See Spots Run? And Addressable Issue

When I began my media career in the mid-'70s in the TV and radio programming department as a secretary at full service advertising agency BBDO, the television buyers rarely talked about the TV spots. The creatives created 'em, the trafficker trafficked 'em and the viewer viewed 'em -- we hoped. Occasionally, there would be a discrepancy. We'd get a call from the broadcast network's traffic department or our salesman to alert us that somehow our trafficking schedules didn't jive. Either we thought or our broadcast network salesman thought that we owned, on behalf of our client, the commercial time - generally a 30-second or 60-second announcement -- in a program that most probably was scheduled to air within the day. We equitably worked it out: either we received a "make good" in a similar program or we supplied them the commercial to run in the episode that was in question. Nary a feather ruffled.

In the mid-'80s a friend of mine, Josh Mayberry, was hired by RKO Radio to head up their national radio sales effort. Within a few months he discovered that the prior sales hierarchy had double-booked all of the radio spots. He spent the next two years trying to untangle the illicit web they had woven. Spots that advertisers paid for didn't run. Or did they. Ultimately, the network was forced to reimburse any advertiser or agency that challenged for proof of exposure.

By the early nineties, the niche-genred cable networks (MTV, CNN, ESPN, Discovery, A&E, TBS) had ascended from inexpensive eyeballs growing in national penetration to sought-after contextual environments offering unique demographics. Business boomed. However, cable network trafficking systems were overwhelmed. Part of the problem was that the allocation systems were gerrymandered from TV broadcasting systems and therefore were not created to handle the 24/7 load that a cabler engulfed. Upwards of 20% of the purchased schedules didn't run due to misallocation and overbooking.

Last month, representatives from two companies and a trade organization knocked on my door: Eloda, Nielsen's KeepingTrac and the 4A's Ad-ID initiative. Each independently asked how I knew that my clients' TV commercials were airing. Each queried: how could an industry garnering $70 billion in ad revenue rely on outdated and inaccurate methods, including monitoring services, spot checks, manual verification and station affidavits, for ascertaining delivery. I said I didn't care. Try two doors down. I'm an interactive TV specialist. Another department's responsibility.

Then it occurred to me. As addressable TV advertising applications are deployed through technologists like Invidi, Navic, OpenTV, Visible World and possibly a white labeled variety from Canoe Ventures and/or NCC, how will advertisers know if their spots ran and were delivered to the appropriate targeted household -- and eventually individual TV PINS -- unless there is absolute confidence in ownership of the original commercial slot, whether it be a national commercial sold by broadcast and cable networks, or local inventory managed by TV stations/digital terrestrialists, and individual cable systems.

Tags: tv
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5 comments about "See Spots Run? And Addressable Issue".
  1. Peter Stromquist from PSC LLC , June 2, 2009 at 11:04 a.m.

    In the nineties I was interim CEO of a technology company that was working on this. They had a proven, fully-developed system that embedded an inaudible tone within a spot. A server "heard" the tone and registered that the spot ran. Agencies could access their own webpage and it showed when the schedule had run.

    No media or agencies were interested in paying for it.

    In 35 years in the media business, I have always been amused by ad agencies. They are able to go way outside the box to think about their creative, but they color in the lines when it comes to adapting new methods, technology, or even considering alternative media buys. Irony.

  2. John Dempsey from Datalogix , June 2, 2009 at 11:13 a.m.

    Actually, Mitch, addressability solves that problem really well. In Visible World's deployment with Cablevision, each of the 400,000 deployed settops calls home regularly to report 1) that it switched to an addressable ad 2) that it was the correct addressable ad and 3) how long that ad was viewed.

    Sure, this relies on local inventory being booked in the first place (or, as you say, national/broadcast inventory in a Canoe model), but within an hour of an ad insertion, you have the most robust verification on television. Best of all, once you aggregate all of that tune-in data, you can confirm whether your addressable ad worked. And THAT is true advertiser piece of mind.

  3. John Willkie from EtherGuide Systems , June 2, 2009 at 11:51 a.m.

    Ad-Id is a good start, and John Dempsey's post is another, but "how long that ad was viewed" doesn't necessarily mean that the ad aired without impairments in the audio, video or metadata.

    With digital technology, it's rather simple to actually capture the transport stream from sampling points and relay it back to whoever cares to determine the quality of the presentation. Using analog techology, one well-known station group centrally monitors all the local newscasts presented by their stations. If advertisers or agencies saw value in making sure (rather than assuming) their spots aired properly, the question becomes "how many sampling points do you want to pay for?"

    For broadcast stations, only one or two sampling points would be required. With cable, it would depend on the zones and topology. For addressable, you could be talking about one sampling point per addressable set top box. I won't hold my breath for that metric to be employed

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , June 2, 2009 at 1:33 p.m.

    Really enjoy your reminiscing. Back in the 70's, at a small agency, I witnessed first hand how that agency added to their coffers by falsifiying manual affidavits. Some white out and xeroxing did the trick. Although it was for local radio and TV, it was a national advertiser. There is no way that it was the only agency committing the fraud. (There was also a popular radio station that was famous for their goody closet and skipping spots, too.) The bottom line is, whether digital or analog, fraud is fraud and stealing is stealing and not serving the committment bought and paid for is fraud and theft. The technical application for proof is way above my pay scale.

  5. Cody Crane from CCH , June 3, 2009 at 5:57 p.m.

    À la recherche du temps perdu
    Reading Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past was for years the Bar Mitzvah into Intellectual-hood for generations of masochists willing to suffer seven volumes of aimless wanderings through the daydreams and memories of characters unable to act. Proust's great contribution of "involuntary memories," memories in which our day to day events evoke unrelentingly boring recollections is a theme picked up in Mitch's latest souvenir involontaire. It seems as each day's events locate in his brain yet another flashback to the days Mitch actually worked in the advertising business.
    Ads need verification. Addressable ads need verification -do ya think?