With the escalating importance of video advertising, we’ve been carefully examining the overall video landscape and its evolution. In my conversations and early analysis, I’ve seen that at least 50% of all video inventory on the market today is served in-banner. These ads, also called display video ads, are served independently of a video player, almost exclusively without video content to follow. In other words, a pre-roll without the “roll”. No doubt you’ve seen in-banner video ads on many of your favorite sites; they come in many shapes and sizes, but they run with limited incentive for users to watch to completion.
Because in-banner ads don’t depend on content to follow them, the format is essentially limitless in scale, making it easier to fulfill ambitious video campaigns and thereby more attractive to video media sellers. When looking to create more video inventory, publishers can choose to create more video, which is expensive and timely to produce, or simply expand in-banner video inventory.
On it’s own, there’s nothing wrong with in-banner video. But problems do occur when it’s mixed with in-stream inventory, which is considered premium, or if it’s sold unbeknownst to the media buyer. Why? There’s simply a difference in value between the two – in-stream and in-banner.
In my conversations with video buyers, they almost all believe they’re purchasing in-stream exclusively, when if fact, their ads appear in a mix of in-banner and in-stream ad units. Once made aware, without a mechanism to separate in-banner from in-stream units, they look for workarounds. For instance, many simply eliminate the 300x250 ad unit when buying video inventory.
While using 300x250 as a proxy is a smart thing to do to limit low quality video purchases, this method isn’t always ineffective. To begin, some new large-format in-banner ad units that appear once a user scrolls down are becoming popular. They are larger than 300x250 to be sure, but are still in-banner, playing independently of a player without video content to follow.
Additionally, eliminating the 300x250 is often a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water. There are plenty of in-stream videos that run in 300x250 units (i.e. 300x250 banners that feature content, and provide an incentive for the user watch an ad).
Obviously, there are countless marketers who will say in-stream content in a 300x250 is less valuable than in-stream content in the middle of the page, but that's not really the point. The point is that there are variances in value, and size is only one piece of it. Every marketer defines value uniquely, based on target audience and goals of his or her campaign.
So what’s the solution? The advertising ecosystem demands trust; buyers must have confidence that the inventory they believe they’re purchasing is, in fact, what they actually purchase. Transparency is critical to fostering that trust. Video inventory needs clear labeling that’s noted in the buying platforms, including player size and whether or not it appears before content. Luckily, the latest draft guidance from the IAB looks like it will help with this problem. They clearly define the difference types of video ads – step one towards holding sellers and platforms accountable to labeling inventory in a standardized, transparent way. With increased transparency comes decreased risk, a better ecosystem, and ultimately increased market participation and revenue for digital video.