Quality Counts

VisualOn Deepak DasIt seems like there is a new mobile device entering the market nearly every day. Ever wondered how many mobile devices exist in the market. Hundreds? Try thousands. The Android tally alone is almost 12,000 distinct models.

Consumers have a wide variety of device options to choose from, and there is always something better around the corner. Why does this matter to marketers? Mobile has quickly established itself as the platform of first consumption and represents a significant opportunity for companies to extend their brand strategy. However, the multitude of devices, screen sizes and versions of operating systems, all in use at the same time, makes it difficult to reach those end points in a uniform manner while leveraging the available real estate on the specific device.

Device fragmentation
This is particularly difficult when it comes to mobile video advertising. Device fragmentation is making the delivery of high-quality mobile video across a range of devices challenging, due to varying screen sizes, bit rates, resolution and connections. Compounding the issue, according to Flurry, the number of app users has increased to 224m in 2013 (Flurry). Meanwhile, content providers are struggling to quickly develop video solutions that reach a broad, video-hungry audience to increase revenue. Marketers are looking to follow consumers to mobile as app and video consumption increases. But all parties are faced with the same dilemma: mobile device fragmentation.

According to the IAB, mobile ad revenue reached $3bn (£1.8bn) in the first six months of 2013, a 145 per cent increase from H1 2012. With more companies looking to invest in mobile advertising, marketers need solutions that grasp mobile video consumers effectively among a complex landscape. When it comes to successful mobile video ads, there are four challenges marketers need to overcome.

1) Monetization – easier said than done
The two most popular methods of monetizing video on mobile devices are subscription-based services and ad-insertion. The subscription model is challenging, because it requires access to premium content and excellent quality of service to entice consumers to enroll. Very few players in the industry have succeeded with this system because of those reasons. The ad-insertion model, on the other hand, is a better method for most content providers that rely on offering live and non-premium content.

The more end points (or device users) content providers and marketers can reach using video ads, the more opportunity for revenue. However, there is no silver bullet to reach every mobile consumer with video ads. Varying screens, platforms, operating systems and streaming protocols, plus the timing of insertion, make it difficult to place video ads that reach broad sets of consumers in a way that doesn’t sacrifice the viewing experience.

However, solutions that can adapt to different mobile environments will succeed in the long term. Marketers need to select solutions that do not limit them to a particular subset of consumers, based on a particular device or application. Without video ads that can scale across the device ecosystem, marketing spend will be inefficient and marketers will find it difficult to reach their target audience.

2) Context and relevance – don’t fly blind
Mobile marketers are faced with the challenge of not knowing who is watching the video on each device. They need this information so that the ad played is contextual and relevant. Unless the end user signs in or chooses to reveal his or her profile, it will be difficult to understand the target demographic.

In order for marketers to get the ad context and relevance they need, the audience information must be gathered in advance. In order for a content provider to properly monetize, and provide the information marketers require, they need the users to sign up or create a profile within the branded app (and the subsequent media player). This provides marketers with actionable information, such as age, gender and location, before an ad is delivered. Secondly, marketers need data that allows them to target ads based on the content consumers watch over time. Acting without the necessary data will result in contextually irrelevant ads to the end user, and lower-than-expected results.

3) Quality can’t be an afterthought
Consumers know the signs. Buffering, delayed sound, slow loading times or pixelation are all signs of poor video quality. Just like content providers looking to ensure consumers have a high-quality experience on any device they choose, marketers want the same.
Frozen ads or un-synced sound and video greatly diminish the ad’s effectiveness. The video quality determines consumers’ new found awareness of the brand, engagement and conversion rates. High-quality mobile video ads must present a high-resolution, theater-quality experience similar to their premium content experience. Poor video quality, no matter the device, will tarnish the brand association of the ad. A quality video ad experience that can scale across devices is dependent on the right ad insertion technology.

4) Seamless ad insertion – a step in the right direction 
Effective ad insertion allows content providers to monetize their solutions effectively, and marketers to reach mobile consumers through video ads. Mobile media players must be flexible enough to allow seamless ad insertion technology, and be compatible across multiple devices, operating systems and CPU types, while also supporting multiple content formats that enable delivery to devices without native media player support.

As a result, video ads will play intermittently mid-stream and users will not notice a delay, change in video quality or severe disruption. This smooth experience ensures maximum brand exposure for marketers looking to get their content in front of consumers and drive engagement.

Marketers are looking to mobile video as a new, effective way to reach a growing audience. Device fragmentation is proving to be a key hurdle when it comes to reaching a mass audience with high-quality video ads. With the expected increase in mobile spending, the demand for high-quality, scalable ad insertion technology is a key component to content providers’ monetization strategy and marketers’ expansion to the mobile video medium.

Deepak Das is senior director of marketing at VisualOn