It’s back to the future for me in a way. The last time I talked advanced TV advertising in Europe was in the late 1990s as CEO of Real Media, when I was evangelizing addressable TV.
In 1998, we modified our online ad server in Europe to deliver “addressable” and interactive ads within parts of the terrestrial cable footprints of NTL, Telewest, Cable & Wireless, Swisscom and France Telecom. Yes, that kind of stuff was actually happening back then.
Ironically, in the late 1990s, it was much easier for people anywhere in the world to grasp the notion of targeted ads on TV than it was to explain to them how we would target ads on personal computers and mobile phones (yes, we were targeting ads to mobiles in Europe back then too, leveraging SMS delivery).
This week, while I came to talk to European peers about how marketers in the U.S. are leveraging data, science and software to make linear TV ads more predictable and performant, I’ve been spending most of my time here listening and learning. Here are some of the highlights:
At TV Rise, I learned about the extraordinary work that Sky is doing to bring truly sophisticated addressable TV ads with its AdConnect platform. Executives from WPP’s Group M talked about the company’s new global Addressable TV Group, based in London, that is being built out to create centralized expertise and tools in this fast-emerging sector.
Brian Golbere of Iponweb walked the audience through a truly insightful presentation on the intersections between ad tech and martech in the TV ecosystem.
egta’s CEO Summit vent kicked off with the managing director of Volvo Sweden, Per Carleo, who closed his talk with clear and specific expectation of what Volvo wants from TV companies: “Help us tell our stories. Embrace the media mix — don’t just fight other channels. And integrate the metrics. Don’t just dump data on us, integrate yours with other media channels.”
Giorgio Stock, president of Turner in Europe, Middle East and Africa, talked about how the company has changed its core focus from serving TV viewers to fan engagement, which caused it to embrace YouTube, not reject it. He talked about Turner’s participation in OpenAP, the U.S. consortium bringing audience targeting to linear TV.
Christof Wahl, member of the executive board of ProSiebenSat.1, talked about how the company is planning to win audiences and advertisers in competition with FANGA (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google and Amazon), who are bringing enormous capital and technical expertise to the fight. ProSiebenSat.1’s strategies: invest in addressable TV; buy data and ad tech; look for synergistic value plays; create a Hulu-like aggregated over-the-top platform; and create the European Media Alliance, a group of like-minded European TV companies.
My biggest learning? From the presentations I attended and the conversations I’ve had here over the past few days, it’s clear that the intense, diverse innovation of addressable and advanced TV in Europe is as great or greater than in the U.S. Whether this is a product of the nationally supported telecommunications infrastructure, the multiplicity of different national markets, or the tenacity of smaller countries wanting to prove that they can beat big ones, the result is clear: at lot is happening over here.
I’m going to watch the players in this market more closely going forward. We’re likely to see a lot of pioneering TV ad innovations born here over the next few years.