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  • Perspective What's this? Balancing Innovation with Practicality in Video Advertising

    There’s a lot happening in programmatic video advertising today – new ad formats, new measurement standards and new placements. For a major multinational brand that’s relatively new to the medium, there’s a lot to consider.

    It’s even more perplexing in an industry that tends to promote "the next big thing" before it’s really ready for prime time. A classic example of this was when the industry was poised to abandon Flash and head full-tilt into HTML5, when most of the available inventory was still exclusively in Flash. Today, there’s so much talk about connected TV and native video, many brand advertisers may be adding budget lines for these shiny new objects.

    However, the truth is that these innovations are not yet heavily adopted by publishers or by consumers. Investing in them today may not yield expected returns – or even be measurable by current standards.

    But while “no one ever got fired for buying IBM,” the same can’t be said for new ad tech firms. To be fair, no one wants to be the first company to “go big” into any new digital channel – not until some other company has first proved its value and efficacy. The result is that brands tend to be at least six months behind the technology curve. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing to be cautious, but sometimes opportunities are missed by not getting in early.

    Marketers need to understand which digital tactics are ripe for investment, delivering the returns they need to meet their goals, and which still need to ripen.

    It’s a tough line to walk. There always seems to be a choice between being safe and being innovative. Is it better to be the early adopter who blazes the unproven trail digitally, or the laggard, who is months to years behind the competition?

    This is especially true when it comes to video advertising. We know it can work, but there are so many formats, standards and pitfalls. While measurement standards are in place for many video formats across platforms, Facebook and other platforms have their own measurement standards – and they’re not always effective, or even reliable.

    A good solution for companies is to task a team member with becoming an in-house expert on digital advertising and marketing trends. Every department should have someone who knows and understands when the time is right to invest and when a technology needs a little more time in the oven. As Procter and Gamble’s Marc Pritchard said recently, "The days of giving digital a pass are over."

    Creating an in-house marketing laboratory in which these ad units, platforms and technologies can be tested will provide the organization with unbiased, relevant information about which “shiny objects” are actually worthy of investment. As much as we read about how well Snap video ads can work for business, there’s no reliable way to tell if that unit will work better or worse than a mid-roll ad for your unique business, unless they’re tested head-to-head.

    The individual running your marketing experiments lab should be hungry for knowledge, but experienced enough to know what an effective campaign looks like for your industry, your product and your business. This individual should have responsibility for:

    - Understanding the latest trends in digital – formats, channels, technologies
    - Understanding the adoption rate of these technologies across publishers, consumers and other businesses
    - Understanding consumer sentiment and tolerance around these technologies, and what current success metrics look like for benchmarking purposes
    - Understanding measurement standards: Is this new format measured by current analytics? Or is it a “special snowflake” that requires its own measurement?

    The researcher should be empowered to select technologies that seem relevant and beneficial to the business, and should also be given a budget with which he or she can test these new technologies. The budget should be small enough to be safe, but large enough to be able to provide some critical feedback.

    With this sort of in-house lab/in-house expert program in place, marketers can safely embark on their next programmatic video campaign without a fear of being the first to “fail big”, or a fear of lagging behind.

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