Performance-based video ad network SpotXchange will announce this week a new partnership with audience profiling firm Quantcast that will allow SpotXchange to offer demographic targeting across its entire network as well as Gross Ratings Points (GRP) based campaigns, the standard for TV media buying. As Bryon Evje, SpotXchange's EVP told me last week, being able to translate campaigns into a "cost-per-point" model for its clients means SpotXchange will be more appealing to traditional TV media buyers evaluating online video ad opportunities. SpotXchange's goal is of course to lure over ad dollars traditionally spent on TV.
If a SpotXchange advertiser is also a Quantcast client, then the advertiser will be able to proactively define a specific audience it wants to target and then buy just those ad placements from SpotXchange that fulfill its objective. SpotXchange can use Quantcast's data on particular segments to determine how many GRPs are available, and then by combining its own pricing, can calculate what it would cost a client to reach that audience on a per point basis.
SpotxChange can separately offer demographically-targeted ads by doing a real-time match against Quantcast's data, before an ad is served. If there isn't a targeted user available, then no ad would be served, reducing spending waste and enhancing the overall campaign's ROI.
Quantcast's demographic information is derived by tracking the behaviors of 220 million Internet users across thousands of web sites. I talked briefly with Quantcast's head of business development Winston Crawford who explained that the company's secret sauce is an "inference model" that takes the behavioral data and mathematically translates it into affinity levels.
From this Quantcast is able to build a "lookalike" model which allows advertisers to target those users who have similar affinities (and as a result a higher probably of converting) elsewhere on the web. In the case of SpotXchange, the lookalikes targeted would be users of sites in its publisher network. Quantcast already works with other video ad networks such as Tremor and BBE, along with many display ad networks.
Melding online video ad campaigns with traditional GRP measurement has gained momentum this year, as other video ad networks like Tremor, BBE and YuMe have announced their own initiatives. Combining a GRP approach with demographic targeting offered by firms like Quantcast is further evidence that the online video ad medium is continuing to mature. Despite the news today that CBS Interactive is phasing out its use of third-party ad networks, as video ad networks move to offering campaigns that can be evaluated along traditional TV criteria, this should in turn draw traditional TV ad dollars to online video. That would mean video ad networks' value would increase.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Late last week, news broke that Heavy Media, which operates Heavy.com, one of the leading destination sites for men 18-34 was spinning off its Husky Media unit as a standalone ad management and network company. I found the deal intriguing and followed up with David Carson, co-CEO to learn more and see how it plays into larger trends I've been tracking.
Broadband ad networks already compete vigorously with each other to build out their publisher networks and cultivate brands and agencies to obtain a share of their spending. The networks are continuously enhancing their technology and trying to optimize their various ad units to demonstrate the superiority of their approach. And as I recently wrote in "Tremor, Adap.tv Introduce New Ad Platforms," some firms are now enabling ad aggregation in an effort to improve their publishers' effective CPMs.
With this context in mind, a key question is "does the world really need another video ad management and network?" David patiently explained that they've received a lot of outside interest in their units, namely the "barn doors" that are shown before the video plays, the subsequent skin that remains on the sides while the video plays, and the playlist-like queuing of video with ads judiciously interspersed (which Heavy calls its Video Guide). Heavy has avoided pre-rolls entirely. This interest spurred them to separate Husky.
David believes that each of these units offers superior value. As compared with pre-rolls, where David said "bounce" or early termination rates can be 50% (resulting in the actual content never being seen), with Husky's approach, there's a 90% completion rate, and particularly when users come through the Husky "Video Guide", the number of videos consumed can be 3-6 times greater. David also said they're seeing click-throughs averaging 1.6%, above industry norms.
So of course the next question is, if these units perform so well, what's to stop others from introducing them as well? In fact, David would encourage this, as he believes it would help educate the market and maybe help establish these as preferred units. As long as Husky continues to get its fair share that would be a win. Husky has patents on the skin, and how it works with various video players.
David said investor meetings are underway and he anticipates the company completing its own financing. Husky will have its own separate management team. Heavy also announced last week a syndication deal for its Burly Sports show to CBSSports.com, and, no surprise, Husky will be the ad platform. To the extent that Heavy can do other syndication deals where Husky gets included, that will help it gain market share.
Clearly there continues to be a huge amount of experimentation in the broadband video ad market. The Husky deal further shows that sometimes developing technology for your a site's own use can, if successful, end up creating larger financial value.
Looking back over two dozen posts in May and countless industry news items, I have synthesized 3 key topics below. I'll have more on all of these in the coming months.
1. Broadband-delivered movies inch forward - breakthroughs still far out
In May there was incremental progress in the holy grail-like pursuit of broadband-delivered movies. Apple established day-and-date deals with the major studios for iTunes. Netlix and Roku announced a new lightweight box for delivering Netlix's "Watch Now" catalog of 10,000 titles to TVs. Bell Canada launched its Bell Video Store, complete with day-and-date Paramount releases, with others to come soon. And Starz announced a deal with Verizon to market "Starz Play" a newly branded version of its Vongo broadband subscription and video-on-demand service.
Taken together, these deals suggest that studios are warming to the broadband opportunity. This is certainly influenced by slowing DVD sales. Yet as I explained in "iTunes Film Deals Not a Game Changer" and "Online Move Delivery Advances, Big Hurdles Still Loom" broadband movies are still bedeviled by a lack of mass PC-TV connectivity, no real portability, well-defined consumer behavior around DVDs and the studios' well-entrenched, window-driven business model. Despite May's progress, major breakthroughs in the broadband movie business are still way out on the horizon.
2. Broadcast TV networks are embracing broadband delivery - but leading to what?
Unlike the film studios, the broadcast TV networks are plowing headlong into broadband delivery, yet it's not at all clear where this leads. In "Does Broadband Video Help or Hurt Broadcast TV Networks" and "Fox's 'Remote-Free TV': Broadband's First Adverse Impact on Networks?" I laid out an initial analysis about broadband's pluses and minuses for networks. I'll have more on this in the coming weeks, including more in-depth financial analysis.
On the plus side, in "2009 Super Bowl Ads to Hit $3 Million, Broadband's Role Must Grow," "Sunday Morning Talk Shows Need Broadband Refresh" and "Today Show Interview with McClellan Showcases Broadband's Power," I illustrated some opportunities broadband is creating. On the other hand, "Bebo Pursues Distinctive Original Programming Model" and "More Questions than Answers at Digital Hollywood" explained how exciting new programming approaches are taking hold, challenging traditional TV production models. Broadcasters are in the eye of the broadband storm.
3. Advertising's evolution fueled by innovation and resources
Last, but hardly least, I continued on one of my favorite topics: the impact broadband video is having on the advertising industry. Over the last 10 years the Internet, with its targetability, interactivity and measurability has caused major shifts in marketers' thinking. With broadband further extending these capabilities to video, the traditional TV ad business is now ripe for budget-shifting. We'll be exploring a lot of this at a panel I'm moderating at Advertising 2.0 this Thursday.
In "Tremor, Adap.tv Introduce New Ad Platforms" and "All Eyes on Cable Industry's 'Project Canoe'" (from Mugs Buckley), key players' innovations were described along with how the cable industry plans to compete. Content providers are being presented with more and more options for monetizing their video, a trend which will only accelerate. Yet as I wrote in "Key Themes from My 2 Panel Discussions Last Week," many issues remain, and with so many content start-ups reliant on ads, there may be some disappointment looming when people realize the ad market is not as mature as they had hoped.
That's it for May. Lots more coming in June. Please stay tuned.