Coull is working with LiveRail to take its in-stream video overlay ads to a larger market with the use of programmatic buying.
Coull’s Vidlinks are targeted not to user behaviour or to the publisher site, but are automatically matched with the content being viewed, the device and the country in order to offer the greatest relevancy.
The IAB-compliant 300 x 50 inventory has been designed to give publishers a new, easy and scalable way of generating additional revenue from existing video content. The relevant ad appears somewhere in the corner of the video for a pre-determined length of time, usually around 15 seconds, and generally has an option to click-through. As the ads are only shown if the video is played, the company says their ads are therefore '100 per cent viewable'.
“Our vision is to make it really contextually relevant without being too intrusive," said Coull CEO Irfon Watkins. "The industry is doing a pretty poor job of delivering something new and relevant for the changing video landscape. We're offering an alternative which we believe is a much better experience for the user."
Coull is selling its inventory via the private exchanges rather than the competitive RTB environment, working with clients like Future Publishing, Wordpress and Dailymotion. Watkins said this process depends on having credible partners on either side of the chain. “The real-time bidding process is useful for inventory you’re struggling to sell, but the challenge for us is keeping to our vision of matching the advertiser and the content so it isn’t just a price decision," he said.
Although this is intended to complement rather than replace existing video ads, Watkins is aware of the criticisms leveled at pre-roll ad providers. “Pre-roll is becoming synonymous with the ‘skip now’ button and the model is under serious pressure," he said. "Targeting tends to based on the site rather than the content, it tries to be a bit too clever on retargeting and it doesn’t work well for short-form content where the viewer doesn’t know what is at the other end.”
Coull expects to serve more than 1bn impressions this month, growing from just over 200m in November. He said the average click-through-rate is around 1 per cent, with some campaigns much higher and lower. TechRadar and T3.com’s recent advertising campaigns had an average CTR of 3.4 per cent.
Although Coull's inventory is mainly sold on an eCPM-basis, Watkins said that his preference would be for the whole industry to measure and be paid on true engagement. "It's something we've been talking about for a long time but the industry doesn’t want to go down that path." He points to the massive moves towards RTB being a disincentive to change or improve performance metrics.
The company's ads have run in more than 180 countries but currently just over 60 per cent of the company's traffic is in the US. They will be opening an office in New York in the next few months and in the latter part of 2014, the company will start to look east, where Watkins says they will face the same opportunities and problems.