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Putting Viewers First in Video Ad Delivery Needs More Work

Dave Morgan
Dave Morgan  |  Executive Chairman
Published: Aug. 18, 2021

When will we put viewers first in video ad delivery? I got into this business almost 30 years ago with the idea that technology was going to help advertisers personalize ads and create a media future with fewer, more relevant ads. Maybe even a world with ads people want.

At that point, the benchmark for bad ads was television, where viewers got way too many irrelevant and redundant ads. Who would have thought that, three decades later, we have not only failed to solve the irrelevant, redundant ad problem, but that we’ve actually made it much worse.

We’re in the midst of a massive shift from linear TV viewing to streaming video viewing. One would hope that as we enable viewers to watch their favorite studio-produced premium content in an on-demand, streaming mode, we would have our digital ad servers and programmatic platforms tuned up to make sure the ad experience mirrors the premium, viewer-controlled content experience.

Good luck with that.

How come the six minutes of ads that we see per hour on some of our favorite ad-supported streaming services almost always consist of at least three minutes of the exact same ad, over and over?

I love the Olympics. I believe NBCUniversal totally nailed it in giving us access to every event, athlete and expert commentary when, how and where we wanted it. I also love Slack. I really enjoyed the Olympic Slack ad, the first 10 or 20 times I saw it. But I didn’t love seeing that exact same Slack ad the next hundred or more times I was hit with it over those two weeks.

I don’t love Slack nearly as much anymore. In fact, I’m now a bit angry with Slack.

I’ll never forget being challenged on a conference stage more than 15 years ago by Walt Mossberg, the legendary technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He asked me why, if digital ad targeting tech was so great, he kept getting so many of the same crappy ads when he read articles online?

I’m sorry, Walt. We failed you. And, unfortunately, we’re now exporting too many parts of that same crappy online ad experience with full sight, sound and motion onto our 60-inch living room TVs for the whole family to experience together.

We don’t lack awareness of the problem. We certainly don’t lack technology to fix it.

Incredibly, it’s probably going to be the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon that fix it for us -- and collectively take even more share of the ad market. They all have lots of first-party data. They are all instituting new privacy regimes that harden their control of their users’ data.

And they are all pulling their inventory away from open, programmatic markets. Finally, they are all well-tuned to the regulatory environment and know that doing things like putting consumers first in a very public way can only be good for them.

What do you think? Are we ever going to put viewers’ interests first in our video ad delivery?

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An earlier version of this blog was originally published by MediaPost.