, author of the new book “Targeted,” a primer of online advertising.
Smith points out that RTB radically changes the old audience aggregation paradigm. Advertisers can now decide which individuals suit them, and despite the fact that RTB means everything happens within split seconds, an advertiser still has the opportunity to choose individuals. In real time bidding, the advertisers make their own decisions, instead of relying on agencies or even networks. They can also choose how much to pay for each impression separately. In theory, this makes for a more transparent process.
Smith compares RTB to the music industry, in which it is no longer necessary to buy entire albums after iTunes made it possible to buy just a single cut out of an album. The aggregated audience is analogous to the advertiser’s play list. However, to create that play list takes time, and it takes the cooperation of both publishers and advertisers, who may have different data about the same customer. Most advertisers have lots of customer data, but they don’t often mine it properly. They began by outsourcing their data management, but increasingly they are taking data management in house and building their own DMPs, because with RTB they can use the viewing and shopping behavior of their own customers to determine their optimal audience.
Buying individual impressions rather than aggregated audiences is a massive shift.
The only remaining problem is how to buy them at scale, and that’s where a network like the ZEDO premium publisher network comes in. We can take an ad buy that comes in through our ZINCbyZEDO high impact formats division and produce scale for the advertiser through our network. We can offer advertisers news, sports, travel, and other custom segments as we continue to grow our publisher network. And we can do this through a private exchange, which is an even more desirable way to buy.
We’re predicting a profitable year for our premium publishers as our ZINC team hits the ground running on the advertiser side.
While ad tech companies themselves are still merging and their IPOS may not be doing too well, the industry they enable is doing just fine. PwC US has just released its latest half year study of Internet ad revenues, an they’ve hit yet another new high, now at $23.1 billion. That’s up 15% from last year’s first half., which was $20.1 billion. IAB released the study at the beginning of Q4, traditionally a strong time for advertising revenues. That means Q4 will probably beat Q2’s $11.7 billion.
Realistically, there’s nowhere to go but up, because mobile revenues alone have increased 76%, and they’re just beginning to take off. They’re at $5.3 billion now, and that’s before advertisers really develop mobile strategies and figure out how to measure their results. Another promising sign is the recent shift of TV dollars to video. Right now, that shift looks like a cross-channel or cross-platform strategy, but it will change further as large networks unbundle from the cable providers and become apps, with their own strategies for attracting those elusive cord-cutters. Or in the case of Millennials, people who never even had a cord to cut.
So we predict that 2015 will be the year of “Mobile. Digital. Video.”
And a recent AOL Platforms study seems to agree with us, citing the following trends:
- VIDEO AD GROWTH IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE.
Advertising spending on online video increased for the 5th consecutive year, and buyers claim spending will grow across the board in 2015. Publishers are reaping the benefits of diversified selling channels, inclusive of programmatic.
- DRAMATIC SPENDING SHIFTS FUEL THE DIGITAL VIDEO REVOLUTION.
Agencies and brands are increasingly tapping into broadcast and cable TV budgets to fund their digital video ad spending.
- PROGRAMMATIC IS OVERTAKING PUBLISHER-DIRECT BUYS.
Brands and agencies are moving away from buying direct from publishers and ad networks, in favor of buying through exchanges and DSPs. With 60 percent of their budgets going to programmatic channels, brand advertisers are most aggressive with their spend reallocation.
- DATA-DRIVEN, PROGRAMMATIC TV HAS ARRIVED.
Video buyers are already running data-driven TV campaigns, evidenced by the 40 percent of brands adopting the practice. Brand budgets for programmatic TV buying are predominantly coming from traditional TV spending, not from digital or incremental spending.
- VIEWABILITY VEXES BOTH BUYERS AND PUBLISHERS.
Brand buyers and sellers cited ad viewability as the most problematic issue for them, compared to verification/placement and bot fraud, which ranked lower. Only 25 percent said they are up to speed on these issues, indicating a need for additional education.
A key driver of the mobile video revolution is social media revenues, which includes advertising delivered on social platforms, including social networking and social gaming websites and apps. Advertising on social media sites and within gaming apps and platforms increased 58% over last year, and will continue to rise.
Interestingly, search advertising is underperforming growth in the rest of the Internet advertising business, perhaps because it is the most mature category of online advertising and also the least interactive. Still, it’s a pretty encouraging set of reports to take us through Q4.
Big numbers have been released by comScore about the growing number of online videos served by both Facebook and YouTube. Between the two sites, they delivered more than 24 billion views in August alone. To get down to the specifics. comScore’s executive chairman said that Facebook had delivered a billion, yes that’s billion, more video views than YouTube, and Facebook itself announced in September that it was delivering a billion views a day. Welcome to Q4 and the potential for massive advertising spend.
What do those big numbers mean for the advertising industry? Well, if you listen to the networks, not much.
In a June 2014 report, RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank stated “the online video market poses little threat to the traditional network TV ecosystem.” To highlight the drastic contrast between the two markets, Banks asserted the advertising value of an entire week of YouTube viewership is equivalent to that of a single, first-run episode of CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”
“Is ‘The Big Bang Theory’ a big show? Yes,” said Bank. “Does its scale threaten the fabric of the rest of the TV advertising ecosystem? We do not think so.”
A “Big Bang” viewer sits through around eight minutes of advertising, while a YouTube viewer is exposed to far shorter, less frequent pre-roll ads, some of which can be skipped. Moreover, Bank noted, only around 16 percent of ad minutes in online video run against premium content, and roughly half of that inventory is available on properties owned by major media companies like CBS or ABC.
So more and longer ads make TV superior, even when run against mediocre content? But how engaged is the TV viewer vs. the video viewer? Video viewers may be exposed to fewer ads, but they can’t fast forward through as much advertising as TV viewers can since the advent of time-shifted viewing. Morevoer, Facebook serves autoplay video ads, although some users dislike that because they almost HAVE to view them. Does that produce positive engagement with a brand? We’d say it depends on the brand. The jury’s still out on the overall effect.
But here are better ways to serve video advertising than just pre-roll on two sites. For one thing, we believe video ads can be cut loose from pre-roll and served on non-video sites where they can run in the middle of content a visitor is already reading. Our inArticle format does not run auto-play sound, so we’re courteous to a reading visitor. But we don’t let the visitor forget either, because we leave a 1×1 copy of the ad at the bottom of the page, so if a visitor wants to read all the way through the content and return to the ad, she can.
We’ve also got a Tier 1 network at your disposal, so if you want to buy video ads and you can’t find enough pre-roll to scale your campaign, our ZINC high impact formats could be perfect for you.
Nobody wants the publishing industry to go away, but current conditions sure make it difficult for it to survive. It used to be that advertisers had to come to publishers to reach potential customers. Now, however, all kinds of tech companies sell customer data, and the publisher’s audience appears to have become less critical to the targeting process. Thus, there has been an almost constant erosion of the power of the publisher to impact ad buys, even as his reach increases. The New York Times has 31 million online subscribers, a number unheard of in the print era. But to an advertiser, that could be nothing compared to a Google or a Facebook, who reach billions.
To survive in the programmatic environment, publishers have had to drop their CPMs. from double to single digits. The survivors have already made the shift, and the new startups are unburdened by legacy cost structures (you may remember printing presses).
Yet there are still ways for legacy publishers to survive the commoditization of what appears to be an infinite supply of inventory.
One way is through video ads. There is a relatively small supply of pre-roll to run against video content, and it is so limited that advertisers who want to run on video sites can’t get the reach they need without resorting to other forms of publication to get enough scale. On the other hand, video is increasingly popular with consumers, who watch it on mobile devices in ever-increasing numbers.
Advertisers who want to run video to reach large audiences must find other sites.
On these sites, smart publishers can either create content specific to advertisers , which we think of as content marketing, or allow advertisers to develop their own content to fit the existing content of the publisher, which is called native advertising. With either native advertising or content marketing, the simplest thing for an advertiser is to be able to repurpose existing TV ad content into a standard IAB space.
However, there’s still no guarantee that the ad will be seen, as the statistics say that 50% of video ads go unwatched.
We have the answer to this problem with ZINC’s InArticle video format, which runs on your site in a standard IAB unit, but gets 25% higher CTRs than a typical video ad because it can expand to full screen and leaves a 1×1 reminder at the bottom of the page.
Our InArticle format, sold directly or programmatically, allows advertisers to reach new audiences across new channels at scale. Our publisher partners have been very satisfied with the high CPMS this format is able to command, and advertisers are thrilled with our viewability metrics. We’ve got first rate video ad viewability partners who help our publisher partners provide the metrics they need to sell successfully.
If there’s anything that can convince you that times are changing –again–in the online advertising business, it’s the relatively new practice of “lazy loading” pages. Unless you’re deep in the weeds of the business, you may not even know what this term means, but it is a new way to make pages load faster, and ironically may also be a way to make ads more visible.
In the old days of web design, the job of a good browser was to load an entire web page at one time, no matter how many outside calls and redirects the server has to make, as quickly as possible. Even if the user isn’t on that part of the page, the browser would load it anyway. That’s why everyone demanded to be above the fold.
But web design has changed. Now there’s just in time loading, or “lazy loading,” a relatively new method of web design that renders the page on an as-needed basis, only when a user is scrolling down to that piece of content.
Lazy loading pages are perfect for our InView Slider formats, which work especially well on web pages that are designed for infinite scrolling (which most new high traffic sites favor.)The content available to the user isn’t all loaded at once, because it would take forever; rather, the page renders as the user scrolls to it, and if you don’t scroll down, the content isn’t rendered. So lazy loading any web content, ads included, means the web server only provides the necessary source code to the browser as the user needs it.That’s what makes our InView Slider so “polite.”
The New York Times switched to lazy loading and achieved a 50% improvement in the performance of its pages. In its blog, the Times said it switched to stop its pages from being slowed down by advertising.
Why is this good for viewability?
From the publisher standpoint,
aside from the performance benefits of lazy loading ad content … is the happy consequence that every ad view is also visible to the user, since the content is only rendered when the user is scrolling the content into view. While it’s true there’s still a lingering debate over how viewability is measured – this Digiday postgives a good overview on the complexities of each viewability vendor using different methodologies to measure the same MRC standard (50% of the ad content in-view for at least one second) – there’s no question that a lazy loading strategy is far superior to traditional content rendering in terms of ensuring your ad requests are viewable.
Although viewability metrics probably won’t be the gold standard for billing in the near term, eventually they probably will be. The downside of this is the potential loss of inventory to the publisher. However, lazy loading their pages could let publishers keep user-friendly page layouts and not worry as much about 3rd party viewability measurement. And, of course, the viewability would improve even further if the site published high quality content that encouraged engagement.
It’s funny how everything boils down to high quality at the end of the day.
An amazing new chart we discovered this morning via Statista has demonstrated that there’s a reason publishers like our native InArticle Video ads. As of March 2014, nearly 40% of all video viewed online was advertising. Even advertising-averse Millennials seem to be watching video ads online.
According to comScore, “Americans viewed more than 28.7 billion video ads in March, with LiveRail capturing the #1 position with 3.9 billion ad impressions. AOL, Inc. came in second with 3.8 billion ads, followed by BrightRoll Platform with 3.1 billion, Google Sites with 3.1 billion and TubeMogul Video Ad Platform with 3 billion. Time spent watching video ads totaled 10.9 billion minutes, with AOL, Inc. delivering the highest duration of video ads at 1.7 billion minutes.
Video ads reached 54.3 percent of the total U.S. population an average of 170 times during the month. Hulu delivered the highest frequency of video ads to its viewers with an average of 82.”
Most video ads on the sites listed above are delivered as pre-roll. Our publishers, many of whom are not predominantly video content sites, want to reap the benefits of video advertising, too. That’s where InArticle works well; it delivers a video ad experience while a visitor is reading an article or scrolling through a social stream, thus expanding the reach of advertisers who want to reach new audiences.
While publisher-side ad serving was our core business since our founding in 1999, the part of our business that has been growing most quickly for the past year has been the ZEDO Ad Exchange, our simple, scalable way to manage both advertisers and publishers conducting business in display banners, videos, mobile, high impact formats and smart programmatic integrations. ZEDO Exchange allows Demand Side Platforms access to the premium high-quality display and video inventory of our premium publisher network.
For advertisers, the ZEDO Ad Exchange offers the best click-through rate in the industry, along with the best of all worlds — instant pricing and availability of ad inventory on newspaper web sites. We’re different from other exchanges and ad networks, because the only ad inventory we offer is avails from our high quality publisher network, which consists of premium brands you already know and trust who are integral parts of local communities and national conversations.
We’re both innovative and smart about the way we run this network: we not only offer high impact formats, but also make sure that the advertiser gets viewable impression where they count — on premium sites.
On the publisher side, ZEDO Exchange is designed to make sure that all publishers that use ZEDO for ad serving get a fair price for their inventory. This is one of the reasons we do not work on the RevShare or CPC model. We only work on a flat CPM model with our publishers. ZEDO Exchange will pick up inventory only if we meet the agreed CPM. We can also sell impressions to multiple RTB buyers and get maximum CPM from the highest bidder. (ZEDO’s Supply Side Platform (SSP) is Open RTB 2.0 compliant.)
Our Demand Side Platform (DSP) is a single, unified platform from which to manage all aspects of a campaign using a single account (Display Banners, Videos, HIFs, RTB & Mobile). Since all the publishers are linked in one master account, this provides media buyers with maximum efficiency.
Publishers may opt in simply by clicking the “Join ZEDO Exchange” link on their reporting and trafficking UI, or they can give us a heads up via email. After opting in, integration with ZEDO Exchange is very simple. ZEDO has built a smart back-end linking process that makes sure publishers do not have to spend time trafficking tags or tracking campaigns. Everything is done automatically, and ZEDO Exchange reports will be displayed directly under the Reports section of the Publisher’s ZEDO account.
Welcome to the moving target that is viewability. Admonsters has done a survey of fifty ad operations departments at major publishers to find out how publishers felt about the lifting of the MRC stay. Agencies and advertisers are now empowered to buy on viewability. This will not be an easy shift, as there are still inconsistencies in how viewability is measured. There are about a dozen certified testing companies, from Comscore and Nielsen to startups, and they all measure with slightly different methodologies even if they are looking for the same standard.
Survey respondents and recent event attendees have told Admonsters that “a publisher’s viewability isn’t a single number but varies by ad position and page type and then by how the user interacts with the page. This creates an extra level of complexity with inventory management and forecasting— critical functions that are already diﬃcult for publishers to manage.”
Three of the major ﬁndings from the research are:
- Viewability won’t be taking most publishers by surprise as they have been actively trying to understand the impact by testing multiple vendors and taking steps to improve viewability. 74% of publishers have completed testing for viewability on their sites. Only 15% hadn’t even begun to test, and most of these cited cost as the reason.
- While publishers see the lift as premature because results vary too much and the tech seems immature, the advisory’s removal hasn’t changed much since buyers were already demanding viewability. 59% of publishers said the market wasn’t ready for buying on viewability — by which they meant THEY weren’t ready. Some publishers who did test had to make changes in their site designs to make ads more viewable.
- Issues around discrepancies in the results provided by viewabilty solutions are heightened by the fact pubs and buyers diﬀer on which solutions they use.
One survey respondent said, “typically, it’s centered around type of content and ad placement. Home pages tend to get morescrolling, so an ad at the top of the page is less viewable. Articles tend to get a slower scroll, so ad placement is a little less important.” Of the 46% of respondents who had already taken steps to improve viewability, 75% had changed the position of ads. 69% had instituted ad call loading only on in-view, and 38% had removed ads. These are all steps in the right direction.
10% of the respondents said they were selling on viewable impressions, 21% are considering it, and 67% said it was too early to know. For our publishers it shouldn’t be too early, because we’ve been selling viewable impressions for two years, ever since comScore tested our Inview Slider and certified it 99% viewable.
While the AdMonsters survey reflects an industry in transition, there has been so much time to prepare for buying and selling on viewability that we expect it to become standard in the market this year.