Operating In Bifurcated Media World: Q&A With Operative's Lorne Brown

In a world of ad sales software companies, Operative focuses primarily on merging the television sales marketplace with digital. Its mission is to better coordinate the myriad of systems and datasets that feed into all of the sales processes from planning to purchasing to posting. 

For CEO Lorne Brown, Operative works like a train conductor, taking all of the different tracks of data and processes and converging them into one fluid direction to reach its destination. “We are helping our clients transform from a ratings world to an outcome-based world,” he explained.

Charlene Weisler: Please tell us about your company.

Lorne Brown: We pride ourselves on one mission: being the revenue accelerant for converged media companies. Our customers leverage our ad sales solutions, which are open, data-driven and based on SaaS architecture that works across linear, digital and cross-platform deals. 



Weisler: What is the biggest problem in media today?

Brown: Succinctly: mixing and matching of currencies and execution systems.

Weisler: Frankly, doesn’t it all come down to impressions for both linear and digital?

Brown: There won’t be a single metric ever, ever again. It’s gone. Even when you use Nielsen, there will need to be a secondary metric that goes with it, especially if someone is talking about business outcomes. 

Nielsen doesn’t track that. They can help with attribution and figuring out where media came from that generated an outcome, but the outcomes themselves are always going to be different based on the buyers themselves.  

Weisler: For a common metric, impressions make the most sense.

Brown: Logic-based people would agree. But not everybody agrees, for different reasons. Agencies don’t have the capital structures necessary to dismantle their systems that are based on Nielsen audience measurement. So they are going to ride that out as long as they can. 

Networks don’t want it to change for another reason, because if everything went from a rating point to an impression, all of the waste gets exposed. And right now, people are comfortable buying that waste because buying TV generates enough reach relevance where they don’t mind the waste.  But if it starts to get dissected, all of a sudden the pieces that have high effective CPMs because they have been sitting in that rating bucket will obviously be worth less. 

The cable operators and the station groups, on the other hand, are cheering impressions on because they have everything to gain by impressions. They have sold in a granular way for a long time, and it can be used to do more targeting. So it’s not just about logic. It’s about top and bottom line protection. 

Weisler: How long do you think it will take before things change?

Brown: I do have an end date in mind. I think when everything goes IP or enough of a percent that goes IP, there will be an organic shift where people will become choice-less and they will have to go to this more granular currency. In between all of that, it’s now up to the TV companies to figure out how to live in a bifurcated, digitized world.

Weisler: What are the challenges to conquer and what do you hope to accomplish by this time next year?

Brown: Our role is to help media companies lay track for their future and have that be the same track that they all transact on. We are doing it now. AT&T, Charter and Comcast all use Operative and then there is NCC which sits in the middle. They all use a product called Connect to trade inventory with each other, streamlining the buying process and bypassing paper. Connect is also being used to create a bridge between Operative and MediaOcean. 

So if I want to be a media company at scale, I have to solve a lot of marketplace problems.  I have to get more inventory. I have to figure out what to do mixing and matching currencies, unifying products, and I have to make this look seamless to any type of buyer. 

To that end, we have developed a “Counsel” of the top ten networks in the U.S. and recently had our first meeting in Charleston. We specifically spell it Counsel, not Council because it is a collaborative initiative to stitch this confederation of businesses together, made up of the industry’s top operational and strategic experts. 

We started the conversation around what is going to be needed to help create scale into the future into a world of converge media buying. And we will continue to spearhead this initiative so companies can get the credit for all of the audiences they deliver without forcing complexity on the shoulders of the buyer. Technology, scale and simplicity for TV as a platform is our goal.


4 comments about "Operating In Bifurcated Media World: Q&A With Operative's Lorne Brown".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, November 7, 2018 at 5:03 p.m.

    Charlene. can you please be clearer about what you mean by "For a common metric, impressions make the most sense."

    Are you referring to all media - TV, online, cinema, radio, OOH, mags, newspapers etc?

    Are you referring to all ad-content types - from static ads in the press to interactive online ads?

    What are you defining as an "impression' - that the ad is served, or the ad is seen?

  2. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant:, November 12, 2018 at 10:26 a.m.

    Hi John,
    Good question. I was referring to impressions from a TV centric perspective which implies ads that are visible. In the digital space, I would presume that the impressions would be based on ad seen. Ideally impressions could be the common denominator for a range of platforms and media but perhaps defined differently according to platform. I am not sure that there is a common definition for impressions.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 12, 2018 at 10:55 a.m.

    To Charlene's question about a common definition for "impressions" across media, there isn't. We are working on our upcoming annual report ---"Intermedia Dimensions 2019" which goes into this question in great detail and, sadly, but not surprisingly, there isn't----nor is a single metric likely. However, as we point out, that's no excuse for not making comparisons and sensible judgements---not these days, anyway.

  4. John Grono from GAP Research, November 12, 2018 at 3:21 p.m.

    Thanks Charlene.

    My key issue is that if digital (or more correctly, online/digital) is server-side based then there is an inherent assumption that (i) the ad is fully served and visible (ii) that its size and duration is significantly big enough to be seen (iii) that a human is at that device to even have an opportunity to see the ad, and (iv) that the app or browser tab that receives that ad ihas the device's focus.

    I know that when I go outside to do a day's gardening in half an hour I will leave the laptop on and all sorts of ads will be served and be getting credited with 'impressions'.

    Server-side is great at measuring total impressions dispatched, but it inherently overstates audience for a multitude of reasons.

    If such data is used for media strategy and budget allocation that is an issue.   If it is used for campaign effectiveness econometric modelling it is less of a concern, simply because it doesn't know what a TV rating, an online impression, traffic past a billboard etc mean - it just knows which of them move the sales dial (post-event).


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