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Premium context and 30-second spots dominate video advertising right now

November 25, 2019 | By Melinda McLaughlin, CMO—Extreme Reach @MelOnMktg

It’s shaping up to be a defining year for the video advertising landscape. Notably, 2019 was marked by the primacy of connected TV, an embrace of the value of premium content adjacency, and a return of the good old 30-second ad for brand storytelling.

We will reserve full judgement for our year-in-review report after the close of 2019. However, our Q3 report — based on video ads served from our asset management platform, AdBridge— reveals relatively stable trends this year in how marketers are using digital video to build business. This absence of wild swings indicates that the industry is settling into its new, CTV-based reality.

Perhaps what’s old is new again? And by this we mean that maybe things we always believed to be true are still true but in new and better ways.

Here are some noteworthy video trends:  

CTV Delivers the Big Screen TV-like Experience But with Consumer Choice & Control

In Q3 2019, it happened. CTV became the majority destination for impressions served, tallying in at 51%. Sure, this may fluctuate a bit quarter to quarter based on the supply of inventory. But it’s striking to see that figure relative to where we landed in 2018 at 38% of impressions being served to connected TV destinations. The steady march in CTV share from Q1 (49%) to Q2 (50%) to Q3 (51%) leads us to believe this is a true, predictable trend and not another shiny object phenomenon.

Premium Content Adjacency Clearly Works for Brands

All three quarters of 2019 showed a strong embrace of premium content destinations vs. media aggregators. In fact, the average mix in 2019 to-date is 81% premium/19% aggregators. This is certainly driven in part by the rush to leverage CTV but there is also a solid increase in impressions going to premium online content as well.

Spoiler alert: Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) brands really like premium content as evidenced by the vertical specific data in that category. In Q3, DTC brands delivered 93% of their impressions to premium inventory. But a preference for aggregators is one way in which auto advertisers show markedly different trends from the broader group. The 57% of impressions served to media aggregators in Q3 is a 10 percent increase from the prior quarter and nearly triple the overall rate.

Brands Need 30 Seconds to Grab Us by the Hearts and Minds

Brands need all shapes and sizes of ad formats to truly navigate the consumer media landscape today. And while that portfolio will surely include experimentation in the super short category (:06 ads for example), we saw a move back to more :30’s in 2018 and 2019 after a move to go shorter in years prior. For example, the share of :30’s served in 2015 was 41%.

That dipped to 38% in 2016 and hit an all-time low of 33% in 2017. In 2018, :30s jumped to 54% and in Q3 of this year, they accounted for 66% of ads served. Perhaps short stories can become too short to be effective and a mix is what’s needed to affect consumer behavior today. This seems to be especially true in the Auto and DTC verticals, which both showed an even larger investment in longer ads. For auto, 30-second spots accounted for 84% while in the DTC category they rose to a whopping 97% of impressions by length.

Our research, which has tracked video advertising trends quarterly for almost four years, finds that despite the innovative nature of the streaming wars, many video industry fundamentals still apply, or are back in style.  Context matters, both in the sense that premium placements are popular and longer ad formats provide more in-depth messaging. The heating wars are heating up and its critical to keep a close eye on the emerging trends and opportunities in this market.

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