There are several challenges in the world of online video advertising. One of them is that there are all sorts of devices that use a different programming language and different browsers and it's hard to get the same ad on all of them. Another is scalability, the ability to expand to more and more publishers without having to worry about having to deal with all of them differently. And how can you measure how all of these ads are doing over all these devices? And when you add interactivity to your videos, how do you know if it's working?
I spoke to Chip Scully, the VP of Online Video Advertising for Extreme Reach. Extreme Reach recently announced a cross-media reporting platform where marketers can measure and manage TV and web video campaigns simultaneously. After talking to Chip, I got the sense that Extreme Reach really wants to make everything a marketer does to expand, measure, and make video more interactive a whole lot easier than it normally is. We discussed the challenges of today's video ad landscape and he was a wealth of information.
ReelSEO Interview with Chip Scully of Extreme Reach
ReelSEO: How does interactivity improve video ads?
Chip Scully: I think there's plenty of evidence that consumers will respond and the way that consumers tend to view digital content tends to be more of a "lean-forward" experience than a "lean-back." I think the more tools we give consumers to interact with that content, I think some of them will take that next step and learn more about the brand.
The IAB recently announced five "Rising Stars" in interactive video advertising. Of all the Rising Stars, do you think there will be one that proves to be more popular than any other?
I think what the IAB is generally trying to accomplish is to raise the level of awareness. It doesn't make a lot of sense to repurpose your TV ad in the digital environment when you have the ability to do so much more. I think these are tactical steps that will hopefully make it more on people's minds, that interactivity makes a lot of sense as long as its scalable, measurable, it's not too hard, and it doesn't cost that much. We at Extreme Reach are solving those problems, so we fully agree with the steps the IAB is taking, and don't get too bogged down on which one tests the best as long as the overall message is to take best advantage of the medium as you can.
Extreme Reach is coming up with solutions to make them scalable. How do you do that?
With every one of our clients we have essentially a repository that hosts their creative library. If they log on to our user interface, they can access all of their TV creative, the same way you could access your portfolio if you were to log onto whatever financial services website that you work with. At the click of a button, you can choose one of the interactive templates that we've created and will instantly show you a demonstration of what that TV creative now looks like with the interactive overlay on top of it.
You can go and send it out for review to anybody who you want who also has a log-in to Extreme Reach's user interface. And we try to make it really easy because we add that overlay, all those development costs are free, you can do it at a click of a button, and its scalable. Instead of trying to do that interactive component with each publisher that you're working with, you're now doing it with a 3rd-party ad server. When you build your campaign, that's the creative that automatically gets sent out to all the publishers. So it's not different steps for each individual publisher.
I'm sitting down with a number of clients and when I ask them 'Are you using interactive video?', most of them aren't. The few that are, aren't scaling it. If they are, they're using interactive video with just one or two publishers. And I'll ask them,'How come?' and they'll give me various reasons and I say, 'You know this is not scalable, the way you're doing this?' And they say, 'Yes, we know that.'
So what we're trying to do is make it easy. We already have your TV spot. At a click of a button we add your interactivity, you send that new creative out to all these publishers and you're done. And a lot of people aren't there yet because they haven't found scalable solutions.
Do you have any numbers on how interactive video performs?
The research I've seen shows that engagement improves anywhere from 3x-5x on average by using interactive overlays on top of your regular creative.
Why is social media important in video ad campaigns?
The single best endorsement a marketer can get is, instead of it getting pushed out directly from the marketer to the consumer, it comes from a friend of somebody who is sharing it with them, so now it already has that implied endorsement from their friend instead of 'I'm making you watch this because your watching this TV show you're subjected to this thirty seconds.' When you get that kind of engagement, you improve your chances of sharing. It improves word-of-mouth. When all is said and done, the marketer has a chance to get the best kind of endorsement that they can get.
Even with the interactivity, it doesn't necessarily mean people will want to sit through pre-rolls. Is there even a solution for that?
I may have a unique point of view on this. I think fundamentally almost no one was watching short-form video in the years before YouTube. Now people watch a lot of short-form video. And we've tried to layer an ad model on top of that, that in the scheme of things probably can be considered a little disappointing when you consider how much content gets viewed without a commercial adjacency. Are brands ever really going to buy into short-form, which is mostly [user generated content], as being a great format in which to run their ad? I don't know if that's ever really going to change.
What I do think is going to change is that more and more full-episode, what we think of as TV content, is going to be available digitally. It's probably going to be available in the future at the same time as it's on your TV, and it's going to be much more interesting compared to what you're used to seeing on TV in that it will have layers of engagement. So I think the industry is more apt to go in that direction, than really fundamentally solve, "Is UGC a good place to advertise?"
There is a dilemma about getting all of these ad formats on different devices like mobile and tablets. Are interactive mobile ads ever going to be a part of our future?
It absolutely has to be in the future. I think there are a couple layers of challenges there. Unless you have the latest mobile phone device, watching video on your phone still tends to be a challenge. Tablets are spectacular viewing devices but I think there's a question as to whether you call them 'mobile' because by and large people don't take it out of their home. But with tablets, it's there. With phones, we're still getting there.
Then there's the industry technology challenges, which is being able to ad-serve across all these devices and being able to measure it and being able to add interactivity to the ad and we've found that the industry has a lot of struggles with this. Extreme Reach doesn't. Once we have your commercial spot we transcode it so it can be served anywhere on any device and still measure it.
But as I'm learning more about the marketplace and seeing my competitors present at this summit, I'm very happy to see our competitors still struggling with those things. I think it's going to be a bit of an arms race which someday the industry is going to solve and all of those challenges are going to be seen ubiquitously across the landscape, but right now we're in an uphill battle to see that across the board.
Do you think these hardware/operating system creators like Apple and Google will ever get on board and try to come up with something everyone can use for ads?
I don't imagine all of these systems are going to agree. I think we see more and more of these large players raise the walls so that they can be more competitive against each other. What I think has to be solved for is that your delivery mechanism solves those problems for you. That's why when you start to realize that every publisher may have different specs, and depending on which device that publisher's content is viewed, it could mean even more transcoding that has to be done. We solve for all that.
With our competitors we know that you have to transcode every single spot every time manually according to which publisher and which device, as you enter all those data points into the campaign. And that's just stalling the whole industry from making online video really scalable. I don't see the major players becoming more compatible and more friendly. I think the 3rd-party ad servers of the world have to solve for all the technology barriers. We've done that at Extreme Reach and we think hopefully that will help our advertisers scale their campaigns better.
What that's going to allow advertiser's to do is to look at their TV campaigns and their online video advertising campaigns and we'll be able to measure impressions, reach, and frequency across TV and any digital ad-serving that they get all in one snapshot of a report. If you think of video from a marketer's point of view, they spend 70% of their budget on creating a video and how much media they buy behind it to push that video out. So by far the largest focus of all their communication is behind the video.
What's happening right now is that there's this great digital divide where they rely on TV and they know the consumers are moving to digital but they're slow to follow them. So what we hope we can help solve for by creating these near real-time cross-media reports, they can see how their video is performing across TV and online video, whether that's on a mobile device or PC and they can get that snapshot all in one place and they can see what's working and what's not. We're pretty excited about that and we think it's going to help marketers understand how their dollars are working and how to get better in the future.