Publishers Must Help Advertisers Buy Video

Recent tectonic shifts in the advertising ecosystem have left all parties reeling and reaching for something firm to hold on to. In the past two years, You Tube, where dancing babies and talking heads once prevailed, has become the home of major celebrities. The online content world has shifted from text to video almost overnight, and audiences have shifted with it, from TV to tablets. Advertisers know they have to play here, but they’re still not sure how.
What’s holding up the growth of online video ad dollars? Media planners don’t know how to buy, and publishers don’t know how to deliver value in familiar terms. By familiar, I mean a term like “GRPs”, the traditional way TV is bought. GRP is a difficult metric to apply to online video, but it’s the common currency of the advertising industry and a $450 billion industry doesn’t shift overnight.
In addition, most media planners are thinking of online as a “second” or “third” screen, part of an integrated campaign that begins with TV and includes online, and that raises the question of attribution modeling. How to tell which part of the campaign was the most effective? There are many questions.
So when advertising and online video people get together, as they did recently at OMMA Europe, what do they talk about?  Metrics. Everyone is trying to figure out how to measure the effectiveness of online video so they can decide what percentage of their budgets to shift.
The uncertainty means that ad dollars are indeed shifting to online video, but not nearly as quickly as audiences are. The industry, which used to be about stirring emotion (see Mad Men for details) has now been taught to rely on data. But we don’t yet know how to interpret the data generated by online video viewers.
Indeed, when we talk about the worlds of second and third screens, we don’t even know with certainty who in the family is watching on that iPad. Mobile devices don’t allow cookies, and devices are regularly passed from spouse to spouse and parent to child. So how do we track response?
This is made more complicated by another shift: from performance advertising, which characterized the old world of display, and was easily tracked, to brand lift — the specialty of TV, but a more amorphous metric.TV is about brands and uplift, but where in the marketing funnel does online video play?
Not much brand language is coming out of the digital video industry, at least not language that can help media planners learn how to buy video intelligently, The industry has to find a common currency that plays across all media.
Old school planners only recognize GRPs, the traditional TV measurement. This makes it hard for niche publishers to position their value propositions, especially as RTB takes over.
More relevant metrics might include viewability, a first step, and engagement, measured by how much of the video a viewer watched. You can’t have brand uplift without more than just viewability. This number could be a proxy for engagement. Audiences are being validated by Nielsen and comScore after the fact, but what do you buy on?
It’s time for all of us in the industry to quit talking geeky jargon and start helping advertisers feel comfortable. We know the audience is online; now let’s work together to help the advertisers get there.