Transparency needn’t be a novel concept in video advertising

It’s happened to almost everyone. You go to a blog – say, to find a trick in Excel – then suddenly, you hear loud audio. You desperately scan the page to mute whatever is making the noise, scrolling down and find a video player embedded there, autoplaying a video you did not intend to watch, often with a VAST standard pre-roll ad in front of it.

This is more common than most marketers think, and rarely disclosed at the checkout when you go to purchase your video impressions for that brand campaign you’ve been working on all month. Sometimes, this is transparently sold and in these cases, usually billed as “autoplay pre-roll”, but not always. There is even a blog dedicated to publishing examples of this kind of “fake” video ad, posting screenshots of top brands like Audi and Verizon running the ads and showing the source code of the vendors that place them, in an attempt to anonymously blow the whistle on this kind of activity.

Why tell this story? Because “fake pre-roll” is a perfect example of a conversation we are all forced to have, and should not have to, given what is possible. When buying digital video, marketers deserve, at a minimum, to know everything they know with TV, such as exactly what content an ad appears against and real data on audience reach, which Nielsen is making possible through its online GRP reporting.

This is where data comes into play in a big way, to make this kind of transparency entirely possible and not just a pipe dream for stressed-out marketers. Digital allows for so much more information. Marketers should not only know exactly where an ad is running, who it is reaching and whether it is achieving their goals, but also — and this is what is missing — be able to control these variables themselves at all times without “leaning on vendors” (as one marketer put it) to be their font of all knowledge. Real-time buying promises to bring about this change in digital video. A recent Forrester report (full disclosure: TubeMogul commissioned the report) compares benefits of real-time buying of video to traditional, broad-based buying (i.e. from ad networks).

The benefits come down to one word: control. Brand marketers can evaluate impression-by-impression, which allows them to constantly tweak budgets, audience mix, sites they are advertising on and more based on audience data.

They can fluidly shift budgets based on performance rather than issuing RFPs every quarter, sending IOs and emailing vendors to get better results. And, finally, they can dynamically exclude autoplaying pre-roll.

To be sure, the RTB opportunity in video is not perfect yet, and various issues remain. Forrester points out that education, structural issues, inventory quality and getting the right measurement for impact — often-cited problems for digital video in general — are acute in the market. But control and transparency is everything, and marketers should not have to send angry emails every week to get it — we can all do better.

Keith Eadie leads the marketing team at TubeMogul.