The Future of Video Ad Networks: Plumbing and People

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plumber_smallADOTAS – Much has been made recently about the anticipated demise of video ad networks, which are said to be under attack by various players in the evolving space. As DSPs, exchanges and trading desks continue to dot the display landscape, the assumption is that these same platforms will soon migrate into the video space and threaten the viability of pure-play video ad networks.

In fact, that migration is already happening. But pure-play video networks that have been around for a few years have seen this coming, which is why some have augmented their core businesses with more automated offerings that cater to the market’s audience-on-demand buying needs.

That’s the perception, at least.

Just as the display networks and, in some cases, agencies themselves, have been methodical in building, buying or licensing the technology needed to offer a video solution, the process of evolution has been no cinch for video-centric companies as well. Even after the strategy is clear and the technologies are ready for deployment, the real challenge awaits – specifically, publisher integration.

Publisher Integration — a.k.a, the Plumbing

The practice of video buying has benefited over the years from what was learned in display. Significant display buying is administered through exchanges and DSPs, and the same fundamental practices have begun happening more regularly in video.

There are a number of factors keeping this from becoming more widespread, and publisher integration across a disparate video player community is the primary obstacle. The video ad networks that succeed will own the publisher integration process and have their hooks into the video player environments across all active affiliates using ad delivery and tracking technology that is owned and operated by the network itself.

Publisher integration can be a laborious, often unrewarding process. But without the widespread wiring of an affiliate network, the syndication of video ads becomes a manual slog that slows campaign activation and optimization to a crawl. The companies that, with their own ad management and measurement tools, streamline the integration process on a VAST 2.0/VPAID spec and accelerate buy-side automation will outlast the traditional video network set.

The resulting companies will offer a next-generation inventory platform that accommodates any buying party. This will enable plug-and-play transactions through existing DSP and exchange UIs, or unique, custom or branded utilities that can be used and resold by agencies and marketers directly. This will eventually blur the demand side lines between brands, agencies, trading desks, DSPs, and traditional display and video networks.

Despite the best efforts of some talented marketing and communications folks in the space, few video ad suppliers have the core asset of a wired publisher network in place to make this a reality today. This should govern the planning and buying activities of the AOD-minded. Without this prerequisite, scalable data-driven audience acquisition won’t happen.

Human Talent

With all the talk about automation and efficiencies in the online advertising space, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the people behind the technology. Ultimately, it’s the people within the network that make it innovative and that execute on big ideas that make the most impact for their clients.

Ultimately, it’s the network that has to be capable of proving that it’s innovative, that it’s retained or recruited idea and execution experts, and that it’s willing to invite its marketing and media partners into the innovation process.

Lasting differentiation comes from human intelligence, whether applied to sales, product development or, most importantly, customer service. In the end, every meaningful video inventory supplier should be able to compete on reach, targeting, data, performance and price. Beyond the prerequisites come human qualities like integrity, culture and professionalism.

In its reliance on “proprietary” technology to create differentiation, does the network overlook the human element? In an industry flooded with good ideas that can be quickly duplicated, good people are the only proprietary characteristic with staying power.

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