Brightroll surveyed leading online publishers in the U.S. to find out what industry stakeholders feel are important to help continue the growth of the online video advertising industry and continue the massive strides that have been achieved already. However, after reading their findings, I'm left with more questions than when I began reading it.Online video advertising is certainly taking the world by storm with 63% of respondents stated they were optimistic about the future of it and predict higher CPMs into the new year. Two-thirds of them believe it is outpacing other forms of advertising by 25%. But they [Brightroll] didn't explain exactly what they [the publishers] meant in the report. A large section of them [the publishers] said video grew on their sites 0-25%, if I had to guess based on the chart I would say 43% of them said that.
If the survey said "0-25%" then it seems biased to me as a proper survey should have given a "None at all" and then an "up to 25%" option. As it stands, roughly 43% could have had zero video ad growth in relation to other ads on their sites, we just don't know. Another 33% said 25-50%, 12% said 50-75% and around 12% said more than 75%. So we can say that around 57% definitely had some growth and 43% might have, due to the survey report being fuzzy.
Why Video Ad Networks are Growing?
Brightroll also reported that survey respondents said online video ad partnerships were growing, with a full two-thirds saying that they sell 20% of their potential ad space through ad networks. They do this because they see it as a way to get high-quality advertisers (33%), increase the ad spot fill (28%) and increased ability to sell off remnant inventory (20%). None of them mentioned anything about the ads being more compelling or making them more money aside from monetizing on what could have been lost impressions if they had no ads there.
They did however list high CPMs on ad networks as being a reason (cha-ching!), but there was no number on what percentage said that or how much of a factor it was. Many of the publishers used online video ad networks (duh). The thing is, they didn't tell us if this survey was done with publishers who use Brightroll or which publishers where asked. Was it only Brightroll customers, was it Fortune 500 companies, was it a random mailing to every major corporation with more than a million hits to their website per month or dollars in their bottom line? All of these questions cast a long shadow over the results in my mind. We don't know who they asked, what the exact questions were or how they were worded. These are all things that could affect the results, as I mentioned above, according to their survey it could be said that almost 50% of publishers had zero video ad growth.
What is holding the industry back?
Moving on, publishers also had some concerns including standardization, difficulty of integration and higher implementation times than those associated with display networks (I beg to differ). Some general industry concerns also include interruption to the user experience (33%), integration with third parties (29%), lack of advertisers (29%), metrics (20%) and cost (10%).
Now that's surprising, a third were worried about their user experience. Of course, we live and die by our traffic numbers so taking that into account should be the standard. This question was obviously multiple choice and the publishers must have been allowed to either rank or choose all that apply, the numbers add up to 121%.
Publishers also said that reach was a concern with their brand partners as is targeting capabilities. I guess reach is a viable concern since, according to comScore, video ad networks only reached 45.4% of total Internet audience, a 0.3% growth over August. Brightroll itself reaches 23.7% only and Tremor leads major video ad networks with 26.1% reach.
What works best? How to sell more?
In regards to formats that reached or exceeded expectations, 94% said pre-roll with a companion banner while that number dropped to 85% when you took out the banner. Expandable (81%), in-banner (76%), and video overlays (60%) all fared slightly less well. Does that show a lack of interaction on the consumer side or a lack of proper tools to utilize these technologies? Now there is a good research topic.
A whopping 88% said their clients would spend more if they had more research proving its effectiveness, common sense really right? 52% from Brightroll's ad agency survey said the same thing, showing some high level of optimism on their part as 48% feel they can sell it without knowing how well it works.
Better Research is needed
External, unbiased, third-party research is hard to come by at times and it's pricey. Who's going to pay for it? If the industry does then it could be seen as being pressure to show good results, etc. It's a chicken-egg problem, we need better research but the industry can't fund it as it brings a shadow over it, so who pays for the research?
The advertisers themselves need to. If they really want hard numbers to stare at in a spreadsheet, then they'll need to pool their resources together and do it. Ideally, they might do it by industry vertical. The holidays are coming up, consumer goods should already have research to know if online video would work for their upcoming holiday campaigns. Right now, travel should be doing their own research to see if online video advertising is viable for the spring/summer travel season, etc. Maybe an organization like CEA (Consumer Electronics) or CTIA (Wireless Telecom) might fund the research to find out and then offset the cost by selling the full results to their members. That would remove the online video ad industry conflict of interest as they wouldn't be paying for the research.
If they [advertisers] don't, they'll only have themselves to blame when Brightroll rolls around next year and asks about research as a requirement to expand video ad spend.
The Take Away
I don't know if it's the poor wording in the report, the lack of actual methodology (aside from it having been a survey) and demographic of respondents or what, but this research, to me, seems very poorly reported. We don't know who the respondents were. We don't know what questions were asked and at least one of them certainly could have been done far more accurately (there is a difference between no change and some change). If you're one of those people who loves numbers you'll pore over these for hours trying to grasp the straws of meaning in them.
I can save you that time and simply sum things up (for Hound who said he was just going to skip to this section). Video ads reach a large portion (45%) of the US Internet population (according to comScore), they are expensive to make and expensive to place so you need a certain ROI to justify them. You'll most likely need to do some A/B testing to make sure that your ad creative works for your targeted demographic. You'll need an ad network that gives you robust targeting (demographic, psychographic, geographic, dayparting, content, retargeting) along with placement on sites that have a high percentage of your target audience and provide good content as well as place the ads on the site where they are guaranteed to be seen (not 1000 pixels down the side of the page on auto-play with the sound off). You'll probably have to do a lot of your own research to do that targeting properly. Of course, if you're a major brand you've got most of that research done already and can just have at it. You'll also need a clear campaign goal (raise brand awareness is not all that clear usually), something like sales uplift, traffic increase to your own brand site, etc.
If research is the key to expanding online video ad adoption then that research certainly can't be paid for by the online video ad networks, because who would believe it then? It needs to be funded by an impartial third-party. That would then remove any potential for conflict of interest. There are many industry groups who are said to be looking out for the best interest of their members. If that's the case, and you belong to one or several of them, I would suggest that you apply some pressure to have them look into this for your specific industry. Of course, if you're in the online video industry you can't, because of that conflict of interest which I mentioned.
If you want to read the report, it's freely available over at Brightroll. If you're looking to put together a survey, drop me a line and I'll take a look at your questions. Of course, if you think I'm full of crap, drop me a line as well, I'm equal opportunity.
The reason I do all these mental acrobatics and feats of mathematics are so that you, our loyal readers, are more educated when it comes to research reporting. Not only will it help you when you get results from a firm doing research on your business, but I think, it will make you all more savvy business people in the long run as you won't be pulled in. When I was in the scientific sector we were taught how to report numbers so that they sounded wonderful whenever possible, without stretching the truth in any way. Percentages are great for that, but not always necessary. For example , here's one we all know, four out of five dentists recommend blah blah blah. Did you ever ask how many dentists they polled on that one, or why the one didn't agree? Hopefully, moving forward, you will.
My Own Survey (of sorts)
Finally, I leave you, the ReelSEO readership, with a small survey of my own devising. Please feel free to email me or drop a comment with your answers.
When you read research done by a member of the industry being researched are you:
A) More likely to believe the research
B) Just as likely
C) Less likely
D) Research? Huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!
Through reading ReelSEO do you feel that you are
A) More likely to use online video
B) Just as likely as not having read it
C) Less likely because I still need more information
D) Read ReelSEO? I thought there were free doughnuts here.
(Aha! Trick question! It's difficult to imagine yourself prior to reading ReelSEO and think back to what that you would have done then. However, this is a standard survey-type question).
If ReelSEO were to do research on a topic, would you:
A) Pay to receive the full results.
B) Tell us to shove it up our bums as we're obviously biased, being lovers of online video.
C) Believe every single word of what we write in it. (even I wouldn't mark this one)
D) Be willing to participate in it for a reduced rate on the final report. (that's data tampering...probably)
E) Pay a subscription to ReelSEO to get periodic insight into the industry via quarterly research. (That would allow us to do it actually)
Do you believe that ReelSEO would provide you with unbiased research on the online video industry?
A) Yes because Christophor is a jerk and doesn't pull punches (or is just a jerk)
B) Yes because Mark is an upstanding, respected and knowledgeable member of the industry
C) Yes, just because (or some other reason which you're free to include)
D) Maybe, it depends on what the research is
E) There are too many options in this question and now I've forgotten what you asked.
Generally, you wouldn't have the survey authors thoughts included in a professional, well-funded survey. But since this was spur of the moment, what the hell, right? You get what you pay for.
Oh wait, I almost forgot. Kung Pao! I'm out!