Field Report: Hosts Prognosticators of Digital Video’s Future

To energize the crowd at’s inaugural Adapt Conference, CEO, cofounder and emcee Amir Ashkenazi asked all buy side representatives – be they agency, DSP or brand people – to stand up. After that group rose, he beckoned all supply siders in the room to get on their feet. With most of the audience standing, he asked each person to shake hands with someone from the opposite side of the ecosystem. 

“That’s what this business was like before fragmentation,” he quipped to knowing chuckles. 

The demonstration proved a nice segue for first speaker Terry Kawaja, Founder and CEO of LUMA Partners and now the legendary cartographer of fragmentation in the digital advertising  industry. Since the theme of the Adapt Conference Vision of the ecosystem in three to five years, Kawaja had been tasked with imagining how the infamous digital video LUMAscape would appear in 2015.

Lo and behold – it looked a lot… OK, it was the same as the one for 2012. In this still developing space, the foundations are pretty firm, and interestingly bifurcated between TV and digital video services. Ad dollars are flowing into the channel at an 18% to 20% growth rate, but as many have noted, those bucks aren’t coming from television budgets – which are still growing, but at a declining rate. 

So consolidation? In the short term, no, but closing speaker Jack Myers of Media Advisory Group (AdMonsters Members can watch full-length video of his OPS TV keynote here) suggested when it comes, it will hit hard.

The Adapt Conference was also a chance for to model its new wares – first and foremost, the addition of a media planning tool to turn the platform into a holistic campaign management tool. Dubbed the “Unified Planner,” cofounder and VP of Product Teg Grenager walked the audience through a comprehensive demo including a look at targeting capabilities in which audience segments mirror those used in TV buying. TV and digital metrics are unified, and a recommendation engine uses data from sources such as Nielsen to fuel a real-time adjusting reach curve. Another neat tool is an RFP mechanism that can send the form with the click of a button.

In addition, welcomed several new apps into its App Center: Eyeview, Innovid, Nielsen and ComScore. Seamlessly integrated, users can now easily apply these technologies to their buying and planning processes.

A slew of high-caliber speakers ruminated throughout the afternoon on the future of video advertising – actually, there was enough ruminating to fill up half of my notebook. I’ve pulled out some highlights below that hopefully capsulize the conversation.

• Ashkenazi: “TV advertising is the crown jewel of all advertising.” With an eBay/ background, he mentioned he was surprised by how much knowledge he picked up in the e-commerce world could be transferred to video.

• Of the many potential accelerants to increase brand digital video spending listed by Kawaja –including device proliferation, social TV, a la carte buying, and a new ratings currency –delivery disintermediation was given the highest marks. However, it’s who is disintermediated that’s so interesting: satellite companies and MSOs. The video space is unique in that the content producers and packagers are one in the same – Kawaja (lovingly) referred to them as “The Cabal,” and there’s really no way to work around them.

• Lack of supply is kind of an ace in the hole for publishers. While noted that it started out as an SSP before morphing into an exchange, Kawaja highlighted the fact there are no SSPs in the video space. “You don’t need SSPs in a world where supply is constrained,” he said. “We’ll take as much as we can get, thank you!” 

• Kawaja also offered us a sneak peak at the latest LUMAscape: an analytical breakdown of media buyers.

• Audience buying is grand and all, but context is still king – and rules fiercely in the world of video. Brands want to be assured of what their content is appearing next to – hence the big viewability push in this sector. Horizon Media Chief Digital Officer Donnie Williams spoke about his agencies burgeoning “Viewable Media Marketplace,” where the agency is buying only viewable inventory. Brand people don’t want to deal with impressions, he said, because they hear too many bad things. However, Vikram Somaya, VP, of Global Operations and Audience at ThomsonReuters, commented there was too much vagueness around the value of context. 

• We all like to pile on the caricature of the 23-year-old media planning brat always on the hunt for expensive swag, but Somaya said the truth of the situation is media planners are underpaid and view the position as a dead-end job. Agencies need to better secure talent at this level and then foster it for growth. Williams also suggested agencies need more knowledgable ops folks to improve sluggish tech processes.

• Williams made the point that there’s a lot more inventory out in the TV world that should be discussed as a local marketing opportunity. 

• Are agencies becoming marginalized on the digital front? Williams suggested that the fragmented marketplace is making it more difficult to show agency impact. Kawaja suggested that marketers are building trading desks for TV buying. The name Bob Arnold, Associate Director of Global Digital Advertising at Kellogg’s and OPS panelist, came up as an example of a brand pushing hard into the world of programmatic buying.

• In Nielsen’s work with publishers on guaranteed audience sales, SVP of Strategic Accounts Tom Acquaviva said pubs are migrating away from “on-target” pricing to “in-target.” He also noticed that the company’s cross-platform campaign ratings are seeing surprising variability regarding duplication, ranging from all overlap or none. 

• Nielsen is examining strategic ways to optimize based on XCR, including a recently introduced precise marketing initiative that connects the delivery of online ads with TV viewership. In this, heavy TV viewers, more likely to have been exposed to a video ad on television, are removed from digital buys.

• Somaya: Premium publishers need to stop feeling entitled to premium treatment by advertisers and start showing their value. Media companies need to reinvent themselves on a regular basis – without destroying their business paradigm. (Always a catch!)

• In a round of word association, Somaya compared DSPs to stomach bacteria – disgusting but necessary.

Mike Racic, EVP and Managing Partner for U.S. Portfolio Management at Universal McCann: Connected/addressable TV is not a viable market, but it sure is a testable one. In particular, consoles are increasingly becoming household entertainment hubs and offer fascinating creative opportunities such as voice-activated ads.

• Kawaja’s presentation was all “Gangnam Style” – with more than 220 million views on YouTube, the viral sensation provided a smart backdrop for the enormous potential of digital video. As an aside, I had not seen the video till this morning but I’ve seen plenty of references to Gangnam Style and Psy as well as pictures from the shoot though I had no clue what they meant. (I still don’t know what the hell is going on there.) It’s pretty amazing how a Korean pop star’s catchprase posted on YouTube in July has thoroughly worked its way into the national conscience… Perhaps the global conscience?

OPS Macro-level changes are coming, and you can sieze the opportunities that follow at OPS NY. This event will bring together digital advertising leaders and ops professionals to discuss a rapidly evolving landscape and develop strategies for monetization. Register today for OPS NY which will be held Oct. 4, 2012.