The Buy Side Knows How It Can Improve Ad Experience: New FreeWheel Report

There’s a new report out from FreeWheel called "Advancing the Ad Experience," where the FreeWheel Council for Premium Video and study partner Advertiser Perceptions surveyed brand and agency execs about the ad experience in digital video, and the challenges to it. The report concluded—surprise!—that “the process and responsibility starts with the brand advertiser themselves.” That’s the kind of news publishers like to hear, right?

All right, so I oversimplified the report’s takeaways for the sake of a catchier lede. The full sentence I quoted goes, “The process and responsibility starts with the brand advertiser themselves, their agency teams, technology partners and the publisher.” So, in other words, ad experience starts with the entire ad supply chain. But brands and agencies are still first and second in that list.

Publishers catch a lot of heat for ad experience problems, and much of it comes from users. Who can blame them? From where the user sits, any website they’re on becomes sort of the proxy for the entire digital ad industry. At AdMonsters, we’ve written quite a bit about how ad ops has a “gatekeeper” role, in that regard—ops needs to make sure quality ads get served and garbage ads get rooted out, if not stopped at the gate altogether. It’s a lot of responsibility to place on a person or team that can’t independently control the whole supply chain. So it’s refreshing to see, in FreeWheel’s findings, 242 marketers and agency people copping to the facts that ad experience problems exist in part because they haven’t provided enough versions of the ad creative for all digital environments, they’ve added tags to the point of causing latency, and their media buying strategies don’t always suit the creative they have.

The study does get into what brands and agencies expect of the sell side. Among the respondents, 79% said dynamic ad loads would be a boon, 72% recommended decluttering pages, and 67% pointed to frequency capping. That’s more or less to be expected. So is the whole idea that brands and agencies themselves need to be smarter about developing video creative that suits mobile and other digital environments, rather than repurposing TV spots. But yes, that’s is in the report too—39% of respondents said repurposed TV creative was an underlying reason for poor ad experience.

This is all fodder for publishers to push back on the buy side in discussions about campaign performance and user experience. Brands and agencies obviously know they share accountability for the performance of their video campaigns, and they know where they need to improve.

And yes, the respondents did highlight where publishers need to improve in delivering quality ad experiences, they were inclined to agree that the agency’s creative and media departments and the marketer all bore more responsibility than the publisher.

There’s an interesting disconnect between creative development and media buying, and AdMonsters contributor Will Rand will be weighing in on this in posts we’re publishing later this week. Will’s argument is that brands are hurting themselves by buying video inventory on the open exchanges, where it’s often shoehorned into repurposed banners where it doesn’t belong. Yeah, the open exchange is an efficient place to buy video efficiently and at relatively low prices. But in part because the creative is totally wrong for the environment it often ends up served into, the open exchange is a particularly bad way for a brand to communicate anything meaningful in video form to its target audience.

Fittingly, the FreeWheel report has 55% of respondents saying programmatic is useful for video, 37% saying it’s a hindrance, and only 8% saying there are both pros and cons. That polarization seems to say something that might back up Will’s point. As with digital itself, maybe the problem isn’t that programmatic is good or bad, but that there are different ways of doing it, and the creative strategy needs to somehow suit the buying strategy.

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Brian LaRue has been AdMonsters' Staff Writer since the summer of 2015. He arrived at AdMonsters with several years' worth of knowledge of media and advertising tech, having written and edited on behalf of publications and tech vendors alike. Brian has been publishing steadily since high school and cut his teeth professionally at regional alt-weeklies in New England. Being involved in print in the 21st century certainly helped inspire his vocal advocacy of digital media. These days, he lives in Brooklyn, NY, where he pursues several threads of an art-damaged semi-secret life.

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