Study sees takeoff in automated ad buying for video — but will prices hold up?

Video has been an ongoing bright spot for the online ad industry, offering brands the chance of a TV-like experience while providing publishers a healthy revenue stream. Now, the video ecosystem is changing rapidly as the industry grows and more ad buyers turn to automated buying.

A new study by Forrester Research claims that so-called “programmatic” buying or “real time bidding” will account for nearly 25 percent of online video ad purchases by next year. This mirrors what is going on in the world of display advertising where more big advertisers are using ad tech tools to serve ads to diverse audiences in real time.

The report, which was commissioned by SpotXchange (an online video exchange that has skin in the ad game), also says that premium publishers have been slower to adopt programmatic bidding, in part because they fear it will undercut the value of their inventory. The report predicts, however, that many of these hold-out publishers will change their position as brands get accustomed to programmatic buying and begin to demand it.

The impact of programmatic on video ad prices is debatable. People in the ad tech industry point out that automated ad buying is simply a tool — not a reflection of ad quality. By this reasoning, publishers can hold their pricing line if they wish while also ensuring that their space is available in real time when there is a surge in demand. Conversely, as the report points out, publishers remain wary that brands will use the tools (as they did for display advertising) to drive down prices.

Overall, the future of video prices in the short term may be determined less by ad tech tools than by more basic principles of supply and demand. On this front, the good news for publishers can be seen in this chart which shows online ad spending rising quickly:

Screen shot of Video ad demand

Another recent report is even more optimistic — pegging the 2013 number at $4.1 billion.

The bad news, though, is that the word is out about video’s promise and more and more people are showing up to grab a slice of the pie. Ad industry sources told the Wall Street Journal last month that there is “not enough to feed everybody.” The Journal reported that, despite brands beginning to reallocate their TV budgets, prices are already under pressure; $15 to $20 per thousand views (CPM’s) last year versus a CPM of $17 to $25 in 2011.

The Forrester report also predicts that video ad inventory will be become increasingly divided between private and public exchanges.