Ad Servers on the State of Online Video Ads

About a year and a half ago, I conducted an informal survey of agency peers about the state of online video advertising. Since then, the most noticeable change is its prevalence. Several primary concerns of my original respondent pool now seem to be nonissues, but that doesn’t mean the industry has mastered online video advertising.

Most would agree the slow, inconsistent adoption of online video standards has been a hindrance to the process; the list of committed and certified publishers and ad servers is pathetically tiny. But other hindrances have been found in multiple formatting and sizing requirements and in the editing process. Since most agencies set up and deliver their campaigns through third-party ad servers, we also depend on their adoption of standards and facilitation of the delivery process. So, to better understand today’s online video challenges, I posed several questions to popular ad serving companies DoubleClick, Atlas, and Mediaplex.

The Major Delay in the Standardization

Relatively speaking, online video advertising is still viewed as an emerging, albeit alluring, technology. Publishers who got into the game early invested significant money in building their online video capabilities, each with different requirements. Having made those investments, publishers aren’t eager to make modifications to bring them up to standard. Additionally, with initial online video ad space in demand and inventory availability low, publishers could easily sell out their ad space without having to make any system modifications.

When Standardization Becomes a Reality

With more online video ad inventory now available, not only do publishers feel competitive pressures to adopt standards, but growing advertiser demand requires it. All the ad servers say they’re working closely with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to either help update or adopt their standards, but all feel the likewise adoption by publishers will hold up the process through 2008.

The Format of the Future

The ad servers say they accept all formats, but a few formats — like FLV (define) — prevail over others. Most servers cite technical issues, more than format conversion ones, as their obstacles. Explains Geoffrey Coco, product manager, IP video ad solutions for Atlas: “The more important issue is how the player interacts with the ad system and its content feeds. [For] video content syndication, therefore, what matters for interoperability is the ad request and delivery formats. So we should be talking about RSS, XML, and related Web services.”

Difficulties With the Different Ad Formats

Again, the ad servers say, the difficulty lies with publishers’ different proprietary platforms and ad delivery requirements rather than multiple ad formats. While Coco insists that “most vendors will take most formats and transcode them for the advertiser,” we and some of our colleagues don’t see this readily happening. Perhaps we aren’t asking loud enough?

Common Issues When Agencies Serve Ad Video

According to DoubleClick, “a large proportion of publishers don’t accept third-party ad-served videos from agencies for business reasons.” But Coco asserts that while “sites are often unwilling to relax their requirement that they touch every video themselves and serve it from their servers,” he also acknowledges that “more practically, third-party vendors all have different ways of delivering third-party video, and so sites have to either run around making special accommodations for all the vendors or just refuse them all.”

Advice on Online Video Ad Campaigns’ Future

“Remember it is about the message, not the medium,” reminds Douglas Keith, Mediaplex’s director of account management. “Using video ads adds a premium to the ad cost…so ensure that video is the best route for the spend.”

DoubleClick advises, “First, make sure to request detailed information from the publishers in your media plan with regard to tracking and ad serving. Second, work with all parties to see what’s possible. You may end up with a mixture of capabilities throughout the campaign, so be prepared for some data crunching when all is done.”

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