Mobile video ads are poised to explode—So what’s holding it back?

Josh is chief executive officer at AerServ.
Video has always been one of advertisers’ most powerful engagement tools. And as digital video in general has become a regular aspect of our daily media consumption, advertisers are looking for new ways to leverage it to boost results and gain an advantage over competitors.
Enter mobile video. Last year, a study from digital ad firm Undertone and market research company Ipsos ASI determined that high-impact ads deliver the best brand recall. Not exactly a revelation, but this year, those firms tested the  theory on mobile devices and discovered that the same was true: High-impact ads still deliver the highest engagement and brand recall, regardless of screen size. This is good news for both publishers and advertisers, who need not worry about banners and other traditional formats on mobile; they can still grab attention on a small screen by leveraging targeting technology and compelling video content.
Not only that, but mobile also affords advertisers the ability to target specific users at specific locations like no other medium can. Using device ID, coordinates/ location data, demographic data, browsing behavior and more, advertisers can target at an extremely granular level to hone in on the most qualified audiences to boost efficiency and overall results.
So with all those capabilities and benefits, why hasn’t mobile video spending exploded? Why aren’t advertisers, who are constantly looking for new ways to engage today’s ever-connected consumer, absolutely desperate to get into the mobile video game?
Well, like any emerging technology, mobile video still faces certain challenges that need to be overcome, or at least mitigated, before risk-averse agencies and brands will be eager to take the plunge. A fairly common concern about mobile video is its newness; even the industry old guard is learning about it along with everyone else. And that lack of familiarity among the experts and decision makers, as well as its relative lack of field-testing, is enough to keep it off the budget for another year.
Another key challenge associated with being a relatively recent innovation is the fragmentation of the mobile video market. Creative formats vary across devices and platforms and there is a general lack of standards and best practices for both advertisers and publishers. TV buyers want to reuse their TV spots and desktop buyers want to reuse their desktop videos, neither of which is going to seamlessly fit a mobile platform. Desktop Flash VPAID creatives don’t work in mobile environments either. Mobile VPAID, while standardized via IAB, is still emerging and actually varies wildly per vendor.
And boy are there a lot of vendors. And a lot of devices. The mobile space is getting more complex with every release of a new phone, tablet, operating system or feature upgrade. For advertisers and agencies, it becomes extremely difficult to plan for every possible combination of device, OS and ad format, and it can cause significant hiccups in deploying creative.
Further challenges arise with regard to targeting; while mobile offers highly advanced targeting capabilities, it does also lack transparency with regard to context. Specifically, advertisers cannot necessarily be certain that their ads are not running alongside inappropriate or irrelevant video content. Context is extremely important when it comes to brand integrity and getting your money’s worth out of the ad buy, and some advertisers want to see improvement in this area before investing.
Anyone who has been working in the ad-tech space for more than a few years won’t be surprised by what is perhaps the largest hurdle that mobile video must overcome in order to establish itself in the marketer’s standard arsenal: measurement. Measurement challenges have plagued every traditional and digital advertising medium for years, but mobile engagement actually can be tracked through multiple metrics including clicks, views, leads, installs, purchases, foot traffic, etc.
That said, mobile video measurement is not always a piece of cake. Viewability is the industry’s current favorite metric, but advertisers and publishers alike struggle with what it actually means — at what point is the video ad considered viewable or count as an impression? Some define a viewable impression as three seconds onscreen, but there is still no industry standard. A concept that seems so simple is still being debated due to new technologies like in-feed or “native” video. In addition, common analytics vendors from the desktop space are not yet mature in the in-app space.
For agencies and marketers concerned with justifying their ad spend with tangible, understandable results, the murkiness of mobile video measurement is a significant stumbling block. For vendors and solutions providers, the chief concern is attribution, or making sure they are appropriately credited and compensated for each conversion. It’s not easy for anyone to take a risk on an emerging tech solution when you don’t even have a clear, validated way of gauging its effectiveness and communicating it to the holders of the purse strings.
Mobile video absolutely can be an advertiser’s secret weapon; it is just crucial for those issues to be addressed and clarified if possible. Luckily, there are several ways forward and a plethora of mobile tools available to help get there. Utilize those tools, like the rich interactive video experiences of VPAID and custom video and, if viewability is a concern, many vendors have in-app viewability tools to offer comfort and peace of mind. To deal with creative challenges, it can be useful to partner with a company boasting a solid history of mobile campaign execution, such as Telemetry or Sizmek, and data providers and DMPs such as Neustar and Factual are working every day on ways to improve targeting accuracy and contextual transparency.
Any nascent technology has its growing pains, but the benefits of mobile video are well worth the effort of overcoming those challenges to be at the forefront of an important shift in the industry. More and more tools are emerging for advertisers and publishers to handle the challenges of navigating the still somewhat murky waters of mobile video, but soon enough, consumer response will dictate the industry’s rate of advancement in this area. Your consumers have cut the cord — to the TV, to the desktop — and they are holding devices in their purses and pockets capable of delivering the same positive user experience and even better engagement results. The mobile market is ready, you should get ready, too.