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Say What Now? #3: QC Or Not QC?

Peach’s Chief Product and Technology Officer Doug Conely on why quality control for video ads needs to be higher on digital marketers’ agendas

In advertising and marketing, quality control tends to be something we only notice when it’s already gone terribly wrong. 

On TV, this has generally meant that problems get caught and dealt with efficiently. This is because the problems that arise tend to be quite stark and noticeable, for example the terms and conditions becoming unreadable because a SD resolution video file was used where an HD file was meant to be. 

When it comes to online, however, it’s not so easy to identify where mistakes are happening. There are issues, particularly with digital ads, where the rapid evolution of the devices and connection speeds in consumers’ hands has left the online video ad supply chain in a bit of a mess. 

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. For years now, the focus at digital media agencies has been on the audience ads are targeted to, the price, and the outcome. What that means is that quality control suffers due to a lack of attention, and we’re seeing mistakes crop up more and more frequently. 

I’m talking about issues such as:

Sound levels. At a December 2018 IAB Tech Labs event in New York, the most common complaint amongst the amassed adtech intelligentsia was a lack of audio level standards. This means that an ad would start playing and be too quiet - or even worse too loud - for the content. Nobody enjoys a video suddenly blaring out in a tab they’d forgotten they’d left open. Even worse when streaming to a big TV, where that just doesn’t happen in broadcast content. 

Ads running into live events. On the subject of frame accuracy, if you have an ad that’s going into a 30-second slot but it’s out by a couple of frames, that can be hugely annoying for the consumer. Nobody wants a live event - particularly a sporting one where a lot is on the line - disrupted by an ad. 

Home-grown transcode. It’s very common to hear stories about untrained media accounts teams using shoddy, free-to-use tools to try and get files into the right format without the deep knowledge and experience that’s needed to reliably get the job done properly. Unsurprisingly, this haphazard approach regularly leads to quality control errors that are so avoidable, if you know what you should be looking out for. 

Colour problems. What looks amazing and clear on the 40-inch screen in your edit suite doesn’t necessarily translate to the massive variety of devices people have in their homes and pockets. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to colour problems, where what the advertiser intends and what people see can be starkly different. 

These small-seeming problems can add up and affect campaigns in ways that are hard to predict. A fun example from Japan, is how much there is riding on the colour rice should be when it’s advertised. In western Japan, you need to give white a slightly redder, warmer hue. If you are in eastern Japan, you need to show a slightly blue color shift to white because it is cooler. So if you get that tiny little colour shift wrong, everything your consumer preference research has told you about what consumers like to see no longer works. It can be as subtle as that, but across thousands of campaigns and millions of consumers, these kinds of errors can add up to a large problem. 

In the past, digital advertising has been able to get away with ignoring these issues. But today, when streamed content is played on huge TVs and the screens on our phones are better than those of our laptops five years ago, it’s become a big issue. While we wait for improved standardisation to come into force, marketers need to ensure that quality is maintained in their video supply chain from edit suite to consumer screen. 

20 April 2020

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By Doug Conely