What Exactly is a Video Ad?

While our industry has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, there remains a critical issue holding us back: the lack of a concrete definition for “video advertising.”

Currently, what “video advertising” is depends on who you ask, and this ambiguity has a negative effect on the entire ecosystem. Media pundits, reporters, and many companies, especially networks entrenched in display, claim video advertising is any digital ad that contains video, including in-banner and in-text ads. Others see video advertising as any type of advertisement in the video stream, regardless of format. Meanwhile, super influencer comScore releases rankings based only on in-stream ads that contain video, thus missing in-stream branded and interactive overlay ads entirely. This confusion helps absolutely no one.

For instance, Baljeet Singh, Senior Product Manager for YouTube agrees, saying, “Online video is certainly in need of more accountability when it comes to video metrics. We should work together to develop standards so that publishers and advertisers alike can maximize the benefits of online video advertising- and ultimately benefit the viewer by helping connect the right message to the right person at the right time.”

For advertisers, this lack of clarity can unknowingly lead them to undesired placements. Excited about the possibilities in our space, they want to spend. They see video as a way to extend their TV buys, raising TRPs (target rating points) and GRPs (gross rating points). However, despite growth in online video viewing, demand for premium inventory still far exceeds supply. Enter display networks, which operate with a broader definition of video advertising. These networks step-in and promise vast reach at a low CPM, achieved by delivering ads any way possible. Often they’ll ask true video ad networks for inventory, but later turn to in-banner/in-text placements for the balance. While the advertiser may experience an initial boost in TRPs and GRPs, they miss out on the full impact of in-stream video advertisements. This lowers actual ROI and leaves decision makers wondering what the hype around video is all about.

In this vain, ComScore’s narrow definition of video advertising negatively impacts publishers, video ad networks, and ultimately consumers. In a race to show advertisers their expansive inventory, publishers and networks concentrate on serving pre-rolls to make sure they break through on the ComScore charts. However, pre-roll alone doesn’t work efficiently with short-form content, which is still highly viewed. This is true of short-form content whether it’s premium or user-generated. This leads to annoyed consumers and higher abandonment rates. Obviously, respecting the viewer is important – without them, we have no industry. By neglecting formats such as in-stream overlays, comScore misses important aspects of the in-video media mix that helps keep viewers on publishers’ sites and adds more premium inventory for advertisers.

A vague definition may seem harmless, but it confuses and disappoints advertisers, annoys viewers and devalues the online video industry.

“The online and mobile video industry is in a golden age of innovation,” said Bill Lederer, CEO of Kantar Video. “We would do advertisers, publishers, and audiences a world of good working together to support this growth. Transparent, standardized measurement and committing to independent video research will drive greater trust and faster adoption.”

I call on all parts of the ecosystem to band together and use our passion to institute real change. We must act now and agree upon solidified definitions and standards, promote transparency on all sides, and drive further research and education for advertisers.


Josh Winograd is chief revenue officer at AdoTube, an online video advertising platform.


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