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.
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.
We’ve been yakking about viewability in display ads for more than two years, and now it’s finally going to happen. When we first began to develop our high impact formats, we tested them with comScore, where they were judged 99% viewable. But the IAB’s Metrics That Matter initiative has upped the ante, and the Media Rating Council has given us a choice of eleven vendors who can help advertisers make more savvy buys. But now we hear that some media buyers are going to specify 100% viewability, so we’re going back to the drawing board to see how best to get that last 1%. It may not be possible right now, but we’ll still try.
Since we’re now highly focused on both mobile and video, we decided to run some tests of our newer formats with Moat, one of the companies certified by the Media Rating Council, to see how well our mobile and video ads perform. (We’ll let you know.) In doing research on the vendors certified to test viewability, we found there are some differences in what and how they measure.
For example, some of the certified companies have no independent capability to measure viewability within cross domain iFrames, but simply offer publishers iFrame Bridge technology. Others leverage “Frame Buster” code, which allows for measurement within iFrames. And still others can measure viewability for some browsers, but not in Webkit browsers. That means using their viewability technology doesn’t allow you to measure impressions in Safari, Opera, and perhaps also Chrome.
When you combine the different browsers with the added complexities of video and mobile rather than simple static display ads, you quickly realize that metrics will have to improve before viewability can truly be accurately measured across a multi-screen campaign.
What does this mean for advertisers? We think for now it means that 100% viewable is too much to expect for a campaign that may be running on many different browsers. Media planners are going to have to learn more about the subtleties of viewability before they begin buying on it, and they’re going to have to learn what is possible and what is pie in the sky for now.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all aim for making more ads viewable; it’s just that we should know where the line is between possible and impossible.
For three years, we’ve been screaming that in digital advertising, there’s no such thing as “below the fold,” with its devalued impressions. We asserted that if an ad is seen by a visitor,it should be paid for. Now, IAB‘s new standard has directed that this should and will happen. Above and below the fold will no longer be the determinant. The new determinant will be viewability.
The IAB, after much sturm und drang ( 18 months of committee meetings and discussions at leadership summits) released its standard for viewable display impressions last week. As expected, a viewable ad is one in which a minimum of 50 percent of pixels are in view for a minimum of 1 second. It doesn’t matter where that ad is placed on the site.
This shouldn’t be news to any of us; we have been following the issue of viewability and wondering when advertisers would start buying for it. Now that the Media Rating Council has lifted its November 2012 Viewable Impression Advisory for Display Advertising, the industry should start making transactions using viewable impression currency immediately.
IAB has a list of vendors certified by the MRC, and although their measurements can vary plus or minus five per cent, agencies with brand advertising campaigns will expect guarantees on viewable impressions. As for ZEDO, we’ve been working with comScore since it was AdXpose, and our high impact formats are all certified 99% viewable.
However, the bad news is all of this applies only to display advertising for now; video won’t be available for trading until June and video is the fastest growing segment of the online advertising business right now.
As IAB’s Sherrill Mane wrote,
Publishers who have been testing display viewability data know all too well that the investment in resources is substantial. You need to finance purchase of data from multiple measurement vendors, assign the right teams of people to develop test parameters, conduct enough comparisons so that you have an idea of how to forecast inventory and optimize yield. Even if all the steps are executed well, you are likely seeing variances across vendors. Some of the variances may be greater than what you’d need for confidence in the decisions you need to make.
Before you go nuts trying to decide which vendor you are going to use to measure viewability, you might want to take a look at IAB’s reconciliation study, which examines the different methodologies used by the vendors.
If you happen to like comScore, all currently used ZEDO high impact formats are certified by comScore.
Its a busy world in ad tech right now. The Lumascape is littered with companies that have vanished, been acquired, had an IPO or pivoted. Some have even gone out of business. Many companies that started on the advertising side now have an offer for publishers, while many sell-side companies, including ourselves, have moved to include demand-side offerings.
We were a publishers’ ad server for the first few years of our existence. But you can’t be in the business for very long without realizing that serving one side of the ecosystem alone doesn’t offer customers a single solution that simplifies their lives. All the companies that began their lives as tools rather than complete products have been forced to develop more complete solutions to compete. That’s why we have spent the last two years focusing on ZINC.
But in the mean time, the vaporware situation hasn’t changed. Some companies still don’t have technology that works, while others have products no one knows they have, because they’re known for something else. Both the advertisers and the publishers know how fast the pace of change in this business occurs, and are trying desperately to find something that really works as promised, or truly solves a problem for more than six months. Meanwhile, stellar newsrooms like the Newark Star-Ledger and NJ.com are laying off staff in an effort to survive. Ad tech companies might be doing well, but publishers and agencies are still struggling to find their sustainable places in the relatively new world of digital.
As for the data platforms that support advertisers and publishers? Even more complex. There’s a lot of disagreement about just what data is actually helpful. Time has shown that more is not necessarily better. Is it viewability? And if so, is it comScore‘s metric or Nielsen’s, or perhaps even Moat’s? Does mere viewability convert to sales?
Is it mobile targeting? Last year, four online ad companies — retargeting firm Criteo, ad targeter Media6Degrees, ad buying company X+1 and Yahoo — each acquired a mobile ad tech startup over the course of three days. This year, Rubicon’s successful IPO has prepared the Street for potential public offerings from Pubmatic, AppNexus, Turn and MediaMath. It’s only rumor right now, but those rumors have all four of them, and perhaps a few more waiting in the wings.
For the companies, this is great, if distracting, news. For the customers, it may not be so great as the choices narrow and the innovation slows as newly public companies focus on revenue rather than on new product lines.
We’re not fans of overgeneralization, nor of oversimplification. Alex Kantrowitz’s post on ad fraud contains both. In addition, it is incredibly cynical and tars the entire industry with the same brush. Here’s a sample:
Purging fraudulent impressions from the system would mean higher media prices and lower performance (though more accurate). Fraud pumps up publishers’ traffic, exchanges get paid a percentage for trading it, buying platforms’ performance looks better because of it, and agencies can bring those great results to clients. Everyone wins!
We’re not denying that ad fraud exists in the industry. But we’ve been in business since 1999, primarily as an ad server for publishers and a partner to help them adjust to the realities of the digital world. We were there when ad fraud first began, and because our positioning depended on helping our publishers, we got busy on combatting it almost immediately.
Because, you see, fraud doesn’t pump up publishers’ traffic if advertisers won’t pay for the ads. Once again, we were early to notice that our publishers weren’t getting paid for ads that weren’t clicked on. And now they’re not getting paid for ads that aren’t viewable.
We partnered with DoubleVerify and AdXPose (now comScore), and worked with every industry group to fight spam, fraud, and malware. In fact, we had, and still have, an employee dedicated to industry efforts to professionalize ad tech and weed out the scammers. But if you take the trouble to run Ghostery on any of our publisher sites, you will still find a myriad of trackers and ad networks besides ours.
For example, the site shown below has 110 trackers of various kinds, some of which could be fraudulent. But how can you weed them out if you are honest? The answer is, you can’t. Between the marketer and the publisher are 110 entities dropping cookies, selling data, and potentially committing ad fraud. These are all the entities in the famous Lumascape. Much traffic that hits a publisher site does not even go through our ad server, so there’s nothing we can do individually.
On our own network, we do weed out fraudulent traffic. For us, refunds for fraud traffic are a contractual obligation, as Kantrowitz suggests they should be.
“Harvard professor and ad-fraud researcher Ben Edelman suggests making refunds for fraud traffic a contractual obligation. “In practice right now, you promise to deliver it, you don’t quite deliver it, people shrug, the world moves on,” he said.”
We’re not trying to say that ad fraud doesn’t exist, or that it is not important. But we are saying that condemning the entire industry doesn’t fix the problem and just makes the people who play it straight mad.
In 2007, we announced the launch of ZincX, a place where advertisers could buy guaranteed premium inventory. Six years later, we are expanding the concept. The main activity of ZINC is to help agencies bring their TV to the web with our high impact formats.
During the past year, we’ve developed several ways in which advertisers can take their TV creative straight to the web — without adapting it. We have four different formats:
1. InView with video
2. Full Screen TV Ads. 300×250
3. Double video. 300×250
4. Rotating screen shots. 300×250
Our TV Ads on the Web give higher performance and more great inventory. They are easy to buy and execute: agencies can just email us their TV commercials.
ZINC has always been different and better than other companies. ZINC offers only high-visibility, premium advertising positions on high traffic sites. ZINC’s web based interface offers real-time management of campaigns, instant reporting access at any time, and aggressive pricing that allows advertisers to maximize their media budgets. Inventory availability is clear and transparent and agencies see real-time inventory and actual pricing.
To schedule a demo, or to find out more, contact lana(at)zincx.com
This is going to be another confusing year for publishers, as the advertising trend shifts to programmatic buying. In most cases, we think this shift is a good thing, because it will simplify and automate many outmoded and inaccurate processes. We were among the first to launch an automated platform for advertisers, and now we encourage our partners to use as many ad networks as they can in order to best monetize their sites.
But what happens to eCPMs in this process? They could, conceivably fall further, or at best stay the same. For example, the New York Times paywall, while is has created an overall increase in revenues and a more stable subscriber base for the Times, has not raised their eCPMs.
This is complicated, because we have to start from the premise that eCPMs are still the right way to charge for online advertising, and it’s becoming more and more obvious they are poor pricing tools. But we have nothing else for the moment, so assuming we’re still going to charge by CPMs, how do we get them higher?
One way is by trying out innovative formats that generate more viewable impressions. ZEDO believes, and we can back this up with metrics from both Nielsen and Comscore, that what’s important is that an ad gets viewed, or in our language, is not a simple display ad, but a high impact format. 2013 will be the year of viewable impressions, a movement championed by the IAB and many other industry thought leaders.
We were far out front of this movement with our InView Slider, which boasts 99% viewability month after month for the publishers who use it. And the Slider isn’t sold through anonymous network; it is often sold through direct sales, commanding far higher eCPMS.
Now, we’re not saying the eCPM is an effective measurement for online advertising, and we are participating in efforts to come up with a better pricing model, especially for tablets and mobile, but right now it’s the only model the industry has, and we’re stuck with it. So we’re committed to offering formats whose higher viewability and impact make advertisers willing to pay more for them.
A good example of this is our full-screen video, in which an ad expands to fill the screen and audio begins when a viewer mouses over it, or our expandable mouse-rollover ads. These ads command higher prices, because they get more attention.
Some of these formats are so innovative that they’re not even on our site yet, but are only available to our customers and partners by scheduling a demo. I know every ad tech company says they will increase ROI, but how many of them have been around long enough to back their claims with numbers? As one of the veterans and thought leaders in the industry, we would like to re-introduce ourselves to you through our high impact formats and viewable impressions, as well as our standard ad server offerings.
During the past year, we’ve developed more than half a dozen of these high impact formats that generate better viewability metrics. Along with the Inview Slider, many others have tested at 99% in view. Our full screen video ads generate consistently higher eCPMs and engagement numbers, and when we show them to new prospects they often cause the people we’re meeting with to call the president or the GM into the meeting immediately. That’s how impressive they are.
The second way is by selling these innovative formats directly instead of putting them out with the remnant inventory. We’re a fully-featured ad server for direct sales, but you can sell these formats directly even if you’re not using us as an ad server.
In fact, many of our newest and best technologies are independent of our ad server, so if you already use an ad server and it’s not us, no worries. You can still benefit from the higher prices you will get from our cool new formats. And so far, I think we’re the only people who have them; we’re not seeing them around just yet, except from our own publisher partners.