Why Australian brands are only scratching the surface of video advertising

Are Australian brands doing enough when it comes to video advertising?

We have all talked a big game about video advertising. In fact, many of us had declared it the single biggest game-changer of 2017. And yet, as we hurtle towards the end of the year and stop to reflect, a pertinent question emerges – are we really there yet?

Although Australian brands and agencies are eager to pump more spend into video, many are still erring on the side of caution, and what underlies this hesitance is a general fear of the lack of programmatic expertise when it comes to video (a sentiment expressed by over 60% of Australian media professionals), as well as brand safety concerns (55%).

The consequences of that are, even as 2017 has been heralded by many in the industry as the year of video advertising, the prudence exhibited by Australian brands means we are still just about scratching the surface. And while we hum and haw, other countries are charging ahead, especially in the US, where digital video ad spend is already poised to achieve double-digit growth annually through 2020.

The upshot is this: if 2017 was the year the industry dipped its toes into video advertising, 2018 may just be the year we take the full plunge.

Why the industry needs to move beyond YouTube

Google recently announced the launch of its new tools to help marketers reach audiences, tailor creative and measure results for their digital video campaigns on YouTube. While this might seem like a step in the right direction, going some way as it does towards improving targeting, relevancy, sequencing and measurement, it has made the limited supply of video ad inventory beyond the YouTube platform even more glaring.

This is in spite of the growing popularity of outstream, the virtues of which are frequently extolled, ranging from its ability to offer a far less intrusive user experience than in-stream, to the solution it represents for brands that have limited or no video content of their own, as well as enhanced viewability.

To date, most premium publishers are reticent to add video content to their owned and operated properties on a large scale because of increased cost and complexity. At the same time, much of the video inventory outside of YouTube that is available tends to be sold directly, as opposed to on an open exchange, which therefore limits access for advertisers. What about publishers who have little to no video content?

Apart from relying too heavily on any one platform, the fact that YouTube tends to dominate video advertising then precludes many. This is especially the case for more traditional premium publishers who might have a lot more text-based web content.

Moving beyond YouTube will mean unlocking new sources of video ad formats and inventory, opening the floodgates to much higher levels of video advertising than we’re currently seeing. And when this happens, the industry needs to be ready; the infrastructure has to be in place to cope with this expansion in supply and formats – enter programmatic video.

Why programmatic video will drive growth of the Australian video advertising in 2018

The fact of the matter is that Australia is not new to programmatic. Two thirds of Australia’s digital ad inventory across all devices is bought through programmatic or ad network services. As early as last year, industry professionals in Australia beat out every other Asia Pacific market studied, with almost half having already adopted programmatic buying, and a further 30% or so intending to implement it within the next two years.

Australia is not new to video. In the 2017 financial year, it was found that video advertising actually accounts for $894.4 million of expenditure, up $294.4 million (or 50 percent) compared to the previous year.

However, these seemingly promising numbers belie the fact that they just do not match up to consumption figures, with Australians aged 18 to 24 actually spending more than 22 hours per month watching online videos. At the same time, these numbers distract from the many uncertainties and infrastructural issues that persist, which, if left unaddressed, will seriously cripple this fledging movement towards video before it even really takes off.

With the benefits that programmatic video offers both the buy-side and sell-side, as well as how quick the uptake has been for programmatic and video individually, it seems only natural that programmatic video will be what drives the growth of video advertising in Australia.

After all, advertisers need to be able to navigate the brave new world of video advertising that would come from an explosion of ad formats and supply, in as time-efficient and cost-efficient a way as possible. At the same time, programmatic video offers publishers far greater control than ever before – by giving them the means to better manage transactions and pricing, the automated process of programmatic is, in fact, designed to help publishers take full control of the digital landscape.

How programmatic video will address brand safety concerns when it comes to video

With the YouTube brand safety scandal fresh in the minds of advertisers, it comes as no surprise that brand safety is a key concern that comes to the fore in the conversation about video. While there is a general misconception that programmatic entails a loss of control, it’s more about working with programmatic partners that you trust, who have demonstrated their commitment towards brand safety.

For instance, having a clear, established brand safety framework in place that comprehensively addresses all your concerns, from third-party quality controls and page-level semantic analysis, to robust blacklist and whitelist management.

In all fairness, Google has been trying in some way to address the brand safety concerns of advertisers, most recently by preparing a 'Brand Care Playbook'. However, with so many major Australian brands continuing their YouTube boycott, the fundamental problem that emerges here is the lack of a safe alternative, highlighting just how urgently the industry needs to diversify away from YouTube. After all, in the event YouTube is embroiled in another brand safety crisis like this, do brands like Nestle and Tesla just completely pull the plug on video advertising indefinitely?

Clearly, if 2018 is going to be the year we take the full plunge into video advertising, we need to make sure that advertisers, brands and publishers alike, first know how to swim.

Matthew Joyce is country manager, Australia and New Zealand at dataxu

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