Digital advertising is broken. Ad fraud, bot traffic, intrusive ads that ruin the browsing experience, poor tracking, and simple inutility are undermining the whole basis for digital advertising in its current form. Bots are learning to behave more and more like humans, tricking advertisers out of millions of dollars a year.
The solution is to pay not for exposure, but for real engagement. The way to do this is to provide more ways for the customer to engage with the content. Interactivity and personalisation are paramount to achieving this, adding dynamic elements not only to conventional display advertising, but also to digital video. As one of the biggest growth areas for advertising, and the biggest audience engagement opportunity, video is also the biggest target for the challenges just mentioned. Building, holding and engaging audiences is therefore essential.
Overcoming the hurdles of fraud, malaise and poor visibility of traffic requires a new approach to transparency and accounting of online traffic. Unique user and page impression figures are already shrouded in mystery and are seldom backed up by independent verification. The spectre of the “publisher’s statement” as the source for traffic figures requires an advertiser and their cheque book to take a leap of faith, rather than giving them the precise demographics and engagement statistics about real-world users. Data that will benefit a brand and deliver meaningful return on investment from any ad spend.
Winning over audiences with interactivity
Video content need not be static, especially when it comes to advertising, product placement, audience participation and tailored information. Some platforms, such has YouTube, have platform-specific capabilities for adding some elements of non-personalised interactivity, but nothing that is portable across platforms.
This is the next big challenge the industry is overcoming, in an effort to help both advertisers on one side of the fence, and the publishers and content creators on the other. As well as changing the mind-set and the way we measure engagement and success, there’s also a need for a technology shift. The emergence of innovations such as the Interactive Video and Experience Protocol (IVEP) is a case in point. It is an example of a radically new approach to presenting and optimising commercial video content of all kinds. Built on blockchain technology, it enables literally hundreds of interactive engagement pathways to be overlaid using smart objects on a given piece of video content.
Advertisers, as well as publishers and content creators can add additional, dynamic elements to video such as overlay adverts, pre-roll, cut-ins and post-roll video adverts, interactive elements such as polls, links, chat, music info and destination advice, not to mention user-specific context elements rather than just catch-all material.
Think about things that grab your attention: they could be very good, like an amazing song sung in compelling fashion by a talented artist, or they could be very bad indeed, like a slow-motion car crash. We're hard wired to respond strongly to threats, danger, noise, chaos, and video producers know this, often pursuing one another in a race to the bottom, leaving viewers drained and anxious. Web browsing, watching video online, reading the latest news: these should be uplifting activities. Fun. Even inspiring or compelling.
If the content is compelling, uplifting, fun, and engaging, I believe that's a combination that will unlock greater revenues than previously seen in the digital realm. Not only will people be viewing the content, they'll be interacting with it in meaningful ways which enhance their experience at the same time as they open up new avenues to monetisation for content creators and advertisers.
People won't click “Skip” when an ad rolls, because it will be as entertaining, informative, engaging and uplifting as the core video.
Fixing a broken monetisation model
Adding platform-agnostic technologies that can build, delight and hold an audience is only one part of the equation. The other is ensuring the publisher and/ content creator can actually monetise their intellectual property at a time when audiences are declining as competition for their eyeballs is rising.
What is essential is that the content creator controls the monetisation process, rather than relying on prefab, opaque solutions that benefit the video carriage platform more than the creator.
In traditional video marketing, the end user/viewer is treated as nothing more than a click, a depersonalised unit valued in fractions of a penny. Attention marketers such as video sponsors are also at the mercy of the platform and creators for metrics, and must also trust them to expose the products to the audience in a palatable way; really, it's out of their hands. With better, more trustworthy and transparent metrics, the economy of digital advertising will correct itself and find new, fairer, and more logical bases for revenue.
This is the next element of technologies such as IVEP. As well as enabling all sides to produce more compelling visual experiences, the same technology also democratises and demystifies the dark art and inexact science of traffic metrics by recording exact details not only of views, but of engagement and interaction. It can provide rich data for publishers and advertisers wanting demographic understanding of an audience, as well as weeding out fake traffic from legitimate users.
Every click tracked, every interaction recorded, seamlessly, in real-time, and logged forever, without however compromising end-user privacy. That's the power of the blockchain. Such a complex undertaking requires record-keeping techniques more robust than those adequate for Revenues In/Revenues Out ledgers. The blockchain has the kind of power suited for a project as significant, and as complex, as legitimising video traffic metrics. It also has the benefit of complete transparency throughout. Recording the engagement of the viewers, including all the various pathways, even those not taken, in real-time, for every viewing, while also tracking the revenues and feedback in real-time. It’s a massive undertaking, but one for which the blockchain is perfectly suited.
Backed by indisputable blockchain record-keeping, advertiser and publisher-independent protocol operators can act as an assessor of the trustworthiness and engagement of digital producers, advertisers, and consumers. They can be quantified and ranked on a scale based on their engagement, contributions to the community (art, feedback, etc.), and other factors. Essentially, the more a participant contributes through engagement, and the better those contributions, the higher the score, the greater the trust.
Leveraging audiences, without compromising audiences
Viewers should be unaware of the presence of such a technology. The users of protocols like IVEP will be able to make any online video – including live broadcasting and digital experiences like augmented and virtual reality – interactive, shoppable, chat-able, customisable, real-time editable, monetisable, poll-able, actionable, clickable, expandable and searchable. All within the framework of applicable copyright laws, data usage laws like the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as well as local advertising standards laws. It will make video and digital experiences a lot smarter for, and far more adaptive to, the online ecosystem’s needs for engagement and relevance with real-time software customisation of video content and information.
Through blockchain-derived technologies such as this, audiences will be able to choose their own narrative. Think: choose-your-own adventure, but in an infinite number of dimensions. Can you buy that outfit the star's wearing? Of course you can, just click! Want to talk to the director or ask the cast some questions? Easy. Interested in things that we haven't even imagined yet? Click to talk to the video's producers and they can create it for you.
Broadcasters will be able to create accurately metered pay-by-minute subscription offerings with real-time product placement and relevant informative smart objects adapted to their live feed. The brands who embrace the potential of interactive content will undoubtedly have better chances at winning the battle for consumers’ attention.
Ultimately, the combination of platform-agnostic interactivity, personalisation and a better understanding of audiences will enable content creators and publishers to present video content so compelling the viewer won’t want to click away.
Complete transparency provides complete confidence. To ensure that digital video continues to thrive and recoup its costs requires the participation of content creators, publishers, advertisers, and other value-added actors in clear and honest audience engagement that does not compromise the enjoyment or integrity of the content. It also requires transparent and open recording of that engagement in a way that instils and restores confidence in investing in digital advertising.
Fahima Anwar, Director of Global Marketing at dubtokens
Image Credit: Zapp2Photo / Shutterstock