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The art of in-app video ads (part 1 of 5): Conquering quality

Posted by Daniel Kang on July 23rd, 2014 at 8:49 am

Video has played a leading role in marketing budgets since the first television ads appeared in 1941. But while TV may have been the beginning, it's not where the video ad market ends anymore. eMarketer recently reported that US adults will spend 23 percent of their time with mediaon mobile devices this year. Naturally, there's a growing appetite among marketers for TV-quality experiences on mobile phones and tablets.

So why do we see these kinds of experiences so rarely? It’s mostly a question of technology. The advertising industry is moving towards a programmatic buying model, but building programmatic platforms for mobile video means overcoming unique technical hurdles.

In order for advertisers to shift the more than $200 billion in TV ad spend onto newer platforms, the industry has to address the issues of ad quality, latency, brand-safety, standards, and optimization. In today’s article, we’ll discuss mobile video ad quality.

It’s all about bitrate

One key to delivering a TV-quality mobile video ad experience is delivering large video files to mobile devices in a user-friendly way. Video files are much larger than banner ads, particularly when the videos are long, and presented in HD.

One common strategy is to cut down on file size by reducing bitrate. However, mobile screen sizes are almost equivalent in terms of pixel density and resolution to the best desktop monitors. Low-bitrate videos look blurry and grainy, and this low-quality experience can impact brand perception.

So HD is a non-negotiable prerequisite to serving beautiful ads. What else can we do to reduce file size while preserving an HD-level bitrate?

Invest in brevity

One easy way to reduce file size is to serve a shorter ad. Most video ads today conform to the TV standard of the 30-second spot. However, shorter durations mean smaller file sizes and more effective ads because they’re less disruptive of the user experience. For instance, Vungle has found through extensive testing, that 15-second ads generate high click and conversion rates on mobile phones and tablets.

Don’t think that 15 seconds is long enough to get your message across? A recent study by the IAB found that 15-second spots, not the 30-second TV standard, were the best length for digital videos.

Serving shorter ads allows advertisers to maintain an HD bitrate without compromising on ad effectiveness -- which means a great UX that gets results.

Know when to stream, know when to pre-cache

It’s ideal to stream big files because they can download progressively. But doing that over carrier connections is risky. We’ve all had times when we’ve gone from four bars to none within a few feet. You don’t want to interrupt a user’s app experience with a buffering icon.

When conditions aren’t right to stream, the best way to accommodate large files while maintaining the user experience is to pre-cache videos in the background.

Pre-caching allows video ads to load and buffer while the user is engaging with other content. Ads play instantly, regardless of the connection speed before or during the experience. Users never have to wait to see an ad.

While ensuring ad quality is just one hurdle in developing a high-quality mobile video ad experience, it is one of the most important. The advertising industry needs to adapt to the growing mobile device ecosystem by trying out new ad lengths and delivery technologies because on mobile, more than any other platform, user experience matters.

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