What Next For Mobile Video Advertising?

Watching, sharing and creating video content is on the rise. According to eMarketer more than ¼ of the total US population will be viewing videos on a smartphone by next year. Young people in the US are already spending 6 hours per month watching video content on a mobile device. In Australia we are also seeing remarkable growth in mobile video usage.  The AIMIA Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle index recently reported that 47% of Australians surveyed had watched video content on a smartphone.  Video viewing increased from just under 20% in 2010 to half of all respondents in 2012.

Naturally with so much traffic to  mobile video content, advertisers are keen to reach their customers within that environment.  Mobile Video advertising is not new, by any means.  Ads have been served within video content for as long as smartphones have been able to play them.   Even so, the industry is barely out of its nascent stage, with genuine innovation only just beginning to emerge and real investment finally giving us a sign of things to come in this exciting space.

The industry is barely out of its nascent stage, with genuine innovation only just beginning to emerge and real investment finally giving us a sign of things to come in this exciting space.

Mobile Video Advertising means different things to different people.   To some it means a rich media implementation of a mobile banner, served into a mobile website or app.  To others mobile video ads are about distributing TV style commercials onto a mobile platform, such as serving ads into content in an app or mobile video platform like youTube.


Although the technical implementation varies, advertising using mobile video can quite simply be defined as:

  • A piece of video content
  • Distributed to a customer via their smartphone or tablet
  • To promote a product or service

The video ad may be served into long or short form content designed for mobile viewing. It can also be accessible via a link in a banner ad, or be accessible via an expandable banner that launches a video player within the ad unit.   While video ads can be served within both web and app environments, there are benefits of concentrating on app distribution.  Apps offer support for high definition ads that make the most of the premium video content, whereas quality cannot always be assured in a web environment.

With mobile devices often promoted as the 4th screen (the first being cinema, TV and PC), it may seem like mobile is ‘just another screen’.  But the size of smartphones and tablets is not the only factor that separates mobile screens from previous form factors.  Perhaps most importantly, mobile and tablet screens are interactive.  The touch screen environment suggests engagement rather than passive viewing.  Even so, maximising the opportunity for interaction has not been a focus of mobile video advertising, until quite recently.

The Most Common Forms of Mobile Video Advertising

The most common mobile video ad types are Pre-Roll and Click to Video. These formats are adapted from the familiar, existing environments of TV and Digital advertising.  Pre-Roll ads are a digital translation of the traditional broadcast TV commercial model, while Click to Video is simply a way to link video ads to Mobile Banners.

Pre-Roll / In Stream

Pre-Roll or In Stream ads are served into existing video content.  These units are usually between 15 and 30 seconds long and are served at the beginning of a clip, animation or video episode that has an existing audience. This is the premium video advertising option for mobile devices and is the most similar to what advertisers would be used to in digital video advertising online.  Technically ads can be served into the middle of a clip or episode (mid-roll), but the short length of most mobile video content makes this an unpopular (and less effective) format.  End-Roll ads are occasionally used and are often the preferred format for content sponsors.

Click to Video Banners


A Rich Media mobile banner with Click To Video

Click to Video ads include a link or button within a standard mobile banner ad.  This offers broader reach into an audience not presently engaged with video content.  This type of display ad offers consumers the choice of experiencing a video by suggesting they tap to view the ad.  Once clicked the video plays full screen, either by utilising the device player or linking to a landing page which has the video embedded in it. In some cases Click To Video ads will link directly to a video site like YouTube or Vimeo.  Click to Video ads often fall into the category of Rich Media Advertising, although Rich Media is not limited to video style advertising.

Facebook Mobile video


Facebook Mobile Video Ads. Restricted to apps only.

Facebook has recently launched video advertising within the Facebook mobile apps. Similar to Click To Video banners, ads appear in a customer’s content stream and will only play upon click.  These ads have the advantage of reach, as well as being delivered into an environment where customers are familiar with viewing video content. Facebook  is currently restricting the service to ads for apps, as part of a new scheme to encourage use of mobile ads to generate app installs (from the Apple app store or Google Play store).

In Banner Video

In Banner Video is another related type of Rich Media ad that uses mobile video.  This kind of ad plays video automatically within the banner as an enticement to click. Once the viewer does click, the ad expands seamlessly and the video restarts with audio.

Interstitial or Pre-App Video

Another type of mobile video ad is known as interstitial or pre-app video.  These ads appear outside of the video experience but within another app or game based context eg. on launching an app, in between game levels or when the screen changes.


What is Native Mobile Video Advertising?

The most popular mobile video advertising formats are adapted from the familiar traditional advertising models.  Based on TV and Desktop Screens, the formats are not native to the ubiquitous smart screens in the hands of most Australians.  So what would the native mobile video experience be for a smart, interactive, personal, mobile touch screen device?  What would happen if a video ad experience was designed specifically for today’s smartphone and tablet devices?

What would happen if a video advertising experience was designed specifically for today’s smartphone and tablet devices?

Native mobile video ads would be optimised for viewing on a variety of screens, in multiple contexts. They would be designed for the smaller form factor and understand the time-critical nature of mobile viewing.  They would maximise the potential of an interactive touch screen and be designed with a connected, engaged, viewer in mind.  Native mobile video would offer content extensions beyond the lean-back experience and expect the viewer to respond and react.

(Tech talk doing your head in? Check out our recent article that defines all those terms like Social, Mobile and Native!)

Interactive Mobile Video Advertising

Interactive Mobile Video is the first step in building a native mobile video experience.  To date, video ads have not tended to be interactive. The advent of the touch screen era has seen advertisers and publishers explore the idea of engagement with specific elements of video content.  Rather than expecting users to ‘lean back’ and watch, The interactive video model takes a piece of video and applies a canvas over the top.  Within this canvas is built animation or interactivity in the form of buttons, elements that can be tapped, swiped or some other mechanism for engagement.

Content used in a pre-roll context is most commonly repurposed from TV or at best from a YouTube or Desktop campaign.  It is often big budget, high definition content that is extremely well considered for the context of Television, but not necessarily appropriate for a mobile viewer. With Interactive Video, these existing productions can be refreshed to achieve more impact in a mobile environment.  At its simplest, this interactivity could be a button for engagement via a social network.  But a tap, swipe or other user action could initiate further content, deliver polls, connect with the viewer’s calendar, launch rich media graphics or ask users to respond in some other way to the ad.


A Pre-Roll Video ad with interactive buttons offering additional content, an app download and option to replay. The buttons appear briefly at the beginning of the ad and can be reactivated on tap.

To date interactive video techniques are most commonly applied to existing made-for-TV content, but the real opportunity lies in developing unique, made-for-mobile video that has the potential for interaction built into its content design and structure.

Premium Mobile Video, Real Time and High Definition.

In parallel with Interactive Video another quite different innovation has been developed that focuses on maximizing the value that mobile can deliver for existing high definition ad content. Premium Video is a term used to describe technology that improves the quality of the video experience on mobile devices.  Available only within apps, Premium Video Ads begin loading in the background as soon as a page is loaded, meaning the ad is ready to go as soon as the user clicks.  This allows for real time delivery of ad content without that frustrating delay, and enables high definition content to be used at its full quality in mobile environments.  This is a real plus for advertisers who invest in quality production and want to see it distributed across multiple devices without degradation in quality.

Mobile Video Is Ready For A Game Changer

Although at the cutting edge of currently available mobile video innovation, interactive and premium video are just the tip of the iceberg.   The reality is that interactive and premium video advertising are technology workarounds to deliver short-term innovation within a market that is ready for a game changer.  The future of mobile video will not be about re-purposing TV commercials, building interactivity into standard video content or improving the delivery experience.

When mobile video moves to mobile first, that’s when we’ll get our game changer.

In the future we will be creating content that listens to viewers and adjusts to suit.  The video element will no longer stand alone, but be part of a greater package of extended content options that become accessible via further engagement.  The ad experience will adjust and follow as a customer moves between screens, adapting to the context of both screen and viewer.  Instead of creating video for the TV context, we’ll be asking ourselves what the preferred screen is for our particular audience and understanding the consumption and engagement habits around that preferred screen.  And most likely, we’ll be creating our premium advertising content around a home without a traditional TV.  Instead we will be creating for  a variety of different sized, interactive, smart screens.

Advertisers at the cutting edge of mobile video production are now exploring interactive and premium video experiences.  By extending on what’s possible with today’s technology, we will begin to appreciate the potential of a truly native mobile video experience.  It won’t be long before content and advertising is being produced on a mobile first basis.    When mobile video moves to mobile first, that’s when we’ll get our game changer.   Or to use some of my favourite cliches… we will see made for mobile video that is genuinely interactive, engaging, responsive, multi-screen, connected, high definition, real time, available everywhere, highly contextual, always on and created uniquely for you!


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