The challenges in TV’s drive towards data

Yasmin Sanders
By Yasmin Sanders | 22 January 2016
Programmatic TV AOL senior director, Yasmin Sanders

Data-driven insights in the TV industry continue to gain momentum amongst the big networks and advertisers.

Last year data picked up steam during the US upfronts and stayed strong as a theme throughout discussions at Cannes, with companies such as Viacom getting aggressive about targeting through supplemental measurement. Agency buyers have been revelling in results they’re seeing so far with programmatic TV.

During the local upfronts, MCN’s message was heavily data orientated with the launch of Multiview XP, whilst Network Seven showcased 7 Screens, which allows advertisers and agencies to connect their brands and campaigns across media platforms in real-time through data and analytics. Nine is building an automated trading platform, powered by their rich first-party data sets. SBS also announced a move to automation, with a programmatic TV roll out scheduled for 1 July.

The drive towards data in TV is now unstoppable. Technology and television consumption habits are evolving. Rich “person-level” insights are becoming available through set top boxes, connected TVs and other sources of data. It’s opening the door to more precise, audience-focused targeting.

While we’re not there yet, addressable TV will be a huge accelerant for the industry, offering the ability to target viewers down to the singular household level. According to eMarketer, addressable TV “remains a very small fraction of the overall TV market,” but the opportunity is there for the taking.

Foxtel, with 100% market share of cable in Australia, has unique and rich set top box data, while connected TV penetration here has now passed the 30% mark (according to the latest IAB multiscreen report), with subscription video on demand penetration also sitting around the same. Worldwide addressable TV is on the rise – driven both by wider consumer adoption and advertisers who want better, smarter buying. We can expect increased adoption of connected TV to transform the industry here too, with technology platforms pivoting to unlock the opportunity for marketers to make TV a precision marketing instrument – at scale.

It’s exciting to see programmers and distributors embracing these opportunities. The TV industry has traditionally been slower than digital in adopting emerging advertising technologies. But, there’s still work to be done before the category is truly data-driven.

In particular there are three challenges that need to be resolved before TV’s transformation is complete:

1. Scalability: Using data to drive better targeting of TV audiences requires automated technology that can quickly and seamlessly leverage the enormous information assets available to marketers. This can’t be achieved with planners and buyers relying on manual processes and rudimentary, spreadsheet-based analysis. Hence the need for programmatic buying.

Set-top boxes, connected televisions and OTT devices are providing new streams of granular data that enables advertisers to target, optimise and measure TV advertising programmatically. Advertisers can now purchase specific behavioural audience segments and predict outcomes of their media spend, often without the dependence on survey-based consumer behaviour indexes to measure performance. The challenge, however, is in establishing standards around these new capabilities and data sets to scale programmatic TV industry-wide. The issue is amplified as we move to adopt Addressable TV, where networks and operators faced major technology hurdles to incorporate the capability into their infrastructure.

2. Transparency: Trust requires transparency – about the origins of the data being engaged and the methodologies used to analyse it. It also means an accurate and unbiased assessment of the results. It’s a challenge that originated with digital media buying and has migrated to TV. US figures show that only 31% of buyers believe transparency has been “sufficiently addressed” online. Many programmatic tools are “black boxed” and ROI measurements aren’t accessible to agencies and advertisers. The same challenges will apply to programmatic TV.

Those in the forefront of programmatic advertising are responding to concerns over verification with open, customisable platforms that allow integration with other systems. In the next year, as programmatic TV scales within the Australian market, the platforms that can integrate with legacy systems and demystify automated buying will win out. Greater transparency only means greater insight and more impactful campaigns.

3. Attribution: In a multichannel universe, data is blurring the lines between TV and digital, between mobile and display, and even between direct response and branding. It all comes down to the individual – whether the screen they’re looking at is on their wall, at their desk or in the palm of their hand. New technology enables advertisers to understand how TV and other channels are working collectively to drive desired outcomes.

But combining disparate data sources from multiple channels creates an attribution problem for TV marketers. How can TV buys be evaluated alongside display, mobile, direct mail and other channels in a way that’s accessible? How accurate are the metrics, given variation across media? These questions have stalled true cross-channel analysis, with most marketers still evaluating each individually, rather than as part of a complete, connected cross-channel strategy. In fact, only six percent of marketers are doing the latter.

Fortunately, innovations like multi-touch attribution software and machine-learning platforms are breaking the barriers to cross-channel attribution, so brands can optimise and execute more effective campaigns wherever and whenever their audiences are found. Whilst it’s early days, the capacity to measure the success of TV advertising in relation to other media is getting better.

Ultimately, that’s where marketers and media companies are headed – allowing data to better understand the true value of media and advertising. It’s why data took centre stage at some of the industry’s biggest events last year, and will continue to be a huge part of conversations in negotiations moving forward. To reach the next level of TV monetisation, we must meet these challenges.

Yasmin Sanders, senior director, Programmatic TV AOL

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