Opera Mediaworks, the ad-tech arm of browser-maker Opera Software, is handing out $100,000 to advertisers who commit to creating video ads specifically to run within a mobile site or app's content feed.
Brands who have signed up for Opera's Native Video Fund include Adidas, fast-food-chain owner CKE, General Motors, TV network History, consumer electronics maker Lenovo, game developer Machine Zone, Walt Disney Studios, anti-smoking organization Truth, the U.S. Navy and Viacom Entertainment Group.
Brands have to figure out how to get people's attentions on smaller screens. That has led to top creative agencies like 72andSunny to "consider what our production practices are around producing for the mobile environment, because it is different," said the agency's chief production officer Tom Dunlap.
"The screen sizes are different. Bandwidth is different. People's attention spans are different. It's a different medium than producing for display advertising or TV or cinema," Mr. Dunlap continued.
But even within mobile, in-feed video ads are different than pre-rolls. Unlike "inherently interruptive" pre-roll spots, the in-feed placements cater to the audience's browsing mindset when they scroll through a content feed for something to check out, said Lenovo's digital marketing manager Bob Cordell.
"We know that people have sought out and decided to watch this thing. And they're willing to give up their 15 seconds or 8 seconds if they can click skip before they get to what they're looking for," he continued. With its agency Digitas, Lenovo plans to roll out a mobile video campaign promoting its Yoga laptop.
Mr. Dunlap and 72andSunny's chief strategy officer Matt Jarvis met with teams from Opera Mediaworks and its mobile video ad network AdColony last summer. "They took us through the AdColony system and technology and best practices of producing in mobile. It put into perspective a lot of the things we were already thinking about," Mr. Dunlap said. 72andSunny has two clients, CKE and Truth, participating in AdColony's program.
AdColony is enforcing two requirements for ad creative. The video ads can be no longer than 15 seconds and must be exclusive to AdColony until the end of March. Advertisers also need to keep in mind that the video ads will regularly start playing with the sound off. AdColony negotiated creative rights to review, give feedback and mandate changes to the ads.
While Mr. Dunlap praised AdColony's counsel and ad-loading technology that's able to start playing a video ad with minimal buffering, he also said that the Native Video Fund's money was a motivator.
"If I can say to brands who are learning in the mobile space that we have a partner willing to put their money where their mouth is, why shouldn't we do that?" Mr. Dunlap asked.
"Our desire is to get upstream. Unless there's some economic benefit for a brand or creative agency, mobile is a secondary conversation," said Opera Mediaworks CMO Will Kassoy.
Advertisers can be especially averse to producing video ads specifically for play on mobile when it's so easy to syndicate their TV spots. But AdColony wanted to find a way to show advertisers that repurposing their TV ads isn't the best option on the smaller screens.
The $100,000 that AdColony is offering advertisers "is what it took to get on their radar," Mr. Kassoy said.
An Opera Mediaworks spokesman declined to say how many ad impressions $100,000 could buy on its ad network.
Digitas' media lead for Lenovo, Sean Costello, said that $100,000 "goes far right now" because it's early days for mobile video. "As I look six months from now, $100,000 probably won't be enough to reach an audience and learn from a test. But right now I feel because the opportunities are few and far between, it's a great amount of media to begin to test," he said.
Advertisers can use the full $100,000 for the media buy, which will pay to place the ads on properties with Opera-owned AdColony's mobile ad network. Or they can split the money, putting half toward the ad's production costs and the other half toward the media buy.
The participating brands must run at least one campaign on AdColony within the first quarter of 2015. After the first quarter, advertisers can distribute the video ads anywhere they want outside of AdColony's network and won't have to give Opera or AdColony a cut of that ad spend. When measuring the video ads, AdColony is adhering to the industry-standard viewability metric: a video must play for at least two seconds while at least halfway visible for a view to count.
AdColony's network of publishers include USA Today, NBCUniversal properties and audio-recognition app Shazam.