The Spectacle of NewFronts Is Over. Now the Real Work Begins for Publishers

It's time to get serious about data, standards and research

The 2015 NewFronts are over. For the past two weeks in New York City, the momentum of digital video industry's growth was truly visible.

Lines formed outside the city's largest theaters, and the media and media buyers alike were waiting, not to see the newest Broadway show, but for presentations by digital media publishers. We're still tallying attendance, but there's no doubt that this was the largest crowd ever gathered for the greatest number of NewFronts presentations ever.

Esteemed celebrities joined business leaders on stage to present first-looks at their newest projects. Reporters from the most respected trades and the most widely read publications in the world attended to find out the newest trends in the field. On stage, momentous deals were announced, and offstage, more quietly, many more deals were done. Before long, consumers will reap the benefits, as they gain access to an incredible new array of high quality content.

Progress was made. For the first time, premium original content was not only targeted primarily at millennials, but to all demographics. There was something for everyone, regardless of age or interest. It included long form, short form, entertainment, documentaries and many special interest areas. Recurring themes were pranks, outer space, live events and extreme adventure, all designed to build deep engagement and  intimate connections with viewers Publishers are now bringing premium video to the entire American audience.

And the presentations have never been savvier. Content crossed media boundaries from social to mobile, from screen to screen, demonstrating digital video's excellent extended reach. New research about the desires of consumers and needs of media buyers engaged the similarly sophisticated audience. 

The 2015 NewFronts captured a moment in time showing just how far digital video has come, and the massive change in entertainment and journalism that is happening because of this medium's growth. The event, once a marketing tool for the industry, is now a vibrant marketplace.

But now it's time to get back to work. To help brands excel within this rapidly growing and complex market, publishers must contribute more research and more standards. At the Interactive Advertising Bureau Digital Video Center of Excellence, we are convening industry leaders to accomplish these challenging tasks.

The industry must better understand how viewers are consuming and interacting with digital video. This calls for substantial and thorough research around consumer behavior as well as advertising creative—what works and why. These insights will highlight strategies for success through this multifaceted medium and will define what digital video will look like ten years from now. 

Standards must be developed that all publishers can abide by to relieve the pressure on marketers. This starts with sharing a simple and common language for discussing all things Advanced TV. The variations in terminology are fragmenting the industry unnecessarily and causing confusion. Right now for buyers and sellers, there's TV Everywhere, online video, addressable TV, over-the-top TV, streaming TV, interactive TV (iTV), VOD and more. This lexicon, while reflective of the current complexity in the market, is nuanced enough to confuse and discourage new buyers. Talking Advanced TV shouldn't be this hard.

Publishers also must develop a streamlined, turnkey solution for interactive video advertising. The first-ever online ad asked users to click. This made sense, the medium is interactive. It wasn't, by contrast, a print ad posted online. So why are so many video spots simply repurposed television ads? Clickable, usually, but really interactive? No.

Marketers are increasingly buying video inventory, but they're missing out on its greatest benefit. I've heard the explanation for years now: the expense of producing interactive content is just too great for such a nascent marketplace. The solution, again, is in standards. Publishers must coalesce around standards for interactive video ad formats that relieve marketers of the ROI risk. They must do the backend work—the research into what video interactivity works, the development of a format that can cross the video ecosystem, and the technical foundation to make it happen. At the IAB, we've produced the Digital Video Rising Stars and technical solutions like VAST, VPAID, and VMAP. But much more must be done.

Digital video promises marketers targeted TV ads, captivating interactive TV ads and enhanced and more meaningful measurements than would ever be possible with traditional TV. If publishers don't unite to create a solid foundation for digital video advertising, the trajectory of this new medium could fall terribly short.

To me, the real show isn't the glamorous presentations and parties. It's the one that comes next—the one every single buyer and seller, publisher and marketer is a part of. It's the development of the language, the standards and the processes that will power this industry, the future of television, the next mass medium.

Anna Bager (@annabager) is svp and general manager, mobile and video at IAB.