The Future of Video is Staring Us in the Face

We discussed video options for publishers last year – explaining how the various paths available were growing in a few different directions. For instance, that could be around publishers producing video content for brands, or adding new video ad revenue through in-article ‘native’ formats like outstream - that is, without the need for video content at all.

What’s changed in the past year? For one, video spend on Rubicon Project grew 70% over the first half of 2018. So, it’s as good a time as any to update our thoughts on this topic.

In our last article, we noted that Facebook predicted its platform would be 100% video one day. While that day hasn’t arrived yet, the social network’s ad business has definitely shifted overwhelmingly in a video direction.

After a disappointing set of results in July marking the start of its post-Cambridge Analytica era, Mountain View seemed to be saying the newsfeed was full – and all attention was on its video-based Stories product for future revenue growth.

And what do both Snapchat and Facebook/Instagram Stories have in common? If you ignore the rumours about one side copying the format from the other – the answer is vertical video.

Even if changes to Facebook’s algorithm have reminded publishers not be reliant on others for driving traffic, there’s no reason why we can’t also ‘borrow’ their best ideas.

Vertical World

Whether you’re on the way to work, out and about or even at home - news, networking and therefore video viewing - all now take place on the smartphone. Vertically. Not in 16:9 widescreen, or with the phone turned on its side. Unlike the vast majority of video ads we still see on mobile therefore - still ported directly from cinema and TV without adaptation.

Even as native formats such as outstream have been widely adopted by publishers, it’s strange that vertical video hasn’t seen the same levels of activity. Vertical formats have already become the new standard on social media platforms – and therefore are we not potentially missing out on demand if we don’t cater to it too? Moreover, various indicators suggest vertical video formats perform higher in a number of categories – could we also be missing out on repeat business if we don’t catch up?

This is even more the case now the majority of most publishers’ audience is mobile. And, at least according to IAB US’ latest figures, more than 60% of digital ad revenue in total is on mobile.

Vertical Integration

The BBC seems to be one example of a publisher pushing into this area. As reported by Digiday, its own efforts to add regular vertical video content increased visits to its app by 30%, while those viewing these videos were more loyal – using the app three times more on average than those who didn’t. As a broadcaster, the BBC doesn’t adapt all 16:9 content for vertical, rather it is creating custom clips in vertical format specifically geared at younger audiences. In this way, it has attracted a number of new commercial partnerships, while content can also be syndicated to Apple News to reach an even wider audience.

Going back to Rubicon’s video growth, it’s interesting to note the role of private marketplaces in its video growth story – clearly, trust is at a premium in an area that has seen its share of fraud, simply because it is so valuable:

In 2018, Rubicon Project has focused on developing its PMP capabilities to enhance programmatic sales tools for direct premium video supply partners. This work is positioning the company to better serve its clients as audiences and advertising dollars shift towards channels such as over-the-top (OTT) and connected television (CTV).

More TV watching is set to become internet-connected. And therefore, even more opportunities around programmatic video are likely to appear.

Along the way, it’s important we don’t repeat past mistakes, and absolutely get the user experience right. In the case of video, that absolutely means customising creative where it’s consumed on mobile.

Facebook’s commercial success has largely been down to its ability to manage the shift to a majority of mobile users. Publishers are now doing the same - and vertical video will play a big role there.

In fact, it’s already staring us in the face.

Daniel Ahlbert