Reality #1: For a visual medium, video is anything but transparent

Everywhere you look, video consumption is growing.  But ask any media buyer and he or she will tell you that quality video inventory is in short supply.  However, when a marketer buys video inventory, sellers miraculously find ways to place and deliver the campaign.

YouTube has become the de facto monopoly when it comes to video market share, but relatively little of the site’s videos are being fully monetized.  We are seeing a disequilibrium between demand and supply of video inventory.  In theory, this should lead to an increase in prices for video ads.  In reality, however, monetization per viewing minute is declining.  How come?

Indeed, for some time now, many publishers have effectively sold:

·       Click-To-Play (CTP),

·       user-initiated,

·       sound-on

·       in-stream

·       video pre-roll advertisements

and delivered it as

·       Auto-Play (AP),

·       contextual (alongside other content, be it image or article)

·       user-initiated sound (mute/sound-off)

·       in-banner

·       video pre-roll impressions.

Truth be told, if you line up 10 video professionals, you will get 10 different definitions for what passes as video advertising.   Occasionally, I have seen in-banner video ads defined as any video ad that is delivered in a banner, but that seems to connote a video ad that isn’t followed by actual video content, regardless of whether or not it is Auto-Play or Click-To-Play.  Meanwhile, a Pre-Roll is a video ad that is followed by video content, again, regardless of whether or not it is Auto-Play or Click-To-Play.

Reality #2: Video inventory is scarce

Without a doubt, the highest grade video advertising is the click-to-play, user-initiated, sound-on, contextually relevant pre-roll video ad that precedes the specific content the user chose to watch, with the video player being above-the-fold and ideally accompanied by a related companion banner.

This kind of inventory is in short supply, because 45% of video views in the US are on YouTube, but YouTube has reduced potential inventory.   A quick survey of the popular video sharing site shows that YouTube doesn’t even offer a standard 300×250 companion ad (it features the “ever-popular” 300×60 ad) with pre-rolls. As such, buyers and sellers have been forced to become creative.

Reality #3: Bait and switch is never a long-term strategy

Due to this scarcity, we have seen a degradation of what passes off as video advertising.  A few years ago I was shocked to see video ads loading in-banner, below-the-fold.  Today, at least most stakeholders realize the need to place ads above-the-fold, but the fact remains: what passes off as video advertising isn’t necessarily what the marketer signed-off on and approved for his/her campaign.

Or is it?

Reality #4: Video advertising will always be more “Push” than “Pull”

Truth is: apart from what you see around the Super Bowl, advertising isn’t welcome.  Even good advertising is intrusive at best and annoying at worst.  Marketers underwrite free (or close-to-free) content not because they want to, but because they need to.  But the more targeted the advertising, the higher the likelihood that advertising will be tolerated and generate goodwill over the long term.  Why? Due to the utility to the audience of providing what is, hopefully, relevant content.

Reality #5: You get what you pay for

Realistic marketers understand that reality, and the savviest ones realize that all marketing has some value, provided they know what they’re paying for.  These days, most marketers that run Auto-Play pre-rolls do so because they feel the effects of quality video’s scarcity and its corresponding high rates.

All of this would be fine provided the person/company signing the check was aware of the nuance.  More often than not, everyone is aware of the difference, but they don’t really care because these Realities don’t leave anyone much choice.

The key things to consider:

–        differentiate Auto-Play from Click-To-Play when proposing a deal, and

–        price each differently.

The problem?  Often they’re not.  Falsely conditioning marketers into thinking that they are getting filet mignon for the price of a burger will backfire sooner than later.  Burgers are great, provided you don’t get served a burger when you think you’re ordering — and paying for — steak.

In two weeks, we’ll look at Realities 6-10 and examine how Click-to-Play and Auto-Play video views can co-exist to make all stakeholders walk away as winners.

A special thanks to both William Lederer, CEO of Kantar Video and James Conley for their feedback, contributions and insights