We Need Automatic Content Recognition -- Now

Automatic content recognition (ACR) is an idea whose time has come in a multiplatform media environment. Here’s how it works: Imagine that a TV viewer is watching a network while using her iPad, and a commercial airs. ACR recognizes that the ad is on and can then display complementary programming or advertising automatically on the iPad. ACR will also enable programmers to know that their content was consumed on both devices simultaneously, thus potentially facilitating measurement as well as minimizing any audience fragmentation impact.

According to the CIMM Lexicon, ACR is the name for a family of technologies that enable content users to synchronize content retrieval across several platforms and interact with TV programming from their mobile or tablet computers.  ACR can involve a watermark, signature or fingerprint that is embedded across all video content across all possible platforms. In this way it is possible to trace the traffic route of a specific piece of content no matter where it is viewed. In fact, ACR that is embedded at the program source could prime the media landscape to track content across even future, yet-to-be invented platforms. 



Jane Clarke Managing Director of CIMM, and Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, talk about ACR, its definition, roll-out and metrics in this video from this year’s OutFront meeting.

“CIMM is very interested in the potential use of ACR technology for passive audience measurement.  We recently engaged Symphony Advanced Media to pilot test new approaches to cross-platform advertising effectiveness using ACR to directly link passive measurement of actual advertising exposure to consumer response data," said Clarke. "This linked data will become the proverbial holy grail as advertisers and brands search for new ways to measure multiplatform ad effectiveness.”

Currently it is a bit of the Wild West out there for ACR, with companies developing their own proprietary forms of content coding. For example, Nielsen has its own coding system, and Shazaam, Yahoo and Google have developed their own coding protocols. According to Pat DIneen of Nielsen, his company is “developing ACR-enabled mobile apps which will one day soon be a part of (Nielsen’s) persons measurement in local measurement.”

Will ACR change the media landscape?  Morgan thinks so. “Automatic content recognition software will enable consumer electronics manufacturers - -TV, Blue-Ray, gaming -- to get into the set-top-box viewing data game,” he said. “It will dramatically reshape and improve the quantity and quality of viewing data, which will be in the market to improve the targeting and measurement of ads and recommendation services for video content discovery. Ultimately, it will improve the experience of all over-the-top viewing.”

And yet with all this need, why hasn't an industry standard for ACR been created yet? “Standards are not set, they are achieved, and typically achieved by market leaders or market winners,” said Morgan. “The industry is too early to even call it nascent. We didn't have online ad impressions until online ads had been sold for 10 years. Standards-driven data is yesterday's way of thinking, when everyone's data analytic tools depended on ingesting only structured data sets. Today ‘open data' analytics platforms consume unstructured data and spit it out – however, it is needed at that time by that user. Standards won't be necessary in this market, and trying to create them or waiting for them will only slow it down.”

Will new measurement metrics originate from ACR? Morgan believes that “we will see much more granular measurements relative to TV viewing, particularly in areas like hyper contextualization, not unlike what we've seen online. This will enable AdSense-like businesses on TV.”



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