Connected TV is searching for its identity and it’s closer than you think

Dylan Dharmadasa
By Dylan Dharmadasa | 14 July 2020

Dylan Dharmadasa is head of product and operations at Finecast.

With audiences fragmenting gradually from broadcast TV into connected TV and other devices, it’s imperative that brands continue to reach their customers in these new environments. But there remain challenges that need to be overcome to create the most effective way for marketers to reach audiences through channels like BVOD. The elephant in the room is that without a reliable, common campaign reach measure available for Connected TV (CTV), something the small screens have always had via stable identifiers, the case for CTV on a media plan can be tricky.

One of the significant challenges for the entire digital ecosystem is the fine balance of identity and consumer privacy. Put simply, identity in advertising is the ability to identify either a user, household or device consistently over time and it’s the golden goose in the digital world. It might seem overly technical, but any notion of reach, frequency, audience targeting, cross device, first, second, third party data can be reduced down to the concept of identity. Which makes it critical for every marketer. Google, Amazon and Facebook all owe major revenue streams to the ability to manage user identity in a privacy compliant way and share this data with advertisers looking to target specific audiences.

There is an abundance of techniques used to do this, and they ultimately all fall into a spectrum with being useful for marketers on one end, and at the other, not being that useful. Marketers are already familiar with many types of identifiers such as cookies, device IDs and IDFAs currently in use in the digital ecosystem. DSPs, ad servers, SSPs and measurement companies all function off the back of these identifiers. And the reason it’s important, is the changing nature of how regulators, tech companies and consumers are approaching the use of data. GDPR, CCPA, the death of the cookie, Chrome removing third party cookies and Apple’s consistent history of tipping control of identity back into consumer hands challenges the capabilities of this ecosystem. Whatever side of the debate you’re on, it’s happening around the world and it’s going to impact the way brands and media agencies target and measure audiences.

There are broadly three schools of thought on identity, walled garden approach (think Google and Facebook), open internet approach (think unified ID project from IAB), or a mixed approach.

One single all-encompassing universal identifier persistent over time is a long way away and would have George Orwell reeling, let alone consumers. So which is the correct approach, and is there such a thing? Well the devil is really in the detail here, but there are benefits for consumers and advertisers to improving current Identity tools. Marketers understand they need to be working across a multitude of platforms and identity environments in order to reach the full breadth of potential customers in their respective category, and evaluate the minimum criteria for the identifiers that they use in the channels they work in.

But identifiers are only as useful as the environment in which they are in, so there is no one simple answer.

Take out of home, it might be strange to expect an outdoor billboard to collect an email address for identification (QR codes spring to mind), but it might be more palatable to see a BVOD app collect an email. A consumer will likely perceive this as a net benefit to them, as it can lead to curated content and a better app experience.

Looking at this more closely, the attributes that make an identifier useful for measurement or managing frequency are; accuracy; is the identifier recognised widely; does it scale across an ecosystem; is it privacy compliant and future proofed against regulation; is it persistent over time; would a consumer reasonably understand the use case for using this identifier? For example, any marketer that has tried to retarget their first party list of email addresses in an environment that doesn’t suit email collection is going to have a hard time finding any scale.

Unstable identifiers that can’t accurately measure audiences across platforms, are rife. Another example of the industry attempting to qualify identifiers and assess them for quality came from the Media Ratings Council (MRC) in 2019, which attempted to set minimum standards for technology and measurement companies when it came to what kinds of identifiers they accepted in order to count a unique person or perform cross media analysis or measurement, stating that “Certain identifiers are considered of insufficient quality, granularity or stability to form the basis of developing audience-based ‘uniques’, such as IP address.”

Enter BVOD. How does the world of Identity relate to television and streaming? Connected TVs and casting devices are an interesting beast. BVOD audience growth in terms of how many minutes are watched, has grown over 36% YoY. There are very few channels in which you can deliver a 30 second commercial, against a premium quality contextual environment that consumers trust. It’s no surprise marketers are carefully watching the growing slice that BVOD share takes.

The traditional free to air broadcasters have all developed successful on demand and live streaming apps. The BVOD experience is getting better and stronger for consumers and coupled with premium Australian broadcast content, the platforms have carved out a content focus that few of the digital giants, if any, have covered.

But despite all the success and growth in BVOD, clients want more. BVOD is still nascent compared to linear TV and there is ongoing effort to work through opportunities to improve the user experience. Reach and frequency control, audience targeting not scaling, identity, measurement all continue to have a potential impact on the consumer experience and on the effectiveness of advertising investment .

Many connected TV and casting devices weren’t necessarily built with cookies, device IDs and advertising in mind, sometimes this leads to peculiar challenges such as SSPs having to artificially generate pseudo-IDs in order to transact impressions with buyers. But it has also interestingly led to BVOD bypassing many the challenges present in the wider ecosystem. If you watch Television via any of the Australian BVOD apps, you will notice across most environments, logins are now required. Through this, broadcasters are building their user base and enhancing their capabilities for better audience targeting, frequency management and measurement.

However, while identity can sometimes be tracked within the digital ecosystem, in BVOD the benefits of Identity don’t yet cross over allowing marketers the ability to identify the same user across those platforms. Even via programmatic campaigns, an advertiser can’t yet evaluate that the same viewer is being served their ad while watching content via SBS on Demand, 9Now, TenPlay or 7Plus apps, for example. For consumers it can mean seeing multiple repeats of the same ad and for marketers it means instead of their content reaching a wider audience of viewers, they hit the same users over and over again.

With the rapidly growing audience in BVOD, growing marketing spend in CTV and local content investment by broadcasters, the BVOD ecosystem is ripe for innovation and digital technology and solutions will pave the way to a better, more reliable future for TV marketers and viewers.

comments powered by Disqus