Beyond Native: Bringing Video Ads In-House

Vox Media is producing TV-quality ads without the help of agencies

The Verge has started offering advertisers like Ford pre-roll video ads. But in this case, Ford doesn't need its agency, as The Verge produced these Web video spots, using its own technology and editorial staff.

Indeed, the tech-centric publication is looking to take native advertising to another level by bringing creative in-house with its Vox Studios team. The unit offers TV-quality pre-roll ads for brands like Ford, which sponsored The Verge's coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show a few weeks ago. 

Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff said that for the new native video ad offering, the company provides brands with access to all the same technology the company's editorial staff uses, hopefully providing them with the tools to build a better content experience.

"We have a variety of capabilities as a new media company with quality video production, but other capabilities as well, like our publishing system Chorus and our editorial talents," Bankoff said. "All those assets that enable us to be in the content business—our recipe for telling stories—we're seeing that the brands we work with want those same capabilities. They're turning to us increasingly and asking for it. So the same tools we use for our audience, we want to give to the brands."

There's no doubt for Vox and The Verge that taking out the middle man of an agency makes for a more seamless and efficient process, but there's always the risk that skirting the agencies could rub some in the industry the wrong way. "We work hard and want to keep agencies and clients happy," Bankoff said. "It works for us ultimately because it drives engagement and performs well for the partners."

There's no broad indication that all online publishers are looking to bring creative work in-house, but work like this from Vox Studios' relatively modest team will probably cause some perspiration on the brows of the stodgier agencies out there. As for the future, the only thing that seems clear is that lines will continue to blur and feathers will almost certainly continue to be ruffled.

In the meantime, The Verge only plans to deepen its video output (it has already experimented with a professionally produced hour-long late night tech talk show, complete with studio audience). This year's CES was something of a proving ground for the site, which sent a small army of roughly 60 editorial, video, sales, and tech staffers to Vegas and produced 160 videos over six days.