With Apple and Google's recent aggressive moves in the video space, all eyes are on digital moving pictures. Though it doesn't have a consumer brand name, video ad management company Lightningcast is making a mark in this arena. It launched its InStream network in November, becoming the first company to manage a large amount of pre-roll and other in-stream ad inventory across multiple sites on the fly.
The number of publisher sign-ups grew quickly to about 50, and last week Lightningcast hired online and cable veteran Bill Jennings to lead it as chief revenue officer. Jennings oversaw Eastern sales for pioneering online ad network Flycast before taking over new media and business development for A&E.
Last week, ClickZ Features called CEO Tom MacIsaac to discuss the workings of the InStream network, how advertisers are responding to it, and whether he's intimidated by the massive reach of online video's newest titans: Google and Apple.
Q.Why is an in-stream video ad network a good idea?
A. There's a large demand for high-quality video inventory. Right now there's a relatively short list of places where advertisers can go to get it. That list is the portals and the networks' sites.
The rumor is there's a shortage of high-quality video inventory for brand advertisers. The truth is there's a shortage of high-quality managed inventory. There is high-quality inventory out there. It's just very fragmented.
We're creating a single place where advertisers can go and buy high-quality video inventory. It's assembled from a variety of sites, and we've organized them in a way that allows advertisers to buy them in ways that map to their plan.
The reason we in particular can offer something others can't is because of the Lightningcast business. We have the [ad serving technology] platform used by many of the top-tier [video publishers]. We've made that the backbone of a video ad network. We've taken all this inventory and we've standardized it on our platform so it can be bought efficiently and the advertiser can log into our system and access reporting in real time.
Q. You just hired A&E's head of new media and business development to run the network. What's Bill Jennings going to be able to do for you?
A. We needed somebody who had a very strong perspective on what was going on in new media. Bill, on behalf of a major cable network group, has been working on [the question], how does television adapt to an environment where digital media begins to compete with traditional television dollars?
He has very strong long-standing relationships with agencies. He has a lot of credibility with both the traditional side, as well as the interactive side. Before A&E he was the director of the Eastern region at Flycast, so he's worked on an online ad network in the past.
Q. What's the ratio of :15s to :30s you're seeing?
A. We're still seeing the majority of campaigns coming at 30 seconds. Frankly, I'd like to see more :15's. I'd like to see more creative that is created for broadband video, too, versus for television. We're seeing some, but really still very little. And in some cases, made for the Web is really just re-edited television stuff.
Q. How much saleable inventory do you have and what's the advertiser interest?
A. We have an enormous amount of advertiser interest. We launched in November, with five or six major brand advertisers. And we have about a hundred million streams a month of inventory. We have about 50 different sites. Much of it is sites that came to us when they heard of the launch of InStream.
Our sell-throughs are pretty good. I won't give you an exact number, but it's been pretty strong. We've been cautious out of the gate to make sure we're executing properly.
Q. What's upcoming for you?
A. In the mix is mobile -- both wireless phones and portable devices -- as well as cable VOD. Those are both areas that Lightningcast is very active in.
Q. Given the rapid pace of change in the online video space, are you frightened you might have the rug pulled out from under you?
A. Our vision, and how we've architected our platform is to be technology agnostic. At our core, we have a publishing and ad platform for IP video. We build enabling technologies.
Q. Both Apple and Google seem well-positioned to capitalize on ad-supported video, once the glow fades on paid video content. Are you going to compete with those guys?
A. Google either builds or buys. They don't seem to be big on partners. Many others will look to someone like us to help them.
Q. Maybe the "buy" part of "build or buy" could include you.
A.Lightningcast has not escaped interest from the big guys. But I've learned that you build for the long term.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
March 19, 2014