By Irfon Watkins, CEO at Coull

Advertising has evolved a lot over time. In the beginning ads were static, black and white and very factual. That all changed in the 1920s when cigarette advertising mixed things up with provocation, colour and creativity. Advertising hasn’t looked back since. Just as the creative thinking behind advertising has changed, so too have the mediums we use to push messages out. Traditional above-the-line advertising like print, radio, billboards and TV ads have been superseded by the new kids on the block; video, online and viral. But while the world has evolved around it, the model used to decide what ads are pushed out to who has remained the same. And the online video industry is losing billions because of it.

On the surface, it has never been more successful. Pre-roll video inventory is regularly sold out, millions are invested into creating online video ads and every creative agency brief contains an element of online. But this paints a picture far from the truth. Recent research has shown that some 54% of online ads are not seen by their intended recipients, dealing a savage blow to brands hoping to capture the lucrative online audience. What all of this research shows is that it isn’t the ads that are missing the mark, it is that there’s a disconnect between consumers and the viewability of ads. In fact, the same research showed that optimisation can deliver a 50% uplift in viewability.

A comparison could be made with Apple’s App Store. Despite Apple heralding the App Store as world changing and brands perceiving it to be one of the best ways to communicate with customers, broadcast messages and interact, recent research shows more than 65% of apps are dormant, untouched and never downloaded. So is it really that effective?

It would seem the industry is ripe for innovation, but tracking those trends can be difficult. Here are some things we think brands should be investing in to ensure their online advertising hits the mark next year:

Mobile/tablet: Widespread roll-out of hi-speed 4G mobile internet service by multiple operators will bring ultrafast data downloads to the masses. Speeds of up to 300Mbps are already being trialled in some parts of London, allowing for the download of a Blu-ray video in seconds. 4G will revolutionise consumer access to, and consumption of, online video, heralding in the age of instant and consigning the much-maligned buffering circles to a thing of the past.

Digital advertising: We’ve seen publishers gradually realise the potential of mobile, and 2014 looks to be the year when they start properly investing in their mobile strategies. Those at the forefront of innovation will develop a robust mobile first strategy on top of their digital first strategy, ensuring that their readers’ experience is as good on mobile devices as it is on the desktop. We can expect to see advertisers’ budget allocation for mobile continue to rise next year. As such, the experience has to be great, with the ad experience integrated seamlessly into the content experience.

Ecommerce: Until now, merchants have seen video as a nice-to-have tool for filling empty YouTube channels and massaging corporate egos. With the widespread arrival of high-speed mobile internet in the UK in 2014, consumers will have greater access to online video than ever before, making this medium a need-to-have for anyone in ecommerce. 2014 will be the year when online merchants finally recognise the value of video as one of the fundamental sales channels.

Online video: Online video advertising is built on an unsustainable mix of out-of-date models and technology, adding up to a future that is both uncertain and untenable. The future of video advertising is contextual, not personal. In 2014, publishers will start to mine their vast repositories of inert content and turn it into a dynamic source of ongoing revenue. Existing video content becomes new inventory, creating an entirely new revenue stream at no extra cost to the publisher. Meanwhile, advertisers benefit from a completely new approach to the way in which their message is delivered.

Advertisers and publishers need to realise they aren’t talking to zombies. In fact they are talking to people who have needs that change by the minute, second or click. Pushing them video content based on what they were interested in even a minute ago doesn’t provide the best user experience. Sophisticated targeting and segmentation will allow brands to direct consumers to useful products and services that are contextually related to what they are viewing and allows them to realise the purchase intent that exists there, rather than things they have viewed in the past. It’s an exciting time for online advertising, but action needs to be taken now.

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