Advertising Technology

Programmatic Video Is Branding Territory

Gavin_260This column was written by Gavin Dunaway, U.S. Editor at AdMonsters.

Forget “To be or not to be?” “How do we get those big branding dollars moving into our wonderfully efficient programmatic channels?” – now that is the question, or at least it has been as long as I’ve written about digital advertising.

But cramming before moderating a panel on programmatic video for OPS Markets, it was pretty clear loads of branding dollars are already running through the programmatic pipes – in the case of video.

The big stat grabbing eyeballs in SpotXchange and Forrester’s most recentpaper on video RTB is that the channel will crack $1 billion in total revenue in 2014 – 24% of all video revenue. While impressive, it’s not surprising – that number has pretty much been doubling in revenue year over year. With a 57% CAGR between 2011 and 2014, the money flowing through RTB is growing at a faster rate than the overall digital video – which itself is expanding at a clip.

According to our panel – Christina Beaumier of Xaxis; Alanna Gombert of Condé Nast; Erwin Castellanos of LiveRail; and Jason Lopatecki of TubeMogul – there are a number of reasons why branding dollars are flocking to programmatic. And yes, many circle around the fact video ≠ display.

“Video has hit a cadence much quicker than display,” Gombert said. “It’s easier to employ, it’s easier to understand.”

Granted, some of that is thanks to growing pains surmounted in bringing automation to display buying. (“You mean we actually learned something from our past mistakes?” I quipped.) Programmatic strategies have matured, Beaumier commented, and now brands are expecting the same efficiencies with video buying.

Lopatecki also made the point that programmatic is a lot less crowded space than neighboring display, with less point solutions taking up space and incremental revenue. Sure, the Video LUMAscape that Keynote AmandaBicofsky of LUMA Partners had just highlighted in the previous session boasted a lot of logos, but if you narrow it down to the programmatic video players, there aren’t a whole that many names.

In addition, video isn’t confined to a platform, Beaumier commented. TV served to a high-def flatscreen via a cable box is basically the same as TV served over the Internet to a laptop – advertisers can approach these platforms in similar manners.

Speaking the Same Language

As noted in many reports, including AdMonsters and’s2013 European Digital Video Advertising Outlook, TV and digital video strategies are aligning across the ecosystem. TV and digital groups are increasingly planning together, with video seen as a complementary to TV efforts. Similar to the television world, buyers are grabbing a chunk at upfronts and newfronts, then appending with audience-based buys.

“For the first time we can finally speak the same language,” said Gombert.

And that language is… GRPs. In the 2013 European Digital Video Advertising Outlook, the greatest concern across the spectrum was the lack of unified metrics between TV and video – tools such as Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings are bridging the gap and opening doors, but still leave a lot to be desired. In particular, optimizing audience data on the supply side is difficult, said Castellanos. At this point, audience targeting is at once the great enabler and the biggest speedbump.

Still, Lopatecki commented, “This has been the year of the GRP.

Which surprised me – it might be better than the click, but my audience of digital strategists ain’t that fond of the GRP neither. I asked, “So is the GRP here to say?”

From the panelists came the sound of heads nodding. From the audience, silence. (Then again, it was right after a delicious lunch and before the coffee break – there’s a comment section below if you want to chime in now.)

Publisher Prerogative

Around a year ago, I queried numerous premium publishers to get their thoughts on programmatic video – namely, video RTB. The majority didn’t understand the point – if they were constantly selling out video through direct sales, why bother with RTB?

But this is another example where display and video part ways. Premium and remnant in our traditional display mindset – i.e., direct vs. indirect – doesn’t really work on this front. Publishers shouldn’t be thinking of unsold video inventory as fodder for ad networks – and they shouldn’t be selling as much inventory as possible through direct sales or upfronts.

Rifling through survey data for AdMonsters and’s2013 European Digital Video Advertising Outlook, we noticed that despite increases in video inventory and super high fill rates, publishers’ video CPM were static. If supply is just barely keeping up with demand, why aren’t prices going up? We concluded that an overreliance on upfront and direct sales was costing pubs revenue when agencies were increasingly turning to programmatic channels to take advantage of audience targeting.

Castellanos suggested publishers are getting wise and increasingly looking to automated video channels. Although Condé Nast is just building up its digital video business, Gombert said the media giant is putting together its programmatic video plan. Interestingly, she also commented that private video marketplaces are easier to execute than private display marketplaces – less moving pieces.

Alas, 40 minutes was not enough time for our programmatic video panel to venture into the mobile realm – the US is now smartphone country, and increasingly impressive network speeds and proliferation of public wifi are key drivers of rising mobile video consumption. The effect of tablets on the space won’t be clear for a while. But as desktop programmatic video is flourishing and players get closer to cracking unified metrics, you can bet advertisers are going to want to target on-the-move audiences in real time. Looks like publishers will need to meet them there sooner rather than later.


Gavin Dunaway is a contributor to The Makegood and U.S. Editor at AdMonsters, a global community of ad operations and technology leaders.