Wednesday, February 25, 2009

IAB Needs Platform Independent Video Ads

TV Week covers the IAB's efforts to standardize ads in and near online video, and mentions the size of the current online video market:

The IAB's latest initiative reflects the growth in online video viewing. According to comScore, Internet users in the United States are watching more than 14 billion videos each month. TV series are a relatively small portion of that total, but they command the bulk of online ad dollars. Research firm eMarketer predicts online video advertising will grow 45% this year to $850 million

(emphasis added).

Among those standards, "companion" ads should not be sold. (Companion Ads: Commonly text, display ads, rich media, or skins that wrap around the video experience... typically run alongside or surrounding the video player [from the IAB PDF on video ad format standards]). Companion ads, or synced ads, have no equivalent on mobile devices or TVs. Many sites (like studio and network sites) only sell video ads with these companion ads; this makes no financial incentive to embrace other platforms like mobile devices and internet video on TV.

Companion ads bundled with video ads mean lost audience (all non-web-browser viewers). A viewer may want to watch a TV show or other online video on a portable player (e.g., an iPhone) while commuting by train, or waiting to pick up children from school. Right now, audience often can't view videos because the ad impressions guaranteed by major providers (studios, networks, etc.) include these companion ads. Since companion ads can't be viewed on anything that isn't a web browser on a desktop/laptop computer, there is no incentive for the major ad space providers to reach that viewer (and build the systems to support bringing content to the non-web-browser viewers).

The IAB must also go further than uncoupling the companion ad from the video ad sale; the standards for video ads must be platform independent. True that an ad viewed on different devices (platforms) seems different since ads on a computer in a web browser might mean different viewer demographics or ad effectiveness than on an iPhone or on Tivo, but the audience wants to watch what they want, where they want, when they want.

Millennials will be biggest audience by 2010 and they know how to use technology better than many of the decision makers at major content providers (studios, television networks, etc.). Whether legal or otherwise, people will find a way to view what they want on the device on which they want to view it. Since the audience now has the technology to watch video where and how they wish, the IAB standards must allow platform independence to be financially viable for the providers too.

Major providers must make advertising guarantees that can be filled on any platform. If a content provider does not, the audience is left to seek out either a pirate or non-entertainment / media company (like YouTube, which is currently the most platform diverse video provider). Not only is YouTube not primarily a content creator (yet), but they are not an entertainment or media company (yet). Failing to support every platform leaves traditional media and entertainment companies out of the equation, both financially now and building audience habits for the future.

YouTube can control all non-browser views if they continue to be the only ones to significantly support so many platforms for online video. The IAB cannot continue to build platform dependence into their standards. According to the IAB, their members are [currently] responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States, but that number will shrink unless IAB standards become platform independent.


Daisy Whitney said...

Glad my story spurred some thought. I'm torn on standards, so am curious what happens next with IAB.

David August said...

I'm not neccessarily thrilled about standards either; the one size fits all approach doesn't account for the varied options and needs for online video. At the same time, I've witnessed, and am witnessing, large companies shy away from letting people view video however they want because of the out-of-date current standard. Standards can help the marketplace stay fluid and grow, if done right (afterall, the entire internet is based on technical standards which allow it to work as widely as it does).

If there's to be a standard, I think it will make for more profit and opprotunity for everyone, including viewers, if it can be abstracted from the current technologies and outlets as much as possible.