In The Arms Race For Relevance, Context Wins

The world of media and advertising is navigating the disruption and consolidation across the ecosystem.

TV audiences are rapidly moving to digital, subscriber-based direct-to-consumer offerings are struggling to grow profitably and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is regulating data privacy and collection across Europe.

All the while, walled gardens continue to capture the lion's share of new digital advertising dollars.

A new consortium led by TV manufacturer Vizio is promising to assemble the right technology platform and media partners to make addressable ads on television a reality — as soon as early 2020.

The group, dubbed “Project OAR” (for “Open Addressable Ready”), said it will define technical standards for TV programmers and platforms to deliver targeted advertising in linear and on-demand formats on smart TVs.

The founding members include Disney Media Networks (which includes ABC, ESPN and Freeform), Comcast’s FreeWheel and NBCU, Discovery, CBS AT&T’s Xandr and WarnerMedia’s Turner, Hearst Television and AMC Networks.



With CMOs employing a data-driven approach, the relevance of advertising to large-scale digital audiences has never been more important. Keyword blacklisting is growing as marketers demand their content is placed in safe environments where brand messages are protected.

With ample content options, consumers are increasingly thinking about how, when, why, and where they consume content. But video remains the one piece of media that isn’t showing in-content context.

When publishers employ augmented intelligence and machine-learning tools against their video archives, the opportunity to better understand the consumption behaviors of video can be fully realized.

Case in point, networks like NBCU are using machine learning or building their own proprietary tools to better indicate to ad buyers the best moments to buy ads during commercial breaks and between TV shows.

Video content is being produced rapidly and although digital advertising spend is projected to reach $130B by 2021, pre Statisa, media companies still struggle to monetize their content.

Being able to program contextually-relevant branded or advertising content against that programming is equally important. These types of quality controls are hard to achieve on the social platforms, so broadcasters and publishers have an advantage.

With video on the open web, you can only buy based on broad demographics — not what someone is watching. Even on YouTube, top advertisers have proven that the contextual targeting doesn’t always work and ads are shown against non-brand safe content.

To provide value outside the walled gardens, publishers need to complement age and demo with behavior and context. Contextual targeting means publishers can reach particular audiences with relevant content.

For example, one site can reach women ages 30-44 watching travel content, or men over 35 consuming cooking videos.

Data-based contextual targeting will get publishers and advertisers closer to the goals of accomplishing relevance at scale. Even during large scale live events, such as the Olympics or the Super Bowl, a publisher can serve up personalized content to millions of visitors with content relevant to them and their interests.

Additionally, publishers with an international audience need to adjust programming for the GDPR era where contextual targeting is not only safer but a more practical solution. The New York Times has already made the change to focus on contextual and geographical targeting for programmatic guarantees and private marketplace deals. It has not seen ad revenues drop as a result.

The open web has the best video content available, but it is also the hardest to buy into. Unlike the walled gardens, which have their own personalization and video tagging tools, the open web does not. Social platforms have an edge on publishers when it comes to content tagging.

Facebook has identities and tags so it can get close. YouTube can kind of target ads against related content, but that is assuming the tagging for content on YouTube has been done properly.

Outside of the social platforms, advertisers need to demand their DMPs provide a contextual targeting “engine.” This demand will create a sea change in which media companies that utilize data and contextual targeting will be able to compete on a more level playing field with players like Netflix or Amazon.

As we get closer to looking at the data presented in the video, the entire industry will be able to better design campaigns, create more relevant customer experiences and present content that is personalized and keeps audiences wanting more.

Despite video’s proliferation and continued growth, that hasn’t happened yet. But those willing to adapt their strategies early could be handsomely rewarded.


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