Where is the Accountability in Online Video Advertising?
This guest article is written by by Brian Mandelbaum, founder of Clearstream
Many major advertisers feel they have more options for video advertising on cable than they do on the Internet. Why is that? In an era of virtually limitless online choices, major commercial cyber-buys typically stay in the "safe zone" of ABC, NBC, CBS and Hulu, with perhaps a few other well-known sites sprinkled in.
It's time that the accountability and transparency of traditional broadcast buys find their equivalent in the online world. It's not impossible; despite its reputation as a murky, unregulated medium, the web has made great strides in rating standards for display advertising. Online venues need a similar organizing element--a commonly held, trusted framework for media decision-making.
The reason, of course, is that online video buys don't exist in a vacuum. As with broadcast networks, programming surrounds each video in the form of adjacent site content. That material may or may not complement the advertiser's content. It may be irrelevant, unsuitable or even objectionable.
Then there is the issue of physical placement. Is the video frame above the fold? Is it placed within a banner? Many sites offer video placement as part of a game or within a social media context. It may be auto-play, continually streamed or on-demand. It may be high definition...or of only moderate quality.
Ironically, many site publishers are eager to self-report on their suitability for major video ad buys. Online ad networks offer some help with this, through limited pre-buy analysis and centralized, server-based video delivery methods. But without a unifying standard for both video run quality and suitability of content, such attempts--for the media buyer, at least--are cumbersome at best.
To fix the situation, advertisers need a "seal of approval" for online inventory. An industry-standard metric, recognized by parties on all sides of a purchase, creates the accountability that major brands must have to justify their investments. To truly be useful, such a standard must cover qualitative as well as quantitative variables; a site's audience profile, content suitability and click analytics must be combined with player type, rendition quality, pass-along tracking and many other attributes. Then, results must be made available to both agency and advertiser through a convenient dashboard that supports comparisons against campaign targets for adjustment and optimization, all in real time.
Another advantage of an independent, universally accepted rating system is that it provides pricing efficiencies. For the first time, advertisers can confidently stratify their purchases through pricing tiered for both reach and quality. If budgets are adjusted, buyers can quickly move to those sites most effective in achieving campaign goals.
Such auditing and evaluation standards for online video are sorely needed--and long overdue. The web is arguably the most powerful, pervasive and targeted medium ever created. With online video rating sources now coming into existence, ad networks and site publishers would do well to encourage the use of such standards as a uniform and defensible mark of quality for their offerings. Moreover, media executives should encourage their use for the benefit of their agencies as well as their clients.
This guest article was written by by Brian Mandelbaum, founder of Clearstream.