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When Bad Things Happen to Good Video Ads

*This article was written for ANA Forward and originally published on the ANA website.

Late starts, compromised quality, talent, and right infractions? It’s the workflow.

Today, the best media strategies are screen agnostic and audience centric. That means ad assets—the creative itself— needs to be formatted and ready to play on many different screens and devices, and always in compliance with talent and rights contracts. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that preparing the creative to activate a single ad campaign across linear TV and IP-based channels (e.g., digital video, video-on-demand, over-the-top content, connected TV, programmatic TV) is a nightmare. While the industry has come far in its ability to use data and technology in media for precision targeting, not anticipated in that advancement was the amount of work that would be required to source and prepare creative assets for video campaigns across many screens.

Simply stated, despite massive innovation in media planning and buying, the creative workflow for adequately supplying assets for media plans is lagging. In fact, it is actually faster and much more straightforward  to get an ad live on linear TV today than on digital video platforms.

The problems occur when the media plan is approved and media teams begin the process of finding and formatting the creative assets required by the various entities on the plan. It’s hard to comprehend that this could be the case in an industry so driven by technological advancement that media can be bought and sold in mere fractions of a second.

That rapidly growing disconnect between the creative asset and media fulfillment process means bad things for video campaigns. In order to better understand what that means for marketers, Extreme Reach recently commissioned the business intelligence firm Advertiser Perceptions™ to research this inefficient step in the asset supply chain. The results are alarming. Ninety-three percent of ad ops professionals cite issues with sourcing and preparing all the assets required to launch a video campaign, the study found. If given the opportunity, 70 percent said they would reinvent the process from scratch. Showing their frustration with the entire process, 85 percent noted they would feel more satisfied with their jobs if workflow was improved.

In the absence of a widely adopted system for securing and preparing creative to launch media plans across linear and non-linear channels, teams are navigating complexity to make it happen, the study finds. But it’s not a good situation and it’s definitely not in the best interest of advertisers.

For Advertisers the Fix Is in the Cloud
The largely manual creative asset workflow that characterizes non-linear ad delivery processes is ill equipped to address the growing complexity of today’s tech-driven video campaigns. In order to make meaningful change, advertisers will need to set up their agency and in-house teams to succeed by selecting a single creative workflow platform that integrates dependent functions together — traffic, linear TV ad delivery, non-linear video ad delivery, and talent and rights compliance — for every kind of screen.

Most marketers team with a growing list of agencies and vendors, all of whom must work together to launch campaigns. A good solution for teams inside a company and those across the brand’s agency portfolio is to centralize work in a single ad cloud.

Recently, the IAB published its first comprehensive guide to digital video, which addresses the issue surrounding the sourcing and preparation of creative assets. “Securing and executing the right creative asset to serve on the right device is still an extraordinarily manual process that contradicts the entire premise of technology-driven digital adverting,” the guide says. “For years, TV has used purpose-built platforms to provide efficient management and distribution of video creative assets, while digital video is typically handled with manual email chains, phone calls, FTP file transfers, and manual transcodes.” A better solution, the guide argues, are metadata-related efforts, like Ad-ID, coupled with “the concept of centralized ‘ad clouds’ whereby creative assets are accessed via the ad tag and then streamed to the device in the same way that content is streamed to end users.”

The benefits of a centralized, secure source for ad creative like an ad cloud are both numerous and widespread. For campaigns it means launching on time, stopping on a dime, and pristine quality on every screen. For advertisers it means better control over creative assets, better collaboration among all teams, and talent and rights management in one place. For agencies it means easy access to creative that’s perfectly formatted for every device and no campaign delays.

At a time when speed-to-market is paramount, it’s never been more difficult to execute complex cross-screen media strategies. Brands must remain nimble, and a quality viewer experience is essential. In looking for a solution that cuts through that complexity, marketers should consider the widespread benefits of providing their agencies and in-house teams with one integrated platform for ad asset workflow.

Key Takeaways
1. In the absence of a system for sourcing and preparing creative assets for video campaigns, agency teams are forced into inefficient, manual and error-prone processes.
Agencies will always find a way to “get it done” for their clients. But despite Herculean efforts by media and creative agencies, the industry is at a breaking point. In the race to innovate media methods, the creative requirements to activate those video campaigns are an afterthought. All sides will benefit by adopting a better system.

2. The current state of the creative asset workflow is negatively impacting advertisers, agencies, and publishers.
Lacking an established and accepted process, each digital video team must hunt down the creative and work with others to prepare the assets in myriad formats against a matrix of specifications. Publishers receive assets late, formatting issues abound, campaigns start late, and real-time ad calls go unfulfilled. No one party is to blame, but now is a critical moment to rethink the workflow before asset requirements get even more complex.

3. The technology exists right now to solve the problem and it’s straightforward, but it requires collaboration and widespread adoption.
The concept of asset management via a central, permission-based cloud is not a new concept. It’s just not been applied yet to how advertisers handle a brand’s most precious asset: the video ads that must traverse every screen and device. Adopting a new system for readying the creative assets will eliminate a widespread drag on progress and prepare the industry for tomorrow.