Commentary

Cross-Platform Currency: Perfect Can't Be Enemy Of Necessity

Several months ago, during the heart of this year’s upfront negotiations, ABC’s top sales executive Geri Wang lamented a lack of coordination on the buy side can hold up cross-platform deals, involving TV and full online episodes. Additionally, she wondered why buyers may be slower in buying online video, but are satisfied with accepting the inventory for make goods to cover TV ratings deficiencies.

“The TV marketplace has developed its culture against a backdrop of relative balance of supply and demand,” she said at an IAB event. “In digital, not so much. At least in video, as we unify these marketplaces, the two cultures are going to have to meet in the middle.”

More curiosity from Wang: why do buyers fight for frequency capping online, without “acknowledging that that same ad might be running multiple times an hour on other video or cable TV platforms”?

“Most of this is really, really counterproductive,” she said. “Screen size has been changing throughout history and that change in size has never affected the price of an ad.”

Should it, though?

And, could disagreement hold the industry back in developing a single cross-platform currency that effectively accepts an impression is an impression is an impression. CNN, for one, would like to drive adoption for an All-Screen product that tracks traditional TV viewing, out-of-home TV and digital consumption.

His take may have changed, but current Chief Investment Officer at Spark, John Muszynski, seemed to indicate last year he had reservations about aggregating viewing on all platforms and then seeking payment as if the ads had similar value no matter where they appeared.

“We’re still going to have the question of how effective is this particular ad in this particular environment?” he said at an industry event.

There is likely all kinds of studies Muszynski can find showing resonance, brand likeability and intent to purchase are similar no matter the platform where an ad reaches a consumer. On the flip side, he probably can find plenty indicating the opposite – that a mobile ad can be more effective than what happens during out-of-home viewing in the waiting room of a car repair shop.

It's media research. Interested parties just might produce research they hope will strengthen their businesses.

Now, a lift in brand likeability might indeed be similar for an ad on differing platforms. It’s hard to dispute, though, that the viewing experience differs and resonance can really vary. Think about those who may open another browser during a commercial while watching online video. The audio may still be heard, but visuals could be ignored. And, despite ABC’s Wang’s comments, is an ad seen on a massive HD screen in the living room worth the same as on an iPhone at the bus stop? 

It's easy to understand why a buyer might be wary about adopting a platform-agnostic view and feel enthusiastic about paying the same for ads no matter the distribution avenue -- a la Muszynski 2012. But, Muszynski oversees operations that buy a fortune worth of ads each year. He's not known to back away from a fervent point of view, but is he just having to swallow hard? If multi-platform deals with ABC and its peer group become the norm, a simple need to make a business operate more efficiently might drive grudging acceptance about a cross-platform currency.

While it’s hard to question Muszynski's 2012 take on philosophical grounds, it seems the industry will have to somehow agree that the perfect can’t be the enemy of necessity. Now, agreeing on what that single currency will be -- how it's compiled, what it includes, etc. -- leaves a whole series of issues still to be worked through. The complications there cannot be overstated.
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