Digital Buyers Implore Ad Sellers to Get Their Act Together

Joint letter from multiple agencies calls for better promotion, metrics, real hits

Last week the online ad industry was abuzz over the Digital Content NewFronts. For the most part, buyers raved about the improved quality of the video content peddled by the likes of AOL, Yahoo, YouTube and Hulu. And the collective buzz definitely seemed to elevate the medium's profile, though some complained about overkill or a lack of breakout, hit-worthy content.

Now comes the hard part. In an open letter to the big digital video content companies, a copy of which has been obtained by Adweek, top buyers from Digitas, UM, Carat, GroupM, Zenith, Starcom and OMD urged ad sellers to do better. The group, which included UM's chief media officer David Cohen, Amanda Richman, Starcom USA's president of investment and activation, and John Nitti, Zenith's president of activation, called on industry sellers to promote their host of new Web series and make them much easier to buy and measure.

"We know that not every show will be a runaway hit, but perhaps there could be enough semi-hits that in aggregate, can help build audience-at-scale. So now that you’ve built it, let’s help consumers discover it," reads the note. "We want to invest in your programming. We want hits."

But these hits must be understood and sold through to clients. "Answer this question and you’ll have lots of folks like us leaning in and listening: What are the bridge metrics that paint a portrait of a single piece of content or programming within the broader, non-linear Web of viewing and engagement?

"Together we will transform our industry and accelerate the marketplace," the letter says.

See the full note below:

To: Digital Video Publishers Everywhere: A Call to Arms

From: David Cohen/Universal McCann, Adam Shlachter and John McCarus/Digitas, Amanda Richman/Starcom, Walt Cheruk/Carat, Rob Norman/GroupM, John Nitti/Zenith, Ben Winkler/OMD

Date: May 8, 2013

With the close of the second annual Digital Content NewFronts, there are high expectations and a few critical questions to address. Can DCNF really create market-shaping brand opportunities? Have we overcome the barriers to closing the “big deals?" Will we, and the rest of the buying community, put equitable skin in the game? The authors of this letter declare yes to all of the above, and for one reason: We must.

We have a unique opportunity to reinvent the way we work together to capitalize on this. To change the narrative, and leverage measurement—across the now and next screens—that elevates digital video beyond an extension of TV. To disrupt the commodities-like pricing for broad segments of audiences, to new currencies based on the response and reactions of the people we want to reach.

Few will argue that the numbers, habits and behaviors of consumers are undeniably shifting, and have been for years. Yet, there are some who challenge the viability of the digital content marketplace and the publishing community’s ability to capitalize on it. We will prove them wrong. Together we will transform our industry and accelerate the marketplace. We will give digital video (and its consumers) the attention, the brands, and yes, the dollars, that it deserves.

Here are three calls to arms to help us get there:

1) Give your shows the promotion they need and deserve. 

One of the biggest challenges in betting big on original, digital programming is giving advertisers the confidence that we can actually deliver audiences-at-scale. If you build it, will they watch, love and follow? Likely not without a little help. You (the digital publishing community) have an arsenal of data. You know your audiences best. Use that data to find them. Get aggressive to intrigue, build, and attract an audience that is as big as it is valuable. We know that not every show will be a runaway hit, but perhaps there could be enough semi-hits that in aggregate, can help build audience-at-scale. So now that you’ve built it, let’s help consumers discover it.

2) Give us and our clients (more) reason to believe