IAB: Preparing for the year of the mobile-video boom

Mobile devices are increasingly becoming the platform of choice for viewing both short and long-form video content. How can advertisers take full advantage of this emerging trend, which is expected to surge throughout 2016?

As 2016 kicks off, mobile video is big, growing, and increasingly lucrative for media companies. While we all know it’s important, it is still also very much an emerging medium in terms of optimal ad strategy, revenue models, and measuring audiences. Mobile video continues to be much on people’s minds – and much on their screens as well. If we’re living in a mobile-first world, mobile itself is well on its way to becoming – by some definitions – a video-first medium.

That’s true in terms of sheer data traffic. Ericsson estimated that 45 percent of all mobile data traffic was video in 2014, and it forecasts that by 2020 this share will grow to about 60 percent.

Ooyala reckons that as of the third quarter of 2015, smartphone plus tablet video accounted for over 45 percent of all digital video views – rapid growth from sub-10 percent in 2012. Its study concludes that for an ever larger share of the video viewing population, screen choice is based on convenience, not size. There’s still a correlation where bigger screens tend to be used for long-form content, but it’s not as strong as it has been in the past.

Mobile operators are using video capabilities as a competitive differentiator, too. T-Mobile’s Binge On offering has generated controversy because it lets customers view video from specific providers without counting against their data plans.

binge on screenshot

Although, early indications from the operator suggest its customers are happy.

What is this “TV” thing anyway?

As Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) own research and others have shown, mobile is no longer the realm of just short-form video. Increasingly, consumers are watching longer video formats like TV episodes and even movies on their phones. Once upon a time, TV was a certain kind of content delivered to a certain appliance. But in the last few years, as PCs, smartphones, and tablets have increased their role as video screens, TV-the-content and TV-the-appliance have started to diverge.

mobile_tv_movies Source: IAB

I’m old enough that when someone asks me if I “watch TV,” I first think about time spent in front of the large screened, stereo connected device in my living room. But if you ask a millennial, their first thought will focus on a certain type of content experience that is, more likely than not, viewed on a smartphone on the go or on a tablet on the couch.

watchmanSource: Flickr

The concept of “mobile TV” isn’t exactly new (Sony launched the Watchman in 1982!), but the evolving definition of TV today will transform programming decisions and advertising-based business models. It’s also interesting to think about how people discover new shows – as with other forms of digital media, online search, and social media are likely to grow in importance relative to old school methods like electronic programming guides (EPGs) and networks’ own promotional efforts.

Devices like Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV, and others means that which appears to be a mobile experience is actually a TV (the device, that is) one. The television screen has been the gold standard in terms an easy, seamless video content-plus-ad experience. As it gets easier to shift mobile video experiences onto the big screen, it further blurs the line in terms of what “TV” really means.

mobile=tv Source: IAB

The shift towards LEAN mobile video ads

An overall industry focus on improving the ad experience is going to be majorly impacted too, as mobile video continues to boom in 2016. The IAB has created “LEAN” principles, which is an acrostic for:

  • Light
  • Encrypted
  • Ad-choices- enabled
  • Non-invasive

We are working on translating IAB’s LEAN principles into actionable industry standards. As we do this, mobile and video both merit special attention to make sure that video ad experiences aren’t overly disruptive and fit well in whatever context they are playing in.

For in-stream video in both desktop and mobile, ad stitching – which is defined as inserting ads into a video content feed on the server side, rather than at the player – continues to be of great interest in the industry. Ad stitching is potentially of great importance in ensuring the seamless transition between video content and video ads, but that has implications in terms of how ads get counted relative to existing measurement guidelines.

There’s an imperative to make sure that video ads which don’t run in the context of video content, like video banners and interstitials with video, are engaging and noteworthy yet don’t cross the line into being invasive or unwelcome. Again, this is true in all contexts, but it’s particularly true in the mobile world, where 3G and 4G networks are less predictably able to offer a consistent user experience. Pre-caching video spots in advance is a solution some vendors are taking, however counting ad exposures and engagement in that context remains a work in progress.

The bottom line: Video ad standards need to facilitate great ad experiences, while not disrupting content experiences, regardless of network or device.

Video’s future becomes video’s present

The universe of video media is more diverse and richer than ever. It’s a fantastic time to be a viewer or a creator. Yet, the implications of the changing video content and ad types and people’s viewing habits are going to affect every company that distributes and monetizes video.

Although mobile video is now solidly mainstream, a lot of questions remain unanswered. That’s a big reason why IAB selected mobile video as the topic for one of the town hall sessions at an upcoming event; it is one of many conversations the industry will need to have in 2016 as we adapt to the new video-first mobile world.

Homepage image via Flickr.

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