Video Programmatic Guaranteed Rises

An ongoing complaint from Zenith’s Tom Goodwin (AdMonsters’ 2018 Ops keynote speaker) is that advertisers have cash they want to spend on advertising, but sellers and their tech enablers just don’t make it easy to buy. “Most companies act like they don’t want to take our money,” is a common refrain.

I was thinking about that while I moderated a panel on attention metrics last week with 33Across. When asked about the most exciting emerging transactional platform, panelists were oddly uniform in arguing for programmatic guaranteed for digital video—especially served on connected TV or OTT.

Why? Because that’s highly valuable inventory to advertisers (Sight! Sound! Motion!) and programmatic guaranteed is very easy to operate.

Duopoly Doesn’t Hold All the Cards

According to eMarketer, U.S. video ad spend will hit $27.82 billion in 2018, growing 30% year-over-year and accounting for 25% of all U.S. digital spend. Nearly a quarter of that ($6.81 billion) is going to Facebook with YouTube taking another $3.36 billion slice.

On both of those platforms, it’s really easy to buy video advertising. Of course, both of them also have serious downsides for advertisers such as opaque measurement and brand safety issues.

Arguably, both of those are also programmatic guaranteed platforms, but the Duopoly’s scale and data leverage have enabled them to escape many measurement requirements of major brand advertisers. Indeed, an industry source suggested a while back that because Facebook and Google make so much revenue off of small buyers, they can afford to give some lip service to big brand advertisers in this department.

Non-Duopoly publishers are more amenable to brand desires on measurement. But why programmatic guaranteed and not super-awesome, flexible auctions!

Well, the auction model has not gone over great in video thanks to limitations around speed, quirks with auction mechanics, creative quality concerns, and more. VAST 4.0 addresses many of these issues, but adoption remains nothing to write home about.

Whatever Happened to Simplicity?

Besides, ease of mechanism is the key here, and auction-based programmatic is no longer easy. During the early boom of RTB, agencies freely tossed cash at cookie-hunting DSPs to buy mountains of impressions for damn near pennies. It was SO EASY! But of course there was a catch or two—rampant fraud (more precisely bots) and non-viewable inventory come first to mind.

Now staying clear of non-human and non-viewable inventory in “well-lit environments” takes some work, and the good stuff is actually pricy, and actually getting your advertising to perform takes more strategy than carpet-bombing. Across the board, programmatic auctions have less of a luster while non-auction-based programmatic guaranteed is looking pretty sweet and easy.

Which brings us to addressable video advertising (particularly on big-ass television screens), easily the most valuable inventory in digital. Good news—the amount of connected-TV viewing is going up, as well as consumer use of ad-supported CTV channels.

FANG Is Creeping Up

Mike Shields of Business Insider suggests that TV executives feel the hot breath of FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) on their necks, but they’re more interested in giving fiery keynotes about cooperation during Advertising Week NYC than actually making progress.

That’s not entirely fair because OpenAP has made some real strides on finding common audiences on the targeting front. But audience measurement is another matter—news around the grand video measurement makeover known as Project THOR has gone dead silent.

Even though agreement on measuring audiences has stalled, that hasn’t stopped bolder advertisers and agencies from establishing presences in connected TV—at the very least, they say, “Yeah, we’ve been sucking that inventory up for a while!”

Think Big, Act Huge

The next question is scale—Shields suggests video-buying is too fragmented and needs a more cohesive marketplace. I’m not entirely sold on that, but I can take a guess that it would take the form of publisher alliances or curated markets from buying platforms. And then are programmatic guaranteed video platforms mature enough to offer the kind of complex orders buyers will demand?

Scale seems to be the next chapter for programmatic guaranteed video, but there’s no doubt it’s the transaction channel to watch—and make sure you have a stake in.