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If video is the inevitable future of mobile advertising, why can’t there be long-form ads? There can, says SpotX’s Allen Klosowski. He talked to MEF Minute about what’s coming next for video advertising on the small screen…

In advertising, there are universal rules. Anyone who has studied the history of the medium knows that. And one of the most important is this:

Long copy is best.

This might seem counter-intuitive. With short attention spans, surely it’s best to keep everything as brief as possible, right?

Not according to all the legends of the ad industry.

The revered copywriter Claude Hopkins once wrote an ad that comprised five pages of solid text. And it wasn’t even for a technical product. It was for Schlitz beer.

Why? It’s simple, he said, “the more you tell the more you sell.”

So now we’re in a digital era that’s supposedly reducing attention spans even more, can this thinking still apply?

Yes it can, says Allen Klosowski. He’s VP of mobile and connected TV at SpotX, a specialist that gives media owners a platform to automating video ad sales.

“I don’t see any reason why there can’t be 15 minute mobile video ads,” he says. “We already run some that are product explainers and are several minutes long. If they’re in the right spot and you target them to the right users, they are really cool.”

 I don’t see any reason why there can’t be 15 minute mobile video ads… if they’re in the right spot and you target them to the right users, they are really cool.”

One can easily imagine the 15 minute video recipe slot or a similar ‘how-to’ type ad working this way. This, of course, is the digital equivalent of the newspaper advertorial or TV infomercial.

Klosowski concedes that there are challenges here. For a start, the delivery costs for long content are different, and this has to be factored into the fee structure. But on the plus side, plenty of long form content already exists and could quite easily be re-formatted for mobile by large brands and broadcasters.

For SpotX, long form could be yet another part of its impressive growth story. In a crowded market for programmatic mobile advertising, the US company focused early on video only.

It’s paid off.

During 2016, SpotX saw media spend transacted through its platform grow 33 per cent year on year, while the number of media owners using its platform increased by 56 per cent to over 300. They include Thomson Reuters, PBS, Gameloft, VICE and Time Inc.

The company also expanded fast across Asia Pac and now counts companies such as Cheetah Mobile (China), AnyPoint Media (South Korea), MediaCorp (Singapore) and BHD (Vietnam) among its client base.

Klosowski says the key to SpotX’s success is partly due to its focus on video. In the 4G era, mobile consumers have revealed their obsession with the medium. According the last year’s Ericsson Mobility report, video is now approaching 60 per cent of all mobile data traffic. And the study suggests that video will grow by around 50 per cent a year to account for nearly 75 per cent of all mobile data traffic by 2022.

But another critical differentiator for SpotX is the way it helps client marry technology with old-school relationships. It does this with private marketplaces.

In the classic programmatic advertising scenario, a ‘machine’ that places ads communicates with another that holds inventory. When the buyer’s parameters match the seller’s, a deal is done. And it all happens in a fraction of a second.

It’s very efficient, but it also removes some control from the advertisers and media owners on either side. This is where the private marketplace comes in. Here, an advertiser and publisher come together to do ad placements. Once the terms are agreed (by humans), the machines do the actual work.

Klosowski says: “With a private marketplace, the big media owners can talk directly to the buyers and negotiate a rate. It’s still a traditional sales model; someone wants to reach an audience. The sales people still go to lunch, but the ads are delivered programmatically. So it’s an evolution from trading spreadsheets back and forth, and it retains that control and those relationships.”

He adds that this process is helping to remove some of the stigma around programmatic, which was historically seen as a means to dump ad slots that couldn’t be sold any other way.

He says: “Programmatic had been characterised as ‘all open marketplace’ and ‘all remnant inventory’. Now, we’re seeing that change and premium owners are using it for primary inventory.”

Screen Shot 2017-04-13 at 14.54.08Late in 2017, SpotX refined its private marketplace ethos still further by introducing the curated marketplace.

Here, SpotX bundles inventory from multiple publishers into groups curated by category, demographics, viewability and similar criteria. Importantly, the marketplace is presented to the buyer under a single deal ID. That means it combines the transparency and safety of private marketplaces with the scale of the open market.

Klosowski says: “A client might say it wants to reach a certain type of audience and serve a certain kind of ad, so it identifies a media owner that can deliver that. With a curated marketplace, we can say ‘you can still do that, but why not work with this group of publishers who meet the same criteria?”

The evidence suggests they like the idea. SpotX says curated marketplace spend went from nothing to over 15 per cent of total gross media traded outside of SpotX’s public marketplace in six weeks.

Ultimately, whatever the structure, Klosowski believes the ultimate success of SpotX’s offering goes back to that consumer addiction to video. Banners just can’t come close.

“Pre-roll and mid-roll video is just about the most effective form of advertising there is,” he says. “I know there is some resistance to advertising with ad blockers and so on. But from our side, we’re seeing video become part of the normal experience for users. They don’t think about blocking ads on the TV when they are watching TV. And it’s the same for video on mobile.”