For Online Video Publishers, a New Tack on Luring Ad Dollars


For Online Video Publishers, a New Tack on Luring Ad Dollars

AS a well-received annual presentation of new digital offerings to Madison Avenue ends, publishers are seeking to keep the momentum going by making it easier for marketers and agencies to spend advertising dollars on online video — whether or not that money is being shifted from television ad budgets.

At one time, it seemed that publishers of online video would primarily compete against television by denigrating the rival medium in hopes of siphoning ad spending into their coffers.

Now, while few would expect an industry conference to include a rousing performance of “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” around a campfire, those publishers appear more intent on providing reasons to spend money with them rather than providing reasons not to spend money with television mainstays like broadcast networks, cable channels or local stations.

For example, a luncheon on Wednesday that concluded the presentation, known as the 2014 Digital Content NewFronts, offered the results of research from five leading firms in the digital video field: BrightLine, Tremor Video, Unruly Media, Visible Measures and YuMe. Executives from those firms discussed subjects that included branded video, Internet-connected TV, optimizing ad spending across media and video virality in social media.

Randall Rothenberg of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Credit Doug Goodman for Interactive Advertising Bureau Fotografia de: Doug Goodman for Interactive Advertising Bureau

Also at the luncheon, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which organizes the NewFronts, shared the results of an annual study of its own, which showed an increasing ardor among Americans for watching original digital video content on connected TV sets, desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets. According to the bureau’s study, 52 million American adults — 22 percent of the total — watch original digital video each month, up 15 percent from the 45 million American adults reported in the study last year.

At the 2014 NewFronts, “we saw a new marketplace being born,” said Randall Rothenberg, president and chief executive of the bureau, likening this year on the digital video timeline to “1982 or 1983 in the cable industry,” when advertisers were beginning to embrace cable by spending significant sums to buy commercial time on CNN and the channel now known as TBS.

By the early ’80s, “it was clear we had a brand-new medium,” Mr. Rothenberg said, and “we are at that moment now” in the online video realm, “led by talent and by content.”

Twenty-two companies took part in the 2014 NewFronts, which began on April 28, hosting events on seven days compared with five last year.

“We were nervous about” extending the presentation into a second week, Mr. Rothenberg said, particularly because there had been complaints about some events last year with “bad logistics” or “that seemed too long.”

The positive response to adding a second week, however, suggests that “there is a call for more,” he said. There did not seem to be much criticism of the 2014 NewFronts apart from some grumbling about an evening event at which little food was served, and about torrential rain during events on April 30.

“Over all, this year’s crop of presentations have been notably better paced and less snafu-prone than last year’s bunch,” the trade publication Adweek wrote in an article on Monday titled “Rating the 2014 NewFronts.”

Mr. Rothenberg described himself as especially pleased that in addition to a higher turnout, he noticed that “more marketers came with their agencies than ever before,” which contributed to “more deals announced from more stages.”

As for the duration of the NewFronts for 2015, “we’ll do whatever the industry wants,” he added.

It was somewhat surprising that the 2014 NewFronts was scheduled so that it would conclude only five days before the start of the big annual events for the television industry that have come to be called the upfront market, or the upfronts. Last year, there was a week between the NewFronts and the upfronts for marketers, agencies, media companies and reporters.

“The amount of enthusiasm and attention means the NewFronts helps set the context” for the upfronts, Mr. Rothenberg said, “and makes this the kickoff of the season.” (To be technical, the sales process for the 2014-15 season kicked off on Feb. 5 with an event sponsored by units of Warner Bros. for a weekday talk show, “The Real,” to be introduced on Sept. 15.)

It was appropriate to finish the 2014 NewFronts with “a research-oriented event,” Mr. Rothenberg said, because “research built the radio industry, then the television industry.”

The digital video industry is thriving “in no small part because researchers are leading the way,” he added.

Doron Wesly, head of market strategy at Tremor Video, told the luncheon audience that according to research by his company, “we’ve reached critical mass” in Internet-connected TV, with 83 million Americans watching connected TV.

“That’s not nothing, guys,” Mr. Wesly said.

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