Mobile Video Advertising: Today and Tomorrow

Mobile Video Advertising: Today and Tomorrow

Given the immense popularity of video streaming on mobile devices, mobile video ads will certainly play a large role in shaping the future mobile advertising landscape. In this AdMonsters OPS Mobile exclusive blog post, NBC Universal’s James Gaffar discusses the current state of mobile video and the steps needed to capitalize on its potential.



Before June 2007


Mobile Advertising posed many technical and creative challenges for advertisers and marketers because of device fragmentation, the inability to support rich media, true scale and ability to drive effective messaging.  These issues can be attributed to the hyper-fragmentation of hardware and software support across handsets.  With hundreds of differentiated mobile handsets in the marketplace, delivering compelling advertising content with scale was nearly impossible.  During this time mobile advertising consisted predominately of SMS and basic text link programs.


Fast forward 5 years to 2011


The entire industry is experiencing tremendous growth fueled by mass adoption of smartphone handsets such as iPhones and Android devices.  Since these “smarter” devices support richer video and media experiences, advertisers now see the true value that this medium provides for their marketing objectives.


Fragmentation across mobile devices creates obstacles for Advertisers


Fragmentation has always and will always be a challenge for the industry.  It’s extremely difficult for content providers to keep up with the rapid rate of technology, making marketing on these ever-changing platforms that much harder for advertisers. 


The first challenge for advertisers is to understand their target demo – carriers, devices, time of day & location. Once identified, brands need to develop creatives for proper delivery.


Many creative agencies are not equipped to develop and serve such campaigns, placing the burden of creative development back onto the publisher or ad network.  As consumers appetite for technology expands, and as content providers clamor to keep up with the way users consume their content, advertisers must find the most effective way to deploy and reach their target audience.


Advertisers will become well-versed and begin to develop mobile video creative that is truly scalable while solving fragmentation issues.  HTML5 seems to be a viable solution since the majority of smartphone devices and handsets support these experiences. Until then, publishers must continue to facilitate proper creative deployment as well as educate clients on industry best practices.


In the meantime, Mobile Video Advertising can be simplified into three vehicles of deployment – Single Stream, Dynamic Ad Insertion and HTTP Live Streaming.


  1. Single Stream – Ad Stitching
  2. The variance of mobile player capabilities has always been an issue for video content providers, especially as it pertains to pre-roll or mid-roll ad delivery.  Every device that supports video streaming has a native video player that requires a specific video format for proper video delivery.  This poses a challenge for advertisers who want to run their flash or online creative into mobile since their creative will not be supported.


    Since online players are mostly hosted on web pages and not tied to a native player device or computer, they typically support dynamic ad calls in a pre-roll or mid-roll position without affecting video content delivery.  Mobile video players are extremely basic in their features and capabilities resulting in support for single stream delivery.


    In order to deliver video ads across all mobile devices the ads need to be stitched against content and delivered to the mobile video player in one stream.


    Single stream ad stitching is primarily utilized across mobile web sites and other mobile web destinations.  This method of video ad delivery is the most efficient way to reach scale across a large percentage of devices that support video. 


    Single stream video ads cannot support interactivity or click-thru destinations since the stream prompts the device’s native player to open up in full-screen mode.  These players are not configured to support interactivity or other custom-sized experiences, therefore the companion banners typically appear before and after the stream.


    This method of video ad delivery requires a technology platform that first stitches the video ad onto content and then encodes the file to various profiles necessary to reach the largest percentage of handsets that support video.


  3. Dynamic Ad Insertion – Non-Stitched
  4. iOS apps can support dynamic ad insertion because the iOS SDK (software development kit) allows developers access to customize the native video player.  These players can support dynamic ad calls in pre- or mid-roll positions.  It’s much easier to control the video ad experience within an iOS app than any other web destination. 


    In order to support dynamic ad insertion in a mobile web environment, an HTML5 player would need to be developed with all of the ad logic built directly into the player.  In addition, this HTML5 player would only be supported by a small number of handsets since different handsets have different browser support capabilities. 


  5. HTTP Live Streaming – Best Experience
  6. HTTP Live Streaming is an Apple developed video and audio protocol. It delivers adaptive bit rate streaming to iOS devices including Apple TV and Mac OS X.  HTTP Live Streaming supports multiple alternate streams at different bit rates, and the client software can switch streams intelligently as network bandwidth changes.  For example, if a user is streaming video content on a 3g network, the stream dynamically increases or decreases video and audio quality to support the appropriate speeds of that connection.  HTTP Live Streaming also provides for media encryption and user authentication over HTTPS, allowing publishers to protect their work.


    This streaming protocol is quickly becoming the standard for higher end mobile devices, as Android’s Honeycomb platform has already adopted support.


Not Quite There Yet


In order for Mobile Video Advertising to reach its fullest potential the industry needs to address the following issues:


  • Standards for Video Ad Delivery
    • In-App vs Mobile Web
  • Creative Agencies need to develop mobile-specific creative
  • Consistency with tracking, serving and 3rd party support



NBCU Use of HTTP Live Streaming


NBCU is currently rolling out HTTP Live Streaming to deliver all video content to iOS and other devices to provide the highest level of quality to our users. We are also exploring this video delivery across other devices that can support it such as Android 3.0+. By adjusting the quality of the stream based on users’ connection speed, it provides a much better viewing environment with fewer player crashes, skips or player issues.


In addition, we are extending these capabilities to our advertising clients.  The use of this technology allows advertisers the opportunity to deliver their creative messaging in the highest quality possible.


We strongly believe that both engaged capabilities and standardization across all of our brands and products will attract advertisers through the ease of purchasing inventory married with effective creative products.  NBCU also looks to leverage rich media to enhance the advertising experiences and provide our users with deep interactivity with our partner’s brands.



Interested in learning more about mobile advertising? OPS Mobile will bring digital advertising leaders and ops professionals together to discuss and develop best practices for operational excellence in a world of connected devices. Register today for OPS Mobile, AdMonsters’ mobile advertising conference, which will be held December 7, 2011 in New York.