Secret Society Update: Challenges (and Solutions) of Workflow Revealed!

After seeing the standing room only crowd at the Secret Society meeting at Turner Ignite in New York this past week, one can see that the secret is finally out.  Mitch Oscar, USIM Advanced Television Strategist, created the Secret Society “to talk about issues that affect the Advanced TV space,” and this particular session was filled with speakers on the subject.  The primary takeaways follow below.

The subject of workflow looms largeTo those companies that are grappling with the evolution towards Advanced TV.  Just like the plumbing in a house, workflow is an unheralded but vital aspect of bringing data-driven targeting advertising to television viewers.  It is perhaps for that reason that it doesn’t get more coverage in the media.  But Oscar is focused on getting the industry to consider the challenges and solutions of changing workflow and chose presentations that highlighted the subject, from departmental transitions such as the changing role of research to cross-industry solutions such as OpenAP.

The Evolution of Research
Research’s role has ascended over the past few years with the advancement of data-driven solutions.  Tom Ziangas, Senior Vice President Research, AMC Networks, presented a compelling case for the expansion of Research Departments.  “The increasing complexity of the media landscape has transformed the workflow of the Research Department,” he said.  To that end, he noted that the requirements for a job in research have changed in the past few years from communications majors to data scientists and mathematicians.  In addition, research teams have become less hierarchical as the number and extent of internal client departments have become more formalized.  “Research counts nearly every department in the company as either a stakeholder seeking insights or partner required for measurement across growing data sources,” he explained.

But it’s not just hierarchy and headcount that has changed for research.  The massive influx of first and third-party datasets as part of the measurement process has placed research in the corporate epicenter with the demand for creative (and accurate) solutions.  “The number of data sources research is now digesting has grown ten times in the past ten years driven by digital platforms and deeper granularity into linear viewing,” Ziangas concluded.

Cooperation Across Competing Media Companies
It is becoming clear that traditional media companies will have to work together to establish the industry standard protocols that enable inter-business cross-platform sales processes.  Important first steps have been taken such as OpenAP, which is a partnership between Fox, Turner and Viacom.
Larry Allen, Vice President, Ad Innovation and Programmatic Solutions, Turner, and Noah Levine, Senior Vice President, Advertising Data and Technology Solutions, Fox Networks Group, gave an update to OpenAP.  Allen noted that the collaboration on OpenAP “sought to solve a couple of problems”  -- the need for a democratization of data and the need to taking friction out of buying television was apparent.  “We sought to free up the data so you can see it, build segments against it and see if clients want to buy against it,” he added.  Making it a cross-corporation effort avoided the problem of media entities grading their own homework.

In an update, Levine noted that OpenAP is currently in the process of recruiting national TV programmers to join in.  The challenges to data-driven adoption such as the lack of scale in on-boarding, inconsistent segments across companies and no third-party posts would be solved by joining it.  “We are focused on making it easy and simple with the ability to activate it across all national media companies at once," Levine said.  "OpenAP solves the problem of consistency in defining the targets."

OpenAP offers “an agency [the ability] to share a segment within itself,” Allen added.  For those who wish to explore the platform, just launched for linear TV only as phase one.

The media industry is being hit with many changes all at once from data flow to complex world of attribution modeling. But unless we get the workflow flowing and agree on new industry standards in both data usage and segmentation, the ability to maximize inventory value across devices and platforms will be limited.

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Rewarding the Best in Advanced TV and Audience Buying. The ABBI Awards.

What makes an Advanced TV company great? According to Gabe Greenberg, CEO and Founder, GABBCON, it might be winning an ABBI Award. “The ABBI Awards (Audience Based Buying Innovation) awards are presented to companies who are leading innovation and success in advanced TV audience based buying,” noted Greenberg. 

This year his organization received over 100 entries and winners are selected by judges – not affiliated with GABBCON management.  This year the judges hailed from such companies as Nestle, L’Oréal, Hershey’s, Columbia Sportswear and agency leaders from OMD, Ocean Media, RPA and Assembly.

“We think the awards are quite important because there are no other awards series that recognize the very best in advanced TV and audience buying,” he stated and then added, “At a time when audience based buying is critical in the TV and Video market, we think it is critical to recognize and award those who are leading the market with success and innovation.”

I sat down with Greenberg and asked him the following questions:

Weisler: What makes a company the best in advanced TV and audience buying?

Greenberg: The judging for all our awards was done by brand and agency leaders so I cannot speak for them and what they were looking for. For GABBCON this is also a hard question to answer because it will vary from local to national from broadcaster to adtech provider. In my mind, what separates the wheat from the chaff is the sophistication of the data they apply, the level of automation they deliver and the inventory quality they offer – but that is my opinion, not that of the judges.  

Weisler: Have the criteria for the best changed over the past 2 years?

Greenberg: Yes, they certainly have. During last year’s awards, we judged on a combination of crowd sourced industry voting with GABBCON voting. This year 100% of all voting was done by executives from brands like Hershey’s, Nestlé, RPA and OMD with a total of 12 judges.

Weisler: Where do you see advanced advertising right now in the marketplace?     

Greenberg: Advanced advertising is at a very exciting tipping point where more and more companies are taking advantage of advanced data, technology and AI. TV itself is probably the best it has ever been and with the complement of Advanced advertising may finally begin to see dollars move back from digital to TV. This is an important area of focus for GABBCON events and clearly one hundreds of executives from big brands and agencies are all trying to leverage and figure out. As the ANA and others put digital under the microscope, advanced advertising lends a nice alternative in a medium that has proven to deliver and is fraud free and brand safe. Our consulting practice is seeing tremendous growth from brands, broadcasters, station groups and agencies who are trying to ride the wave of success and change.

Weisler: Where do you see it in 5 years?

Greenberg: In 5 years, I think we will no longer be calling it advanced. We will just be talking about TV and Video.

Weisler: How can advanced TV buying improve and who needs to be the change agent?

Greenberg: Just like brands and agencies lead the wave to digital, they need to lead again. Fortunately, many are. The move to advanced advertising has not been entirely because of its value and quality. Initially much of the interest and change was driven by necessity because of walled gardens who were improperly scoring their own homework, digital properties delivering non-human traffic and fraud or large players publishers delivering non-brand safe impressions.
The market is improving every day and there are any number of leaders paving the way with the intent to harmonize data and technology. We still have a lot of work to do together. However, some examples of progress, although early, are OpenAP, new addressable players like Spectrum Reach or expanded efforts from Comcast NBCUniversal and live solutions that allow for DAI from Hulu and Sony. Every month we have more scale and better solutions. It is a very exciting time for TV and Video.

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Maximizing the Impact of Out of Home Measurement

Where is out of home (OOH) headed in a world of media fragmentation and greater competition for consumer attention? 

The ARF helped to answer these questions at their Maximizing OOH Impact event this week. A roster of participants including Andy Stevens, Senior Vice President, Research and Insights, Clear Channel Outdoor, Christian DeBonville, Director, ESPN Advertising and Marketing Intelligence and Emma Carrasco Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer, Senior Vice President of Global Strategy, National Geographic Society weighed in on how data, technology and creative can all be leveraged to raise awareness, improve branding and efficiently capture the consumer journey.

OOH at a Measurement Inflection Point
According to Barry Frey, Chief Executive Officer, DPAA, “OOH is one of the hottest media today.” He cited three pivotal societal and technological changes have been a boon for OOH. First, we are spending more and more time out of the home. “We are increasingly an active mobile society,” he asserted, “and we are becoming a more urban society.” As mobile phones become ubiquitous, this fuels the ability to track people wherever they go. Second, Frey sees advertising inside the home as “fragmenting at best and declining at worst.” Third, with the addition of digital data capabilities, OOH is now able to count, measure the impact and attribute usage just like the rest of the media industry. This improvement in measurement coupled with a safe, viewable, closed system that has no ad blocking, places OOH on an equal footing with other establish media options.

Data and Technology
The advent of improved technology that results in more valuable data is pivotal to OOH’s growth. The ability of marketers to track the consumer journey with mobile geo location data, for example, has created opportunities and greater confidence in OOH. Nielsen has been very active in expanding its OOH measurement offerings as are companies such as iQ Media which offers visual detection data that includes mood and engagement metrics.

“There are three reasons why mobile is so important,” Andy Stevens, Senior Vice President, Research and Insights, Clear Channel Outdoor noted, “Everyone has a phone and we carry it with us all the time. In fact, 85% of adults have their phone within arm’s reach all the time.” The full consumer journey becomes evident because the data tells us where people are, their routes throughout the day and their possible exposures to billboards. The methodological road has been long one but now refinements in the methodology, such as radius assessments and direction of travel, give the advertiser greater confidence that ads have actually been viewed.

Clear Channel’s case study “not only used mobile data in the planning and measurement of OOH, we also used it to amplify the impact of OOH by retargeting people who have seen OOH ads with mobile ads,” Stevens explained. This has a priming effect where the lift in store visits with and without the additional mobile ads could be compared. “There is a higher lift from people who have seen both the OOH ad and the mobile ad,” he continued, “It is a one plus one equals three effect going on. There is a natural synergy between mobile and OOH.”  Stevens is finding that these results are valuable sales tools for advertisers who may be using mobile but currently do not have an OOH strategy. “An integrated media strategy can yield better results overall,” he concluded.  

Powerful Creative Is a Must-Have
Powerful creative also plays an important role in OOH effectiveness. Emma Carrasco, Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer, Senior Vice President of Global Strategy, National Geographic Society, has developed a Photo Ark Campaign to help raise awareness of the last 12,000 species in captivity before they disappear. “Our partnership with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America enabled us to take this campaign to a whole new level,” she explained, where association members can get more involved in spreading the message. She shared with me that the feedback has “been tremendous,” with support across traditional out of home, digital, transportation, for example.  Social engagement, and its resulting data, has offered a huge, measureable boost in awareness.

Carrasco sees the next five years as a continuation of National Geographic Society’s efforts to build a complete documentation of all of the species in captivity. Currently 7,000 animals have been photographed, but there are still 5,000 left to do. “We want to bring awareness to what happens to society when these species disappear. We might actually have a chance to save some of them.”  Strong creative in conjunction with OOH ad placement and measurement will help propel this worthy cause.

Data Debunks OOH Myths
OOH exposures are surprisingly pervasive. Christian DeBonnville, Director Advertising and Marketing, ESPN, found that “the OOH audience is seen throughout the year, throughout the day and not just the biggest events in bar locations. It is programming that is on in the morning, during mid-day when we presume people are at work or at the gym or other out of home locations where we are seeing significant lifts.”

He noted that agencies and clients are more receptive to giving credit for audiences that are seeing programming and ads outside of the primary residences. The ability to credit the full consumer journey is great news for both advertisers and content creators.

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Kern Schireson Talks About Viacom’s Data Strategy at the Data Summit

Media's data dash is ramping up as evidenced by the discussions at the recent Data Summit conference. Whereas it had been a tough and arduous sell in to use targeted data in selling TV content several years ago, the technology and business models have improved to such a degree that media executives view using targeted data against consumer segments as part of business as usual now.

Kern Schireson, Chief Data Officer, Viacom presented his vision of data, how it is fully integrated within his company, how they position it to advertisers and brands and how it will play out in the media business marketplace. 

Chief Data Officer Responsibilities
His is a relatively new title in media world and his efforts have become integral to creating new strategic insights for his company. “What Viacom realized is that there are interesting opportunities at intersection between data and sales,” he explained. “There are opportunities to connect the dots and uncover new value and optimize the business.”

His work with data requires complex math, machine learning and algorithms that help the business react more efficiently. And it requires getting deep into the details of how the media business functions while trying to connect it to advertisers and brands in a new way. “It’s all about inter-operability and building the pipes,” he noted, “Because the rise of data can bring more intelligence into the business it opens doors between the siloed areas. It offers new ways of thinking about the business from the processing aspect.”

Getting MVPD Data
Viacom recently announced a deal with Charter for their data which offers an opportunity for the two companies to work together. This partnership can enable a new way of thinking between MVPDs and media companies. Shireson explained that, “There are things that MVPDs do well and there are things on the publisher side that are unique and valuable. In the past this was treated as a zero sum game. We are now working as partners to make the TV ecosystem bigger and better positioned for the future.” Viacom’s goal is to maximize viewership and be able to monetize it. “We need traditional TV to be smarter and work across the aisle to leverage the best data and methodologies.

Explaining the Value of Data Within Viacom
In any company, even within the most progressive ones, there can be a divide between those who have worked in television for a long time and those who are coming in with fresh perspectives but little TV experience. “I do think there is still this learning curve when and where to use data scientists,” Shireson confessed. There was a concern that robots would come in and tell veteran programmers what programs to run. But, he assured the audience, “that is not what we are aiming at.”

Instead, he feels that his role is to offer tools and new capabilities to help that person maximize their instincts and leverage their intelligence and creativity. “It is not about us replacing you with a machine but giving you an iron man suit,” he assured. “These are just tools that offer predictive algorithms to better estimate show performance and estimate sales impressions. It gives you something to bounce your other estimates against so you can say, ‘Let's re-factor these other conditions and streamline the process. We are trying to be additive rather than a replacement.” The intent is that, over time, it is possible to get to a place where the business is run more efficiently. “It is a collaboration to make the business better,” he concluded.

And all of this data is not just useful for sales. Shierson’s data empire can be used for the creative discipline of programming.  We can use data to discover, “what are topics out there and how can we understand the zeitgeist,” he noted. “What are the trends in culture, what are the patterns of viewership in different parts of the day?”  The data can now be used to support a decision, knowing that the media ecosystem is a much more dynamic environment than ever before. More multiplatform programming creates a real time cultural experience, especially with much of Viacom properties’ audiences.

All in all, data provides a huge area of opportunity. “We need to reframe the conversation so that everyone is doing better and delivering a better product,” he concluded.

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Television Week Takeaways: What Is the Future of TV?

With platform expansion, shifting viewer patterns and an overabundance of available content in various forms and lengths, one could be forgiven for thinking that linear TV is at grave risk or at least due for a major shift in its business model.  The future of TV in its many forms was the focus of discussion during the always frenetic Television Week series of conferences.  I attended several of them.  Read on for the primary takeaways.

Great New Consumer Opportunities
For the average consumer, there has never been a better time to be a fan of video.  There is an embarrassment of riches that can be accessed through a myriad of portals and services.  The challenge though, according to Richard Au, Head of Content Acquisition, Amazon Channels, is "how do you find what you like and discover new content?"

Enter the FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) companies, which are quickly developing an enviable range of video content that is increasingly matched with easy-to-access ad tech for advertisers.  Data plays a huge role not only in the ad tech but also in content curation. Amazon, for example, has developed algorithms that take a look at the content choices of other people who watch similar content.  "We also note what you subscribe to and create a personalized experience and editorial for any new content coming up," Au explained.

Great New Media Challenges … and How to Overcome Them
The advancements of FAANG have created stress on the legacy business model.  David Levy, Executive Vice President Non-Linear Revenue, Fox and Aaron Radin, Senior Vice President Partnerships and Portfolio Products, NBCUniversal, weighed in on the broadcast television model.  "The future of TV buying is to enable audience-based buying at scale through efficient automated platforms," Levy said.  "We need to introduce new measurement solutions beyond cost and reach that properly value attention."

To that end, competitors such as Fox and NBCU have to begin to work together to forge these protocol solutions and build pipelines.  "The keys to success are automation, APIs, data, scalable ad products, markets and measurement," Radin explained.  This needs to be accomplished in an accredited, industry-based manner.  Cross platform solutions are pivotal.  "Google and Netflix have great automated buying options to buy at scale across platforms," he added.  "We need to find ways to present all of our inventory, across all platforms, converging our inventory and enabling transactions."

The legacy model of advertising will be tough to change.  "How do we take 16 minutes of ads in a program and place it in an environment that has fewer ads?" Levy asked.  "We need to get a lot better at measurements including attention, where they are in the funnel, the quality of attention and any change in perception.  If we are just measuring cost and reach we have no chance."

Great Unknowns
As cooperative as the legacy media players might become, there are still the unknowns that can negatively impact the business.  Jeffrey Weber, Chief Executive Officer, ZoneTV noted that we are in this in-between time where new aggregation models for content and channel choice haven't yet settled into an industry standard.  Its hard for consumers to find content that they may like.  Weber believes that operators need to harness the power of the electronic programming guide and help viewers locate the right content at the right time.

Lance Neuhauser, Chief Executive Officer, 4C, said it is important to make the most of every data set.  He stated that, "Social is the largest set of anthropological information now available," he said.  "It is the largest focus group."  He sees that consumers are using ad breaks to engage in social media or texting.  "We need to start from the future and work our way back, and recognize that consumers no longer need to watch ads," he advised. "They can fast-forward, subscribe, pick up their phones, etc."  Linear TV is playing catch up -- and it will be slow.  "You have linear trying to change with 50 years of infrastructure," he added.

Great Advice
The best advice, which was repeated throughout the day, was that businesses need to focus on the viewer and not on the platform.  Re-focusing on the end user can enable a more flexible and successful business model that reinforces a strong future for television.

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