The scarcity illusion and opportunity of premium video ad inventory

The demand for premium video ad inventory is higher than ever, and it’s only increasing.

The demand for premium video ad inventory is higher than ever, and it’s only increasing. Brands know what “premium” means to them: ads are viewable, served on quality publisher sites that have meaningful and brand-safe content, not on fraudulent or counterfeit sites. The difficulty comes when buyers try and execute a campaign at scale, as it’s easy to disregard anything other than the inventory sources they have a long relationship with.

This leads to the illusion of scarcity, and herein lies the challenge and opportunity with premium video ad inventory.

Buyers believe there is a finite supply of premium video – via direct deals, programmatic, or otherwise, and if they stick to the media-buying manual of the last fifty years, they’re right. Buying against heritage media mastheads and global publisher names will restrict access to scale. However, by examining the DNA of what has traditionally been held up as ‘premium’ inventory, then applying those criteria as a filter to the enormous volume of new media platforms for video content, perhaps it might be possible to solve the well-publicized lack of inventory in the market.

The DNA of premium video inventory

‘Premium’ really is just a byword for quality. Advertisers want access to a certain quality of inventory, and quality is defined at its most basic level by the characteristics that have formed the ad tech zeitgeist of the last year or so – e.g. is inventory viewable, brand-safe, human and on the domain it claims to be?

Because advertisers know the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc., they can visit the site and see their pre-roll in action, and see they’re paying for a valid opportunity to reach their audience.  Advertisers trust that issues of viewability, fraud and brand safety will be minimized. These high-profile pubs also have great editorial, first-party data and attractive audience demographics, adding to the value of their ad inventory. It’s a compelling package.

Unfortunately, the demand for this quality video ad inventory has far outstripped the available supply. This has led to moves by some vendors such as Teads and Rubicon Project to create new expandable or ‘out-of-stream’ ad units that don’t rely on editorial video assets. These innovative solutions increase the total video ad inventory available on those high-profile pubs, but are subject to a ceiling when it comes to scale. After all, there are only so many video ads you can inject into a text article.

Technology replaces the masthead in the digital age

If creating new ad opportunities within the domains and platforms that are considered premium isn’t going to solve the inventory problem, we need an alternative solution.

The scale advertisers so desperately need to execute their campaigns is out there, but the video consumption that drives it is distributed. Let’s look at comScore’s top video sites, which are changing rapidly. Brands may actually find that an emerging video property such as Young Hollywood, NDN, Perform or AnyClip offers more than enough inventory, reach and targeting to meet the needs of brands.

The biggest hurdle to clear is that these new media properties haven’t built up the cachet of their traditional forebears with years of relationship building and business behind them. This understandably makes advertisers nervous about inventory quality. The trouble is that the media landscape moves too fast for one to one relationship building to keep up.

Technology can replace trust. The genetic markers of quality inventory aren’t found halfway down the wine list in an expensive restaurant, they’re tangible metrics that can be measured dynamically.  Extending the supply of ‘premium’, or quality, video inventory means using technology to validate inventory sources against viewability, ad fraud and brand safety metrics.

Media buyers want quality and scale but for too long have been forced to decide between the two. Bring technology to bear on the fragmented, distributed video inventory landscape and that needn’t remain the case.

Posted by simonholliday