Vertical Thinking: Teads’s Todd Tran on finding a "via media" with video advertising

The case for vertical mobile ads has been won. Last year, Snapchat urged marketers and media companies to ditch wide-angle shots and go vertical, and Audi reported a completion rate which was 80 per cent higher when its mobile video ads were designed to be watched in portrait.

Teads, which leads the field in native video advertising and helps publishers to monetise through video ads, is preparing to announce InRead Vertical at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. The latest addition to its native InRead suite, it will allow advertisers to place fully skippable video adverts with premium publishers, across the whole screen and in vertical form.

Having worked under Steve Jobs to develop Apple’s nascent mobile phone business, Todd Tran, who is now global managing director of mobile and programmatic at Teads, explains the thinking behind the native video ad format, and why a completed view is more important than clicking through.

What are the biggest problems facing video advertising?

There isn’t enough premium inventory. In other words, most videos on the internet are user-generated uploads on YouTube or Facebook. They haven’t been professionally produced, so brands are often sceptical of purchasing ads around them. Professionally produced video inventory accounts for only 5 per cent of what is available online, and typically comes from broadcasters like Sky or Channel 4. Because there’s so little of it, it sells out fast.

Viewability is another big problem. The advertising industry took a lazy approach to video adverts because they assumed that audiences would be prepared to watch digital content with adverts before and within it, like TV. So pre-roll ads, which play before video content, were expected to engage the user in the same way. Like TV, you have to watch them to access the content. The problem is that pre-roll ads cannot be skipped. Users find that incredibly annoying, and the levels of skipped pre-roll ads are similar to those of pop-up banners. And those who sell pre-roll ads will charge advertisers regardless of viewability.

The third issue is viewer apathy. There is a very justifiable reason why consumers are blocking ads – there are too many pop-up and pre-roll ads which is annoying. But a study we conducted with Research Now has indicated that 79 per cent of people would consider uninstalling ad-blockers if they were given the option to skip or close the ad. The digital consumer is a control freak. So we have come up with a native video ad format which gives them that choice, and research has found that they think it is significantly more acceptable than pre-roll ads.

How does your ad format solve these issues?

We’re the global leader in native video. With so little premium video content out there, we went to print publishers. More than 90 per cent of the internet is text, not video, so there is huge amounts of premium inventory to use. We place video adverts between two paragraphs of text in an online article, and give the audience the option to scroll away if they don’t want to watch. Crucially, when the user scrolls away and the video is more than 50 per cent out of view, it pauses, and resumes when you scroll back. We only charge the advertiser if the video has been viewed completely.

This format addresses both the viewability problem for advertisers, and doesn’t force the viewer to watch the ad if they don’t want to. Moreover, it allows print publishers which haven’t traditionally produced video content to monetise by taking video ads. This is good for them because the revenue from video advertising is much better than from banner ads.

Why is a completed view so important?

With a static banner ad, you’re more reliant on the viewer clicking through to the macrosite, and that’s where an emotional connection can be established. But with video, the emotional connection comes in the ad, so the most important thing is whether or not the viewer has actually watched it all.

What is the best way to go about structuring a video ad?

First you have to consider the device. Vertical ads are more suited to mobile, horizontal to desktop. People want a vertical video format, but horizontal on desktop and TV, and there has been movement within the industry towards addressing these issues.

Second, the digital consumer has a much shorter attention span than someone watching TV. Research has shown that the creative impact of a mobile advert must come in the first 10 seconds. You need to hook them in the first few seconds so they’re actively engaged with the screen.


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