Online Video: Our Opportunity is VAST

In my guest article today in Ad Age, I state that the IAB’s new video ad serving standard (“VAST” for short) has serious implications for video-only ad networks (e.g., Tremor, Brightroll, etc.) for two reasons:

1. A significant portion of the engineering work in which the incumbents have invested enormous time and money will effectively be marked to zero by the market

2. Existing, technically sophisticated display ad networks will enter the video market quickly and effectively.

To be clear, when i say “video”, I’m not talking about in-banner video or overlays, “bugs” etc.  I am talking about :15 and :30 second pre-, mid- and post-roll video.  This is the video advertising format where the environment is most similar to TV and the creative is directly transferrable from TV.  As such, it represents >90% of advertiser demand for online video and will continue to be the lynchpin in moving TV budgets online.  VAST effectively hits the “reset” button on this market in 2010 and while many current players will face serious trouble, for some companies this is an enormous opportunity.

Brand.net is one of those companies.  Melissa, Elizabeth and I have been astonished how often and emphatically during the past year the top agencies, as well as Top 100 advertisers directly, have asked us to extend our market leading brand display platform capabilities (SafeScreen, SmartScale, etc.) to video.  So our sales force is out taking orders for a platform extension that does just that.

Top 100 advertisers want online video to explode as an advertising medium.  It’s the obvious, and (to stay in front of their target audiences) necessary, successor to the $60B they spend on sight, sound and motion brand-focused TV buys each year.   But today’s video ad networks simply don’t provide the brand-focused capabilities Top 100 advertisers require.   What have they told us for the past year they want from online video?  The ability to guarantee Quality, Scale and Value.

Music to our ears.  Stay tuned.

Are you actually buying what you think you’re buying?

Great article by Mike Shields in MediaWeek yesterday. According to the article, Tremor Media was running ad for major brands that were a) in-banner video as opposed to pre-roll, b) below the fold and c) adjacent to questionable content.

I want to highlight two separate issues in the context of this article: quality control and credibility.

Quality control is something that has been top priority for Brand.net since inception, because it was the number one concern of our branding-focused clients. I have written extensively on this topic and Brand.net’s SafeScreen platform is the premier quality assurance platform on the web, providing page-level filtering to ensure quality for every impression that runs through the Brand.net network. The monitoring capabilities Adam Kasper mentions in the article can be useful, but it’s far better to prevent quality incidents in the first place. He’s dead on when he says that quality control is the ad network’s responsibility. Unfortunately, too often that responsibility is not fulfilled.

On my second point, ad networks at large have a reputation for not always being completely honest with clients. This is another issue I’ve written on in the past. In response to this particular incident, Shane Steele, Tremor’s VP marketing, was quoted saying, “It’s a very nuanced space, which makes it complicated”. Actual pre-roll video is indeed more complicated than display, but the ads at issue here were display ads. They just happened to be running video creative. So answers like this don’t help build credibility for networks and they certainly don’t help build the trust that’s so essential for major brands to fully leverage the medium.

Tod Sacerdoti summed it up well when he said, “There is a gap between what an advertiser thinks they are buying and what they are [actually] buying.” This gap occurs far too often today and it needs to be closed before the medium can fully mature.

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