The proliferation of so-called “cross-platform” screens for watching TV and video has focused the media industry on measuring and understanding how consumers view advertising and programming content, but it has also created unintended consequences in the way the industry produces, distributes and traffics that content -- creating confusion, inefficiency and new kinds of workflow for advertisers, agencies and the media.
In the first industry-wide initiative to tackle technical standards and formats associated with the rapidly changing marketplace, a joint venture of the Association of National Advertisers and its agency counterpart, the 4As, has spearheaded a coalition of the advertising, TV and digital media industry’s leading technical groups to create standards and best practices for managing video assets in a non-linear world.
The effort -- which is being supported by nine trade groups, including the ANA, the 4As and the Interactive Advertising Bureau -- was the brainchild of Harold Geller, chief growth officer of Ad-ID, the ANA/4As venture that created an indelible digital code enabling advertisers, agencies, producers and the media to traffic vital metadata associated with TV and video ad campaigns regardless of the platform they end up on.
While Ad-ID solves an important problem by at least making advertising assets, instructions and other vital data easy to associate with each step of production and distribution, it does not solve other problems that are emerging in the production and distribution process, so he began working with IAB.
Geller worked with IAB Tech Lab General Manager and Senior Vice President, Technology and Ad Operations Alanna Gombert to form the new coalition -- which also includes The North American post-production industry trade association, The Digital Production Partnership Ltd., The North American Broadcasters Association, The Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, and The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers -- to begin solving other problems.
The consortium has formed working groups focusing on three vital areas: file delivery specifications, advertising meta data, and audio specifications and best practices.
In an interview with MediaDailyNews, Geller explained that the group would tackle file delivery first, because it currently is causing the most amount of pain for advertisers, agencies, producers and the media trying to standardize the way they do business with video content.
“The industry is currently using somewhere between six and 10 file formats,” Geller noted, referring to the various video file formats used to distribute content across TV, online and mobile media. Geller explained that there are many problems associated with having so many formats, including the lack of compatibility between platforms and the need to “transcode” them when they are distributed on an incompatible one.
Often, when video is transcoded to work with a different file format, he said, the quality of the video may suffer, reducing the resolution of advertising content the consumer is viewing. It also creates extra workflow, troubleshooting and problem-solving that Geller says the initiative hopes to resolve by reducing the formats down to one or two single standard formats that can be used across all current platforms.
“It’s early days, but we believe we can have a single mezzanine file format, from which all transcoding can take place,” he explained. “It may end up being two mezzanine formats, but the goal is to reduce the number of formats the industry uses and the complexity associated with using them.”
While Ad-ID already solves for many of the issues associated with trafficking advertising metadata, Geller said there still is important work that needs to be done to ensure all parts of the video producing and distribution chain integrate properly with it.