Why 2022 will be a critical year for digital video advertising

Last year was a tipping point for the industry. Media consumption reached an all-time high, and the continued rise of streaming and connected TV created more opportunities for advertisers to reach their consumers. Audiences demanded more premium streaming content—and advertising dollars followed the viewers. We saw this truly materialize during the latest Upfront as clients significantly expanded their investments in premium digital video.

Another bright spot of last year: the collaboration between advertisers and publishers became even more dynamic. Unprecedented times created unprecedented relationships. Working remotely forced us all to strengthen our communication and it enabled us to listen more and adapt swiftly. Our clients continued to be honest and open about their challenges, and we were determined to solve for them.

This increased digital investment coupled with the continued importance of partnership has led the industry to this critical moment. The bar is high, and providing scale, incremental reach, flexibility and transparency is an absolute must in order to meet the needs of marketers today. And, in the year ahead, these solutions will prove to be more important than ever.

Solving for scale and reach, anew
To be sure, scale has always mattered. But with the proliferation of new distribution channels, audiences today have splintered in material ways, making it very hard to find them en masse. Ad-supported premium video supply is constrained and consumer engagement is a scarce resource. Every marketer is looking for novel ways to reach their target consumer and a fragmented ecosystem makes that all the more challenging.

Of course, with challenge comes opportunity.

When Viacom and CBS merged, one of our first goals was to solve for our clients’ desire for scale. We created a way to combine all of our digital inventory—across brands and genres—with the EyeQ platform: a one-stop shop for large scale, high-quality video inventory reaching more than 70 million full-episode monthly uniques. Plus, 80% of the digital video consumption of our content is on a television screen, and more than half of that audience are cord-cutters and cord-nevers—a desirable incremental audience in a high engagement, brand-safe environment.

We are able to do this because the broad inventory in EyeQ Video includes our juggernaut growth engines of Pluto TV and Paramount+—which drove our streaming advertising revenue to grow 48% year-over-year—and our portfolio of brands that include everything from CBS Entertainment, CBS News and CBS Sports to MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

The content within EyeQ includes the biggest moments and cultural touchstones in sports, news, entertainment and all the genres that fans love—from kids and reality, to dramas and originals, and more.

And so, the importance of quality should not be understated when considering scale. Quality and scale are not mutually exclusive. Marketers have the power to surround their brand with premium content and reach broad audiences while doing so.

Embracing flexibility and transparency
Advertisers have innumerable ways to buy media and, accordingly, they want complete control in terms of how they leverage and manage their investments. As a result, flexibility continues to be foundational to our business.

Introducing EyeQ content bundles this past year provided an added layer of flexibility to help our clients reach their goals. Content bundles provide access to specific audiences, so advertisers can isolate segments of our massive footprint that speak to their brand with, for example, the EyeQ Comedy bundle, the EyeQ Latino bundle, or the EyeQ Kids and Family bundle.

But what’s reach and scale and flexibility without transparency? As an industry, we’ve been working together to provide the utmost clarity for advertisers to monitor their investments. Unfortunately, the early days of digital media involved bad actors that tainted the ecosystem with mistrust and fraud. With the explosion of streaming, the need for complete transparency, akin to what is commonplace for linear television, is imperative.

At ViacomCBS, we developed an innovative dashboard called ViacomCBS InView in an effort to deliver more transparency to our clients. In addition to providing a simple, single view of campaigns across our portfolio, it enables advertisers to have the flexibility to move, aggregate or redeploy campaigns based on granular metrics.

Does the industry have more work to do on this front? Absolutely. And the stakes are even higher as more and more dollars migrate towards digital media. It’s a collective responsibility we, as media owners and publishers, need to deliver on if we want to see this marketplace continue to flourish.

Looking ahead
I’m incredibly bullish about where the industry is headed this year. We’ve been working amid unforeseen circumstances for some time with incredible ingenuity. We doubled down on partnerships. We created solutions that firmly address the industry’s most pressing challenges. And now, we can see the realization of our efforts. And, we’re just getting started.