Sunday 12 October 2014 10:27 pm

Going viral: Teads chief Jeremy Arditi on the rise of video advertising

In the world of online advertising, the video format is still a relative minnow. According to figures released last week by PwC and the Internet Advertising Bureau, it accounted for less than 6 per cent of UK digital ad spend in the first half of 2014, with 55 per cent going to paid-for search ads. But things are changing fast. 
In large part due to the innovations of companies like Teads, the figure grew by 59 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2014. Teads, known as Ebuzzing & Teads until a few weeks ago, is on a mission to “reinvent video advertising”, introducing new formats like the collapsible video player that pops up in between paragraphs of text. Jeremy Arditi, the company's UK managing director and senior vice president of international sales talks to City A.M. about its programmatic push, and how to make a video go viral. 
Why is online video growing so fast?
On all the typical campaign metrics – brand and product awareness, increasing purchase intent etc – it’s proved highly effective. Display ads still account for the lion’s share of digital spend, but people have almost trained themselves to ignore them. Video allows you to do more storytelling. 
There’s also sound. It’s a simple thing, but audio is a massive part of the benefit of the online video format. It creates an opportunity for brands to convey a more complex message than they can in a five-second flash animation or a static banner.
You say people often ignore display ads. Will video reach saturation point?
There’s certainly value in having ads that are disruptive but not intrusive. Videos get noticed, and allow the user a choice over whether to continue the experience or not. Will the novelty factor wear off in five to six years? I think that’s going to be a function of two things. First, making sure users have a choice. Second, continuing to refine the targeting technologies, especially contextual or demographic targeting, so that we’re aligning videos with the right people. It’s not just about the audience, we’ve also got to continue contextually placing the ads so that they’re relevant to what people are already looking at online.
You’ve recently rebranded as Teads, following a merger earlier this year. What’s the logic behind all these corporate machinations?
Ebuzzing and Teads were working in a similar space, but each took different routes. Ebuzzing was focused on “managed service campaigns” – a sales team goes out to agencies or advertisers and accompanies them through the process. Teads focused on programmatic technology, getting the formats used by the biggest publishers globally.
The decision to rebrand as Teads is a reflection of the priority of the business, which is first and foremost around providing advertisers and agencies with high-quality placements for their video ad campaigns. The other important reason is that the market is shifting towards programmatic. Among trading desks and some agencies, Teads has become synonymous with programmatic video ads.
Do you subscribe to the theory that programmatic buying will sweep all before it?
I do, but with the caveat that it means different things to different people. Initially, it was thought of as simply automated buying. You were trying to reach audiences instead of thinking about context. 
The way we see programmatic evolving is through brand name publishers, along with partners like us, moving towards a more discreet programmatic world, using private marketplaces.
So more of a Balkanised programmatic trading landscape?
It’s not going to be the case that anyone can just log on to a platform and bid alongside the rest of the world. Publishers are negotiating with agencies, opening up a portion of their ad space programmatically. It’s becoming more of an efficiency tool. There’s still a high level of human interaction that goes into choosing the trading desks and publishers you want to work with, and coming to an agreement on price.
A lot of the ad exchanges have simply failed to provide the transparency that advertisers are looking for. So setting up private exchanges, where networks, tech providers and publishers can give guarantees and transparency around where ads are running, is certainly the direction in which  things are going.
Have you noticed any common features to successful video campaigns? What’s the secret to making a viral video?
There’s no perfect formula, but we do see recurring features. The first is that viral content tends to strike an emotional chord with the audience. It’s often a positive emotion, but it can also be a negative one like fear, anger or rage. 
Grabbing the user within the first few seconds is extremely important. There’s a lot of saturation in online advertising, and asking people to give you their time is extremely difficult. If they’re not captured in the first three to five seconds, chances are they’re going to drop off. 
We find that surprising users is also a common denominator in many good campaigns. But you also need to take that person on an emotional roller coaster, having grabbed their attention in the first few seconds.