by Matt Kapko

Google Talks Video Ads at CES

News Analysis
Jan 07, 2015 4 mins

At CES, Google's head of display and video ad products outlined three trends in the world of online video advertising and offered insights for marketers on where the market is headed in 2015.

Google wants to do for video advertising what it’s already done for search and display — make video ads seamless, make it easy to measure them transparently and make video hugely impactful for brands. 

“Vegas is actually the perfect place to be giving a keynote about brand advertising,” said Neal Mohan, Google’s vice president of display and video ads, at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

“You show up with a fat wallet, full of confidence,” but after betting on uncertain outcomes you’re left wondering where all your money went, Mohan says, suggesting that today’s video ad space can be similarly confounding for marketers.

Mohan outlined three emerging trends for online video ads during his presentation. Advertisers should pick the moments that matter; build a world of choice; and focus on impact, not just impressions, according to Mohan.

“We’ve gone from this world of scarcity to one of true abundance, and there’s a lot more opportunity for marketers to reach people,” says Mohan, who leads Google’s video and display businesses on platforms including YouTube, DoubleClick, AdSense and AdMob.

Mohan says the best way to reach those potential customers, and to actually influence them, is video. Video is the most consumed form of content on the Internet because of its unique ability to make people think, laugh, stir their imaginations and inspire them.

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“Advertising the right content is a requirement for winning those moments that matter, but it’s not a guarantee,” says Mohan. Consumers live in a “choice economy” that affords them the luxury to skip or click away from content they don’t enjoy, he says.

“The beauty of the Internet is that advertisers are no longer constrained by the 30-second video format,” Mohan says, a truth that resonates with advertisers, especially when you consider that four out of every 10 videos on YouTube are produced by brands. 

Blurred Lines of Content and Advertising

Most consumers don’t care if the video they watch is content or advertising, as long as it’s high quality and is relevant to users, according to Mohan.

“Consumers are well ahead of where the industry is,” Mohan says. “The technology is still not 100 percent seamless in terms of creative, in terms of measurement … We’re still in the first inning of actually cracking that.”

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Conversations about ad effectiveness have to start with viewability. “We found that a full 56 percent of video ads are never seen by human beings,” Mohan says. “With a number like that, nothing else matters.”

Active view metrics are Google’s answer to this pervasive problem, but until now they were mostly reserved for display ads. Mohan announced at CES that all video campaigns would support active view measurement.

Mohan says advertisers that have already adopted active view see viewability increases of as much as 50 percent. However, viewability, reach and frequency should be a means to an end, he says; the impact of the campaign and achieving business objectives are the most important outcomes of all. 

Impressions, clicks and conversions work extremely well for direct-response advertisers, but that still leaves about half of the $800 billion advertising industry out of the mix, according to Mohan. Google wants to develop metrics that address the issue and reward quality content, but Mohan says, “it’s an area that we’re very early days on.” 

Google to Brands: Demand Viewability

Brands need to be more vocal forceful and ask for viewability metrics, Mohan says. “Anything ultimately short of 100 percent is not where we as an industry want to be.”

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At CES, Mohan also announced that Google signed deals with more than 30 media companies and big-name brands, as part of its Google Partner Select program, a programmatic video ad exchange for premium content. Companies that will buy and sell via the exchange include CBS, Fox Sports, Discovery Communications, Time, Sports Illustrated, Nestle, BMW and Allstate.

“The majority of brands are spending at least 20 percent of their budgets on programmatic today,” says Mohan, and two-thirds of those brands plan to double their programmatic spend during the coming year or two. Video ad completion rates on Google Partner Select are as high as 74 percent, according to Mohan. 

Finally, before he left the stage Mohan was asked to explain his recent comments on the mobile-first mindset that’s taken hold of the industry.

“This notion of mobile first is a nice sound bite but what we should all be focused on … is a true multi-device, multi-screen world,” he says. “Don’t focus on a device, focus on reaching consumers on all devices.”