Achieving reach with live video content – whether you're a brand or a media company – can be a challenge, but there is a growing opportunity to drive audiences via Facebook, YouTube, Amazon-owned Twitch and elsewhere.
“Live video amplification is one of those hot topics some would argue doesn’t have real scale,” said Michael Miraflor, global head of futures and innovation at Publicis Groupe-owned media agency Blue 449. “But it’s at the point now where at least you can have a conversation with a client about what strategies are available.”
Blue 449 ran its first programmatic campaign last October to boost a live video stream on behalf of drone manufacturer DJI. It worked with live video amplification specialist Traction Labs to implement the campaign.
“The DJI campaign was a bit serendipitous because they had a product launch event they were already going to be promoting pretty aggressively,” Miraflor said.
The event already had marketing budgets for search, display ads, paid influencers and PR. The work with Traction Labs was an experimental add-on, according to Gabe Chan, DJI’s director of digital brand. But Chan expects programmatic live video amplification, while not useful as part of a daily media plan, to eventually be a staple of event and product marketing.
"It’s a great way to magnify investments for something like a product launch,” he said.
By distributing the live video – which was already streaming on Facebook, YouTube and DJI’s own site – across platforms and programmatic video networks in the form of an IAB-standard ad, the brand saw about 7,500 additional users click through to its feed. That added up to roughly 30% of the event’s total live online viewership.
Traction Labs buys the ad placements on a CPM basis, but it only counts streams seen for at least five seconds as viewed. It absorbs the cost of ads served that don’t meet that viewability requirement, as measured by an undisclosed third-party verification firm. The company secures publisher inventory through direct deals or platform-style API plug-ins, allowing a live stream to run as a pre-roll or an "outstream" mid-article video spot.
In the case of DJI’s campaign, the media plan was limited primarily to ads on Facebook and YouTube. The ads directed users to the YouTube stream because the video platform supplies better measurement for a pilot budget, but Facebook captured a bigger share of the ad spend.
No ads were served through Google’s or Facebook’s ad networks. Programmatic site buys included AOL properties such as TechCrunch, Engadget and The Huffington Post.
Amazon's Twitch video game streaming platform also can host and promote live video, but it played no role in DJI's campaign.
To grow further, live video ad placements will have to run in more places
Inventory in this category is constrained by the number of platforms that enable live video in ads, by the number of sites with native video tech in place and by the campaign approval process (since many publishers may require pre-approval of live video content for brand safety purposes).
Snapchat and Twitter-owned Periscope have obvious promise as paid media platforms. Traction Labs President Scott Young said he expects Periscope to roll out a paid live-streaming ad product this year. Snapchat could open up its API to allow a live stream to deep-link from paid media placements outside of the app, but has not indicated plans to do so.
Until those developments come to pass, media buyers risk refining their target audiences out of existence with too much segmenting. For now, Blue 449’s Miraflor says, “there are enough ways to cut the audience that it’s focused and not wasteful,” by using Traction Labs' targeting tools around category interest and influencers.
“The rubber isn’t even really hitting the road here,” he said. “What works now, what scale looks like now, is going to be completely different six months from now.”