Q&A: Steve Sullivan's Interview with Sharethrough CEO Dan Greenberg (www.sharethrough.com)
As ad operations technology advances at an exponential rate, so does the amount of mind-boggling capabilities that are introduced to the world of digital advertising. This interview with Sharethough’s CEO, Dan Greenberg, represents one such example from the exploding sector of digital video. Sharethrough’s technology may solve a very interesting and challenging problem in the marketplace today. But it may also introduce new, intractable forms of chaos into an already dynamic and fragmented environment. Either way, I find it interesting to identify and explore new business models and technologies designed to enhance the power of digital advertising and/or solve the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Steve: Is Sharethrough a video ad network, and if not, how would you differentiate it from a video ad network?
Dan: When I think of a video ad network, I think of the 15- or 30-second commercial from TV being brought over to the Web and placed in the same way it was placed on TV: either before, during, or after the content. We are a video advertising company, but aren’t focused on video ‘ads’. Instead, we help brands syndicate their branded content to increase viral reach. Our brand customers are saying: “I don’t want to just be around the content, and I don’t want to just be in the middle of the content, I want to BE the content.”
Steve: Other than being the name of your company, what does the term “sharethrough” mean to advertisers?
Dan: Sharethrough is based on the simple idea that consumers like to share videos. Brands are creating funny, creative, engaging, viral videos that consumers can bring into their lives, post it on their Facebook, post it to their Twitter followers, share it on blogs, write about it, and really embrace as their own. With this type of branded video content, the true metric for success is how widely it’s shared, not whether someone just clicks on it. We measure “sharethrough” rate of video content instead of just “clickthrough” to gauge viral reach and consumer engagement. Our job is to optimize and maximize sharing to increase the sharethrough rate.
Steve: So how does your sharethrough rate metric translate to value for the marketers?
Dan: Marketers work with us is because we guarantee video audiences, which means we guarantee a certain number of people will watch their branded content. The Holy Grail here is the idea that sharing can be commoditized in a way that can be bought and sold, and then tracked and optimized.
Steve: Is there a metric that brand marketers commonly use that the sharethrough metric replaces?
Dan: Instead of CPM, CPC, or CPE, we measure “shared views”- or how many times a video is shared and then watched. When someone watches a video that’s been shared with them by a friend, we call this a “shared view” and it’s much more valuable to marketers than regular views, when someone clicks on a video themselves through a paid ad or by stumbling on it. The baseline metric for us right now is that view length is on average three times longer once the video has shared. So, if the average view length is 30 seconds, when someone clicks it on a site and then shares it, their friends’ average view length is 90 seconds.
Steve: Have you heard of ad verification or content verification and do you have any challenges with that? What about the possibility of a brand’s video being shared on a page that the brand may not want to be associated with?
Dan: Is it possible for a new paradigm of advertising like us to integrate with DoubleVerify? Yes. We can definitely tell our customers everywhere their videos are running and everywhere they are spending money to run their videos.
For the second question, in a world where people are sharing advertising and where brands are injecting content and entertainment into culture, can you control how the entertainment is shared around the Internet? No, you can’t control it. You can influence it by showing the right videos to the right people who are going to care and share it with their friends. But when content is widely shared, you are going to run into cases where a video ends up on a site that may not be conducive to the brand message. Ultimately, that just comes with the territory.
Steve: What are the different mechanisms that you hook into that would allow you to measure the shared video? Would you be able to measure when the person I share a video with views it, or would it only work if I shared the link to that video? What about the link via email?
Dan: As an advertising and media company, every ad placement and experience we serve is tracked. Instead of looking at placements, impressions, and clickthrough rates, we look at a transparent list of all the sites the videos have run on, all the ad experiences they run across, and how the paid views turn into earned shares directly from those ad units.
We know how much we have spent on paid media, how many impressions we drove, who saw it, and how effective it was from how much sharing came out of it. And that’s any kind of sharing - Facebook shares, tweets, emails, likes, Diggs, Reddits, StumbleUpons, or anything else. These shares have to come from within the ad experience itself, not from a user just finding it on YouTube and sharing it.
Steve: What about digital “fingerprinting” to always identify a video? Or embedding data into the media itself tied to a source? Is that ability something that would be valuable or useful to you?
Dan: That’s exactly the kind of stuff we are thinking about and have started to conceptually test. As a 30-person startup, we are first and foremost focused on making sure we serve the brands creating content and investing millions of dollars into video. We want them to look at our work and say “Wow, that was the most effective advertising we have ever done!”
Steve Sullivan is VP of Digital Supply Chain Solutions for the IAB. You can follow him on Twitter @stevesullivan32.
Dan Greenberg is CEO of Sharethrough. You can reach him on Twitter @mrDAG and @Sharethrough.