As TV and Video Converge, Technology Must Stop Pushing Old-fashioned Digital Solutions (Part I)

As an ad tech developer, I personally spend a lot of time talking to some of the largest media agencies and publishers around the world about how video convergence is posing a new set of challenges to the status quo on an almost daily basis .  Like me, their product-centric folk are trying to develop the perfect product that meets the needs of today and solves for the problems of tomorrow. And no matter whom I speak with about the expanding world of video, and of course, linear TV, I hear the same basic message.

Their worlds have changed.  There are more devices, more data, more technology—in short, more complexity than ever before.  We’ve been taught that more is better, but if you can’t make sense of it all, more can actually be too much. It can slow progress and cause people to dig in their heels. 

One case in point is the 30-second TV ad.  The bottom line is that it works. It works for advertisers. It works for content owners.  As we leverage that creative unit on the growing number of new screens today and tomorrow, the trick is to make sure that it continues to perform, and then to outperform.

The goal of advertising technology should be to deliver better results through addressability and measurement than has been possible in the past. If we are not able to do that, then what’s the point? We might as well just continue to do things the simple way and avoid this new world of complexity.

As a technology product guy, it’s my job to make advertising work better while trying to make people’s jobs proportionately easier. 

Is ad technology really doing this? In a recent commissioned-survey, Forrester Consulting investigated how marketers, publishers and agencies think video convergence is changing their business, as well as technology’s role in all of this.  From a product perspective, a few key points stood out to me.

To start, the three groups don’t agree on much. But one point that all did agree upon was that consumers will continue to embrace a richer, more diverse set of options for their video entertainment experience over the next three years.  Respondents believe viewers will increase the time using on-demand services or streaming directly from networks’ web sites, will find more professional long-form content from new sources, and more video on demand from cable and satellite providers.

So, what will these changing consumption patterns mean to marketers? Internet-enabled delivery of video offers the obvious potential benefits of better targeting, interactivity, greater control over the media plan, more accountability. But one thing that puzzles me is that both agencies and advertisers themselves ranked greater accountability relatively low on the list of benefits in this shift to more digitally-driven viewing.  Since the only reason we advertise is ultimately to sell product, it’s concerning that our demand partners don’t see video as a way to drive improved accountability. The only reason that the other perceived benefits matter are to make advertising work better.  So as product developers, our first step in helping to simply the world for our clients is to provide them with the tools to focus on what really matters, and let true ROI drive strategy.

Another point that advertisers and their agencies agree upon is that consumers’ new viewing patterns will necessitate holistic planning and buying of video content.  Over two-thirds of agencies and advertisers expect the current separation between digital video and TV planning to disappear in the next three years.  But here lies the disconnect.  As the industry strives for greater simplicity, we, the product people, aren’t keeping up.  The industry continues to be riddled with point solutions that support one part or another of an overall ad campaign.  Yet the industry is telling us that execution should not be siloed. They are telling us that we should not break it into buckets of TV versus PC, premium versus scale, reserved verses bidded, direct versus exchange, audience versus sponsorship, etc.  Both supply and demand solutions must provide holistic planning and execution with the ability to manage an agency’s portfolio of clients and buying models, and a content owner’s portfolio of content and selling models.

Kevin Haley

Chief Scientist & Chief Product Officer

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