By Kaarina Aho

With the continued growth in consumption of video content online, programmatic video has become integral to the digital advertising space and the video advertising options available are constantly evolving. This article summarises the video formats and inventory available online, and is the perfect starting place for your next video campaign.

Back to blog home

We started talking about this back in April 2015, when Beckie wrote a blog post on the Video options available in DBM. But this is the digital world we’re talking about and a lot has changed in a few short years, so we thought it was about time to re-introduce you to the wonderful world of video.

What video formats are available programmatically?

  • In-stream ads are served in the video player itself. They are available in three different positions: before the video content plays (Pre-roll), in the middle of the video (Mid-roll), or after the video (Post-roll). Each position has unique advantages related to reach, user engagement and intent. For example, pre-roll offers the most reach and users are more likely to see your brand, as the ad is injected before their chosen video content. Mid-roll, on the other hand, tends to deliver better view engagement because users are already engaged with their chosen content.

Pre-roll, mid-roll and post-roll
  • Out-stream (or In-read) video is embedded within editorial content and articles. The format will only play when more than 50% of the video player is in view, and the video will pause if the user scrolls away from the player.

  • In-banner videos are videos embedded in standard display banners. On mobile devices the user must click to initiate the video, but videos can autoplay on desktop.

Video inventory

While inventory for in-banner video ads can be bought in the same way as standard display inventory, there are a few differences when it comes to In-stream and Out-stream video buying, so here’s a whistle-stop tour:

  • Open auction video - through DBM, we have access to over 35 Video inventory exchanges, enabling us to run video campaigns across the web with impressive scale. Running Video on the open exchange allows us to overlay all your favourite targeting options from your Display activity, including 3rd party audience targeting, lookalike audiences and contextual targeting. We can even remarket to customers who have been reached through your display activity and not converted, to encourage re-engagement with your brand. There is also the option to hone in on specific Video environments on the Open exchange, giving you the option to target pre-roll and mid-roll separately, and to choose from a range of environments, including in-read, Mobile video and even Desktop Web Game slots.

  • YouTube - Some of the most exciting developments since 2015 have revolved around our ability to buy YouTube inventory in DBM - perhaps unsurprising given that 1 billion people around the world are watching YouTube videos every month. The ad formats available on YouTube are constantly developing and range from bite-sized 6s unskippable bumper ads to the old-school In-Stream ads, which can be any length. These are skippable after 5s and allow the advertiser to only pay for impressions where users choose to engage with the ad. Discovery ads are another choice-based format on YouTube, where your video appears as suggested content for a user and you only pay if a user chooses to view your video. There’s also the option to buy unskippable ad slots on YouTube’s most premium inventory, through Google Preferred deals for videos up to 20s, reaching users engaged with the best content around.

  • Publisher video - Increasingly, Premium publishers are providing a new pool of premium video inventory in the Programmatic space. While this inventory is pricier than you would find on the open auction, appearing against premium content is a great way to build a strong brand presence and to make a memorable impact. The formats available for Video will vary from publisher to publisher, with some publishers utilising in-read formats as standard and others opting for pre-roll space before their own hosted video content.

  • Broadcast VOD - Ad slots in on-demand TV programming from channels such as Channel 4, Sky, BT and ITV are also available to be bought programmatically through platforms such as TubeMogul, and while targeting opportunities are far less granular than we can achieve through the Open exchange or on YouTube, we are able to achieve great reach through broadcast inventory and to bridge the gap between Programmatic and more traditional media channels for maximum cross-channel impact.

Taking video ads online - one size does not fit all!

As consumers, our interactions with video vary hugely by channel and by platform, so naturally the makings of a strong video asset do the same: a successful TV ad might not be right for YouTube and a winning YouTube ad could be the wrong length to drive engagement on Facebook. We at Merkle | Periscopix have seen the positive impact of tailoring video to platform first-hand, and have the insights to help you tailor your creative strategy to the digital world. We also have a fantastic creative team who are able to repurpose existing video assets and get them ship-shape for whatever video activity you’re running.


With the huge range of available formats that we’ve touched on above, it’s no wonder that video measurement is an industry hot topic. For activity run through DBM, we have an ever expanding list of metrics that we can use to understand the performance of our video campaigns. These range from the expected % Complete Views and Cost per complete view, to shiny new metrics like % Audible and Visible at Completion, which provide a deeper understanding of the quality of the completed views we’ve driven. We also have Brand lift surveys available for a host of DBM video activities, which use a control/exposed methodology to measure the uplift in Brand Awareness for users who have been exposed to our video campaigns compared to users who have not. So while the challenge of evaluating performance cross-platform and even cross-format still persists, the wealth of data available can be tailored to your campaign goals to develop tailored performance indicators.

Chances are you already love online video - I for one have spent hours of my free time watching pandas having fun on slides. Hopefully this quick introduction has begun to show you how you can learn to love video in your digital marketing campaigns too. Stay tuned for upcoming articles taking a deeper dive into the topics and formats mentioned here.

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