Cracking Web Video’s Accountability Problem

An old adage has it that is no brand manager ever got fired for buying TV. That’s because advertisers can easily link gross ratings points to product moving off the shelf. That’s not the case with the comparatively new medium of Web video.

The video ad technology firm TidalTV is looking to change that. The company has partnered with SymphonyIRI to help packaged-goods brands gauge whether their campaigns are effective. For the first time, advertisers will be able to tie in-store sales to their video spending. Specifically, TidalTV advertisers will be able to weigh online ad exposures with data culled from SymphonyIRI’s panel of 86,000 people, who report on their purchase behavior.
That sort of data is common in the TV world. If the system works, it should help bring Web video advertising more accountability — and legitimacy. SymphonyIRI (formerly IRI) has long worked with a who’s who of advertisers, including Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, General Mills and Anheuser-Busch. It also has partneships with some of the nation’s biggest retailers, including Wal-Mart, which help provide adversiters with data on sales patterns.
“We don’t have to sell advertisers on IRI,” said Kevin Haley, chief scientist at TidalTV. “Brands have long been able to [use this kind of research] to get information on whether their 300 GRPs helped move the needle. We haven’t really seen this kind of research in digital. And that’s our goal: to help brands prove they can drive sales.”
Web video consumption has exploded over the past several years, and consequently online video ad spending is surging, albeit from a smaller base. eMarketer predicts spending will climb by over 50 percent in 2011 to $2.16 billion. But ad standards, pricing and delivery mechanisms for online video ads are all over the map —  and the medium is plagued with its share of growing pains — leading some to question both its efficacy versus the classic 30-second TV spot and just how interactive it needs to be.
“There is a ton of energy being spent in this industry trying to guess what matters,” said Haley. “Between views, click-through rates, above the fold, below the fold, we’re always trying to figure out what is meaningful.”
And hopefully, which channels or tactics might be worthy of a premium. Of late, the online video ad space has seen pricing bifurcate, with the video networks facing declining CPMs and many brands taking to use the medium to buy cheap tonage inventory.
“This will allow us to move toward right-pricing,” Haley said, using a euphemism for more expensive ads.
TidalTV has made access to the SymphonyIRI data open to all of its advertisers, who can either pay a flat fee or build the cost into their CPMs. To participate, brands need to supply some basic information on their market share and their campaign activity levels.
“This is the kind of thing that gets better as time goes by,” Haley said.
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