Premium Video Meets Programmatic: Three Takeaways from AdMonsters Ops

Brian Wallach Senior VP, Advanced TV Media Sales, FreeWheel

First thing’s first: I love the candor of AdMonsters conferences; nothing to be gained by blowing smoke up each other’s supply chains. Last week was no different and key learnings abounded. I was honored to moderate a panel at AdMonsters Ops NYC where I was joined by Eyal Ebel, SVP, Programmatic Revenue at Univision; Diego Sanchez, Head of Digital Partnerships and Programmatic Revenue at Rodale; and Adam Heimlich, SVP, Programmatic at Horizon Media, to discuss the evolution of video content and monetization.

(Left to Right: Julie Van Ullen, Adam Heimlich, Eyal Ebel, and Diego Sanchez)

Our panel explored the evolving definition of “TV” and premium video, the gating factors to moving more premium video inventory to programmatic channels, as well as defining the importance of transparency and control. Below are three of my most stark and interesting takeaways:

A Sure Bet Still Triumphs, But for How Long?

The publishers on our panel made it clear that it’s still hard to trade upfront dollars for potentially greater revenue through non-guaranteed, programmatic channels. Buyers urge that those early to adopt more sophisticated audience-based strategies will win significant dollars over those later to the game. Publishers agree in that they are adopting programmatic tech for video in order to future-proof their businesses but the ability to properly control data flow, sales channels, speed, and quality are creating hesitancy. Heightened marketplace capabilities around programmatic guaranteed and forecasting across deal types will open the doors for greater flexibility.

What Worked for Display May Not Be Portable to Video

In an industry of buzzwords and confusion, it’s easy to listen to the din and perhaps think that programmatic successes found in display can also be applied to video. Publisher panelists weighed in on strategies like VAST tag water-falling and video header bidding and agreed that, while we should learn from wins in display monetization, we must remember that in a non-commoditized environment that is inherently subject to latency, we need reexamine our path. The need for optimal consumer experiences, mitigation of data leakage, preservation of rates, and transparency into the true value of one’s inventory has publishers leaning into server-side SSP platforms and unified yield solutions (video ad server + SSP) that help them truly manage their inventory and how, where, and to whom it’s sold.

Same Words, Different Meaning

All the panelists agreed that transparency and control are the cornerstones for true programmatic adoption of premium video, but buyers and sellers seem to have a different take on the applicable meaning of these words. To buyers, arenas like open marketplaces where they may have traditionally gone to find scale are plagued with fraud, domain-spoofing, and in-banner video. In most platforms, it’s difficult to discern the good from the bad and this seriously hinders the flow of dollars. From a seller’s perspective, obfuscated auctions and reporting often leaves them in the dark as to the bidding behavior of buyers and therefore insight into the true value of their inventory. And although publishers are adopting a PMP-first strategy for video, the lack of actionable reporting to diagnose and troubleshoot deals is difficult in platforms that lack direct, server-to-server connections with buyers. We certainly all agreed that video platforms that cut out middlemen and facilitate a data-based narrative of supply and demand needs will help drive spend, eliminate waste, and open new and profitable sales channels.

As programmers and digital publishers alike grow and evolve their video strategies, it was exciting to hear where they’re headed and the opportunities to which the buy-side is eager to have targetable access. I look forward to leading more insightful conversations that bring clarity to the intersection of premium and programmatic as the industry continues to evolve. For an even deeper look into AdMonsters Ops, check out Gavin Dunaway’s 8 Mammoth Takeaways From Programmania.