Strategic Video Advertising: Q&A with Richard Swan, Hearst Magazines

At the upcoming AdMonsters Vienna Publisher Forum, Richard Swan, Head of Advertising Operations at Hearst Magazines, will discuss the challenges and opportunities of video advertising. We caught up with Richard today to kick off a conversation about his experience in video advertising at Hearst and to get his opinion of the video advertising landscape. To learn more about video advertising, be sure to check out Richard’s presentation at the Vienna Publisher Forum and stay tuned for OPS TV in NYC on July 11th!

How does video fit into Hearst’s advertising strategy?

Video is a significant and growing part of the available sales kit.  We have a broad range of sites, and traffic numbers vary accordingly.  Our biggest site runs several hundred thousand pre-rolls per month, down to small niche sites with only a few thousand.  We also offer various bespoke video options, we commission video shoots for ad purposes, and we have an in-house AV team & studio.

How do you utilize video in a way that is sharp, catching, and relevant to your audience?

Probably the bespoke video ads; as a publisher of high-end womens’ fashion magazines, one of the most interesting pieces was shooting a Levi’s collection for a microsite, filming the shoot & using that footage within takeovers and traffic drivers on site.  We housed the videos in expandable units & billboard ads, so presenting it to as many users as possible in an interesting and engaging way. 

That and I got to hang around a load of models for an afternoon.  That was pretty catching.

How do you manage your video strategy across the multitude of screens available to advertisers?

This is one of the key difficulties we’ve had.  There’s so many options now – file formats, devices, locations, different players, different pricing and rights structuring.  Making sure you know what each does, how the ads work, how many you can serve, and how they should be sold is key.  The session in Vienna will cover this in more detail.

What are the greatest challenges you’ve surmounted (or not yet surmounted) in video advertising?

I’d say reporting – and apart from the technical aspects, there’s also working out what can and can’t be sold.  For example one site runs several million videos per month.  But when you break that down into YouTube, shared players running off site on blogs, different geo-locations, devices not supporting Flash – we found the saleable number was a lot lower.

Volume’s a big one too.  We won’t cover “how to magic up millions of video impressions” but we will look at where this demand for video’s coming from and what’s driving it.

How do video consumption patterns shape your content and strategy?

We have dedicated AV staff on a couple of the larger titles.  They use both the metrics provided by Brightcove, as well as our customised Google Analytics tracking, to look at demand and influence editorial placement and policy.

We’ve also got some grand plans for tablet editions & inclusion of video, so watch this space!

What are the greatest factors holding back video advertising?

We’re getting there with VAST formats, but it’s still pretty variable in terms of what publishers offer – in terms of formats and of scale.  There’s a lot of demand from ad agencies and publishers haven’t been able to fill that with supply.  It’s quite expensive to make in house, and there’s still trepidation around licensing and rights, and whether celeb interviewees in particular even want to be on video in the first place!


Pondering the future of TV and digital video? OPS TV will bring digital advertising leaders and ops professionals together to discuss the intersection of digital video and TV advertising. Register today for OPS TV, which will be held July 11, 2012, in New York.