Online Video Advertisers: Enough Double Stuf, Time to Get Targeted

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video programming itself, sifting through both visual and audio cues and associated information on the Web, such as comment streams, in order to divine what the show is actually about. That allows it to target ads alongside related content—and keep ads away from controversial content. (“Tiger Woods was a very salable name to brand marketers six months ago, and now his name is radioactive—nobody wants to be next to him,” Lau told me. While Tiger’s travails are obviously common knowledge, ScanScout’s system crawls the Web all day long for clusters of negative concepts that it wants to help advertisers avoid.)

ScanScout also tracks and categorizes what people watch on its clients’ websites. That way, when Procter & Gamble comes along with a body-lotion campaign aimed at 18-to-34-year-old females, ScanScout knows which viewers to show the ads to. It even knows whether viewers are more likely to engage with an ad in the morning or the evening, and serve up something appropriate based on the time of day.

Together with other Boston-area video analytics companies like RAMP (formerly Everyzing) and Visible Measures and video delivery companies like Extend Media and Brightcove, ScanScout is gradually dragging video publishers—the companies we used to call broadcasters—into the 2010s. I say the faster ScanScout can spread the idea of cost-per-engagement ads, the better. Because if Fox shows me one more “The Donalds vs. the Mannings” Oreo commercial, I’m going to rub Double Stuf all over my computer screen.

“It’s not lost on us that in an ad-driven economy, ads are the price for getting to content; they are a means, not an end,” says Day. “If it’s a choice between paying for content or viewing ads, you will choose ads. The key is to make them as good and as infrequent as possible—but pre-roll, the way it was invented around 2007, is an exact copy of how TV ads were run for the last 40 years. If that’s all online video becomes, then we’ve way undershot the mark.”

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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