For display ads, it’s easy to see the correlation between the messages each marketer is sharing and how they are relevant to the specific information on a user's screen. 

This post is part of our #AdContext Matters series. 

But what about video—are the experiences being sought after by advertisers and released by publishers devaluing the relevance of context for the sake of the format?

Advertisers can’t get enough video, and publishers can’t seem to provide enough high CPM inventory.  The result is an explosion of video ads everywhere you look: in your news feed; in-line in your browser; in-between levels of the last game you downloaded; even squeezed into banner ads.  While each of these opportunities can be layered with user data and targeted, marketers shouldn’t ignore the fact that these vehicles are not one in the same. Nor should we try to equate these video ads to television ads on the basis of reach alone (I’m looking at you FB and YouTube) or compare them to the broader in-stream inventory available across the web and in apps.

None of this is to say these new experiences are not valuable.  They’re certainly filling a void.  But marketers need to factor in the context of the user’s environment to understand the extent to which it matters for them – and their audience.  Of course muted, autoplay video is best for non-video environments, but that doesn’t mean it’s somehow better than, less than, or equal to video ads anywhere and everywhere else. It’s simply different because it has to be in order to be tolerated by users.

If we go back to the dawn of television, advertising had a more profound relationship with content.  The name of the show featured the name of the brand.  The words “Brought to you by” were in fact to be taken literally, and the content you were about to enjoy was directly and expressly “made possible by” the marketer.  Consumers who watched (and enjoyed) those moving black-and-white pictures in their living room took to associating their positive experiences with the content to their view of the brand.  Despite the clutter that we have today, this still holds true.

Here are a few key developments underway that will continue to transform video experiences and give marketers an ever increasing opportunity to benefit from an expanded set of contextual cues:

  • The supply of addressable advertising on TV continues to grow and more of that supply is making its way into programmatic environments.
  • Major networks are expanding their direct-to-consumer services on more devices every day, giving advertisers greater access to audiences that may previously have only been available through traditional television.
  • The emergence of new content distribution platforms, from Facebook Live and SnapChat Discover to the industry’s latest effort to make any TV package available over-the-top (a.k.a. “Ditch the Box”) could be the shift we’ve all been waiting for to usher in the next golden age of television.

The bottom line for all of this is that while today’s standard tools for measuring attention (e.g., player size, viewability, ad clutter, etc.) for digital video will continue to evolve, many more exciting opportunities to test and explore a wider range of contextual signals are right around the corner.

Additional #AdContext Matters pieces:

John Douglas

Director, Product Strategy