The Problem With Safeguards Defining Success


August 30, 2017

The online video market is undergoing a transformation in 2017 as it becomes more central to both publishers & advertisers overall strategies. In Australia, Zenith Media estimates advertising spend on digital video will grow by 45% this year, which will bring it to almost a quarter of total screen ad spend (i.e. traditional TV budgets). This would’ve been unfathomable just a few years ago. Foreseeing this growth, publishers are rapidly expanding their offerings to include new formats (out stream, vertical video,  bumpers) and across all devices (Desktop, Mobile Web, Mobile App, Smart TVs, Gaming Consoles, OTT Devices) to ensure that their audience can access their content when they want, how they want and still have a great experience. Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter are all making long-form video plays, Nine recently hit 4 million registered users in just 18 months while Seven is just about to create a new, 100% owned Catch Up TV platform equipped for the digital era. Put simply, there is now more video content online in more formats and on more devices than ever.

As with any large, maturing market, the growth has not come without its challenges. High profile stories around advertising appearing next to extremist or violent content on YouTube and Facebook rolled on throughout early 2017, which not only affected these platforms but the entire online video market. The digital ad space also hit headlines in late 2016, when Integral Ad Science proclaimed that more than 50% of digital ads are unseen or not viewable Anti-digital campaigners took these headlines with glee and used a brush to tar the entire industry as dodgy, overrated and as one prominent personality in the Australian market put it bullsh*.

The result of this was twofold. In the short term, some digital budgets were shifted away entirely, in some cases back to the traditional mediums such as TV, Radio and Newspapers. What was more damaging and less clear however, was the paradigm shift that the industry saw when defining success. For advertisers and agencies who had seen others burnt by these high profile digital blunders, the answer was not to use their own knowledge and experience to either trust or re-evaluate the tech partners they utilized or the publishers they bought from. The answer was to blindly make brand safety and view ability ubiquitous with all campaigns and digital buys “ in many cases, making these the sole definition of a job well done.

The problem with making these metrics as the beacon of a successful campaign for anyone in ad-tech is that these are inherently safeguards, a sign that the campaign ran safely and nothing more. It does not place any value on the quality of the publisher, the audience reached or the relevance of the environment in which they were reached. In addition to this, many of the measurement vendors who provide these services have limitations in their technology that cause them to rely heavily on VPAID. Advertisers likely dont even realize the effect this has on their campaigns. Wrapping a creative in VPAID not only adds latency (ironically, decreasing view ability) but also renders the buy incompatible with Mobile App and Connected TV, which are not only the fastest growing screens, but also environments where an ad is likely to run full screen, with minimal clutter and on long form content. Of course an ad should run in a viewable, brand-safe environment, but is this the depth of a campaigns ambitions?

These metrics are both easily controllable without the need to make them a KPI. Buying from premium publishers that you know and trust means that if you want to get an understanding of the viewability or brand safety of the environment, all you need to do is go to their webpage or app and experience it for yourself. Furthermore, negative keyword targeting is virtually standard on every buying platform in market, so if this was not being done effectively, then questions need to be asked. Developments around the implementation of ads.txt should also help with cleaning up the murky underbelly of network reselling and fraudulent supply ecosystem, which will create a far more transparent supply chain, increase buyer confidence and create more value for publishers with premium, quality supply.

Every day, more video content is being consumed digitally, technology partners are making improvements to enhance user experience, creative agencies are developing innovate new ways to engage and attract their audiences not just on desktop, but across mobile too. Perhaps most exciting of all is the transformation thats taking place in the living room, with broadcast and sports content increasing being consumed via IPs rather than free-to-air. This will open up a whole new world which is already taking shape, where brands can utilize data to engage their customers on what has always been the premier household screen. If we can properly define success, applying common sense alongside data to tell a story, we can start rewarding innovative campaigns which truly connect with audiences rather than just churning out metrics which prove we averted disaster.

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