SpotXchange Reignites Engagement Debate

The conversation continues about whether cost per engagement in video works.  My Oct 21 column in Digiday seems to have struck a surprising nerve with Jason Krebs of Tremor Media. We appreciate that the Tremor folks have continued to participate in this discussion and help us point to the broader issue of guaranteeing engagement.

Engagement in video works. SpotXchange has been offering engagement pricing models for more than two years, and we are delivering impressive results for our advertisers along the way. The use of the word “mirage” in the last article’s headline was not our edit, and missed our main point about engagement. (Editor’s Note: Digiday writes all headlines for any content on our site. We felt — and still do — that “mirage” fit the article’s argument that engagement pricing is not what it can appear.) But it sparked a dialogue that is long overdue. Yes, we have offered engagement in video, and it has performed very well for our clients. We have led the way with some of the most advanced targeting and auto-optimization methods in the video industry, steering campaigns to the audience most likely to engage – and most likely to meet brand/advertiser goals. That is true.
What’s been lost here is our primary point: You can’t sell what you can’t guarantee. We were specifically calling out video ad networks that claim that they can guarantee engagement across a specific group of sites, premium or otherwise. This just isn’t possible. Sites get paid on a CPM. They don’t care how the ad vendor sells in the program, as long as they get a guaranteed CPM. Given this, you cannot possibly limit, in a material way, the number of sites that participate in a given campaign, guarantee delivery and run a profitable business.
So the supposed altruism we all read recently for publishers, advertisers and viewers lacks transparency. Simple questions deserve simple answers: If you limit the number of sites that participate on a campaign, how do you guarantee engagement when those sites aren’t delivering what was promised to the client? Engagement guarantees can be made only when there are no (or limited) site restrictions.
Speaking of transparency, we’re pleased that others want to join the industry-wide effort to offer the most effective brand safety possible to advertisers using video to reach their consumers. SpotXchange was one of the first ad networks and exchanges to certify that it follows the IAB’s networks and exchanges quality-assurance guidelines to enhance buyer control over the placement and context of advertising and ensuring brand safety. Clients should ensure their video ad marketplace is certified and follows these IAB guidelines.
We are also glad to see that more video ad networks are now focused on data and analytics, which we’ve offered since our inception in 2007. Not using robust data and analytics to guarantee a video campaign’s performance, and to optimize it and offer insights to clients, is, in fact, a shortcoming. Brand advertisers are right to use a video ad marketplace focused on performance, and engagement is one of many ways video advertising can achieve marketers’ goals.
The good news is that the online video advertising industry is constantly innovating and providing more robust technology to streamline the buying and selling of online video. That is good for both advertisers and publishers. We can all agree that online video advertising is effective: It offers far more engagement than TV, it reaches audiences at scale, and it keeps brands safe. We just want all players in the ecosystem to be transparent and explain to the buying community how they intend to keep their guarantees.
Bryon Evje is the evp of sales and business development at SpotXchange, an online video exchange.
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