Housing Video Ad Creative Where Everyone Can Get It

Melinda McLaughlin  | 

*This article was originally published on ANA Newsstand at ana.net/newsstand.

An interview with Dan Brackett, the co-founder and chief technology officer at Extreme Reach

In these marketing times of “you snooze, you lose,” speed to market with fast and flawless execution is paramount. Creative asset workflow efficiency is quickly becoming one of the most critical components to a successful campaign in the cross-screen media ecosystem.

Here, Dan Brackett, co-founder and chief technology officer at Extreme Reach, offers his insight into what can help a brand shorten the time between approving creative and cross-screen campaigns launching exactly as planned.

Q. How is video ad serving different from linear TV delivery, and why do so many brands and agencies choose different solutions for each?
Did you ever see Disney’s The Parent Trap? It’s a story of identical twins separated at birth who find each other years later and realize how much they have in common despite completely different upbringings. This is a perfect metaphor for two disciplines with different beginnings who are increasingly finding each other because they were meant to be united.

Ultimately, advertisers and their agency partners produce great creative. Media strategists devise masterful yet complex communication plans. These two things have to get connected — the creative must be formatted in many formats to even more destination specs and get to all the parties that need them for a campaign to launch. The end goal is campaigns launching on time so that finished creative plays in front of consumers, according to plan. In today’s world, that can mean a commercial for traditional TV or a video ad that will be seen on a laptop or smartphone or in the living room via over-the-top devices. The avenues leading to viewers are multiplying, but the goal is the same regardless of channel.

The pipes, processes, and infrastructure are the means to that end. Video ad serving is ad delivery. It’s just different than the process for linear TV delivery. The age-old discipline of linear TV delivery shoots the formatted assets through the cloud and down into the broadcast infrastructure of the intended destination — network, local stations, etc. For video ad serving, the creative assets are formatted automatically and live on a content delivery network (CDN). When a decisioning engine (DSP) or a site pings it to say, “Alert! We have a prospect! Play the ad!” — it just plays instantly.

But video ad serving was born into a complicated world and grew up bundled in with decisioning. In fact, the term “ad server” itself has multiple meanings across the sell-side, buy-side, and technology intermediaries. Today, we see the uncoupling of the magical part — data driven decisioning, programmatic, etc. — from the mechanical part — the actual delivery of the ad in the moment. Thus, the rise of largely commoditized third-party ad servers and yet another vendor to manage.

Q. What are the implications of selecting different point solutions for standard video ad serving and TV delivery?
What’s lost on most people — even those in the industry — is how much brute-force manual grunt work is involved in the workflows that guide the finished creative to where it ultimately plays. Ironically, this is especially true in the digital sphere.

The number of Excel sheets, emails, teams, languages, platforms, and assets that go into non-linear campaigns is mind-boggling. There is a widely felt pain across all the executional facets of the business — from digital video activation teams to talent and rights professionals to AdOps folks on the receiving end of creative assets.

The problem is easy to explain. Everyone needs the creative assets in unique formats and all parties need to know the rights and talent payments are set up for all the different media placements. Above all, the campaign needs to launch on time.

The consequences of separate workflows and the lack of holistic creative asset management have not been pretty. Having multiple content repositories and numerous teams dipping in and out of them introduces so many opportunities for quality and formatting errors, delayed campaign starts, expensive talent and rights violations, and, ultimately, just a lot of chaos where seamless video execution can — and should — reign.

Q. Can you focus in a little more on why the industry finds itself at a breaking point?
We’re all more interested in what the plumbing delivers rather than how it works. So, I think the race to media innovation and using data-driven automation to reach consumers all over the place left the ecosystem focused so much on that aspect that there was no room to think about how the creative assets would need to be sourced and deployed to match the speed of media.

One might think that if the consumer experience, value, and ROI of brand ads on traditional TV versus on IP-based platforms are such wildly different animals, it makes sense to choose different asset-delivery solutions for each. It’s easy to see how the mechanics got swept up in all that.

What makes sense on an intuitive level actually totally fails on the execution front. The idea that video ad serving and TV delivery should be approached differently and handled by siloed teams is actually counterproductive. TV and digital video may be two different media that came of age in different eras, but there are so many parallels in the how creative should be sourced and deployed that the same workflows and proven paradigms should apply to both. That’s why it’s important to demystify video ad serving.

What’s interesting about the digital video world is that media decisions can now be made in fractions of a second, but before a campaign launches, the process to find and format and get all the creative ready is sluggish, manual, and antiquated. Our research shows that it can take weeks between creative being finished and the campaign going live in digital video. Contrast this with linear TV, where a national brand ad can be finished in post-production and on-air in mere hours or minutes.

So, here it’s helpful to think about video ad serving more in the context of what it does rather than what it is.

Q. What does a better path forward look like?
When every aspect of the ad industry today feels harder than ever before, the solution in this area actually makes execution easier, with the double advantage of preparing all sides involved in execution for whatever the future brings.

With all due respect the way video ad serving was “raised,” brands are best served when one partner is accountable for full-lifecycle creative asset management, including all modes of delivery and talent and rights compliance wherever ads play. These functions share common bonds and are interrelated means to the same end-game.

A permissioned-based, safe, and secure centralized ad cloud for all creative assets, which can be tapped by both linear and digital video teams, better supports today’s content-everywhere mandate. It’s a world simpler, smoother, and more accurate than siloed creative distribution approaches can deliver. And sophisticated, automated workflow processes that connect multiple brand and agency teams are required as the media environment balloons beyond what can be handled manually.

There are so many opportunities for advertisers to reach their audiences in creative and compelling ways. Getting bogged down by the mechanics of connecting the creative with the media plan shouldn’t get in the way of making every meaningful connection brands need to drive their businesses. To bring it back to The Parent Trap metaphor, let’s bring our parents back together and reunite the video family.

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