IAB Maps Out Cross Platform Video Initiatives For Rest Of 2012

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February 28, 2012 – 5:57 pm

iabAs the Interactive Advertising Bureau wraps up its annual conference in Miami, the industry organ is planning a number of programs over the course of this year designed to smooth out the process of buying, selling and viewing videos across connected devices.

Among the steps it outlined at this week's gathering included an update to its standards for serving ads to video players. Basically, the revision of the "Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition” (or, VPAID) standards -- detailed in this press release released last week -- allows video publishers and advertisers to maneuver information in an ad unit within a media player.

"To use an analogy, think of a shipping container and the transportation industry," said Seneca Mudd, the IAB's Director of Industry Initiatives. "You can put anything into it, ship it on any ship from any port in the world. These standards are the protocol for the manifest: what you’re going to put in the box. If everyone is working from the same manifest, it becomes very easy to agree on what sort of contents can be shipped."

But that's only one part of it, IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg adds. "One of the primary initiatives we have for this year is called Screen ³ ('cubed,' or to the third power), with the idea of placing greater emphasis on cross platform video: marketers are hungering for it and the technology is here."

But there are a few matters that need sorting out, particularly on the measurement front, Rothenberg said.

The specific IAB program on counting audiences across devices is called "Making Measurement Make Sense."

"Cross platform video is not going to become standard operating procedure in the advertising industry until measurement standards are developed and agreed upon," Rothenberg said.

A digital version of the Gross Ratings Point is currently in development by the IAB. Though some feel the GRP, which is the common denominator for TV advertising, others have argued that it's an imperfect metric for online since social media audiences act differently -- and should be valued differently -- from online newspaper readers or people who watch web videos. Still, advertisers' desire for a single metric for online comes with the promise of unlocking more spending. As such, the push for the digital GRP has taken on an air of inevitability.

In addition to pursuing the single audience metric, Rothenberg also pointed to developments intended to capture the shift to viewable impressions as a main currency as well as the establishment of a central industry body for measurement oversight.

"The oversight body is key to anything in cross platform video," he said. "It’s almost a requisite for everything else that we want to do."

Lastly, the IAB is expecting to field some primary research on user/consumer use of multiple video devices and an RFP is being prepared now. Rothenberg hopes to have the research completed by the third or fourth quarter.

As a sign that the industry recognizes that video needs to be considered a seamless format, not just something particular to a TV screen and something else when placed on a tablet, a smartphone or a computer, two weeks ago, the IAB's Digital Video Committee and its Interactive Television Committee, which had been operating separately, were merged into one group.

"That’s a very important development as it will bring together a lot of thought leadership and practice leadership that had been aimed at different directions," Rothenberg said. "The goal is to create technical standards and research that will serve digital video in general, whether it's on the PC, the smartphone or the connected TV.

"I’ve been arguing for a couple of years that keeping those two areas of focus separate ultimate divorces video from a consumer perspective," he continued. "For consumers, these are moving images on multiple screens, and we want to access them whenever we want, wherever we want. The important thing is to break down the barriers from the advertising side so that it more perfectly matches the way consumers experience video."

Of course, measurement standards and ad serving protocols are one thing. But there's another important element that makes achieving those goals seem like a snap.

"What’s needed more than anything – more than operating standards, more than best practices, more than infrastructure – is great advertising, pure and simple," Rothenberg said. "The industry needs great showcases of advertising content that demonstrates the power of interactive television."

And that's the biggest question" is if and when greater amounts of money are released by advertisers in response to clearer, cross platform measurements and ad unit formats, will the creative part of the advertising equation naturally get better when the math does?

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February 28, 2012 – 5:57 pm

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