The Web has not been a great medium to date for brands. Online video is often looked at to solve this problem. The problem is there’s a lack of quality pre-roll inventory. There are only so many videos in front of which brands can place their ads. Rather than seeking creative solutions to the problem, the online video industry has found numerous ways to obfuscate it. Videos run on “long-tail” sites, they run below the fold, they auto-play, they run on piracy sites, content farms, traffic circles, and worse.
There are technical solutions to this problem, such as DoubleVerify’s new “viewability” offering. But such solutions only treat the symptoms, rather than getting at the heart of the problem. The real fix must come from the advertisers themselves. They need to move away from the “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted” mentality and demand the clarity and value metrics that the medium is capable of delivering.
Much of this could be accomplished with one simple demand: site-specific reporting. In other words, “We’re not going to run any video ads with providers who cannot tell us exactly where they will run.” One major advertiser could change the entire industry with this single, intuitive requirement. Layers of arbitrage would disappear; scams and fraud would evaporate; prices would even out, and lesser-known but higher-performing sites would get the credit they deserve.
But I’m a realist, and I know that this kind of change isn’t going to happen overnight. In the meantime, the media community as a whole should raise its standards. Video sellers should be required to provide a comprehensive site list prior to campaign launch, not just representative samples. There should be full disclosure of where on the page each video will run — below-the-fold, above-the-fold, in-banner, etc. Sellers should divulge their inventory sources, including which third parties they buy from. Finally, it should be clear whether sellers are compatible with third-party verification services.
Many in the online video space find the status quo unacceptable. We hold ourselves to higher standards of clarity in reporting, placements and definitions about exactly what it is we’re selling. Last year, for instance, TubeMogul was joined by Google in an effort to create clear definitions around various types of video units.
These voluntary efforts are laudable, and they reflect a recognition that the space as a whole must become simpler and more transparent before it can grow. Our clients could help us and help themselves by demanding that we give them the very best we have to offer.
Mitchell Reichgut is founder and CEO of Jun Group, a social video platform. Follow him on Twitter at @jungroup.