So Why Do We Need Another Addressable Consortium?

In case you missed it, this week saw the announced launch of another consortium dedicated to trying to accelerate the thorny process of streamlining national addressable advertising buys in linear TV.

To recap: The group, called Go Addressable, comprises eight television players, including cable operators Comcast, Altice USA and Charter, satellite operators Dish and DirecTV, and smart-TV maker Vizio.

As most readers of this column are aware, but just for the record, there are already at least three existing addressable groups.

OpenAP is actually an open platform created in 2017 by TV networks (Fox, NBCUniversal, Viacom and Univision) for cross-publisher audience targeting.

Project OAR is a consortium of major television companies and their ad-tech platforms led by Vizio, formed in March 2019 to define technical standards for addressable ads in linear and on-demand formats on smart TVs.

On Addressability was launched in June 2019 by Comcast, Cox Media and Charter’s Spectrum Reach to help develop a scalable industry solution, with focus on establishing common definitions and standards for distributors, educating advertisers about use cases and identifying best practices for programmers.

All of these groups have logged multiple achievements — not possible to summarize adequately in the space of a column, but all duly documented in news coverage on MediaPost’s site.  

Satellite TV operators have leveraged their national reach to run addressable campaigns for large marketers and political campaigns, and Vizio now claims to offer addressable reach to 11 million U.S. households via its smart TVs (ad-tech company Beachfront ran a national addressable ad campaign on its TVs in May, using OAR’s specs).

But cable companies are still hampered by their limited (two minutes per hour) national ad inventory and regional footprints.

As for the new group, in describing it to The Wall Street Journal, Larry Allen, vice president and general manager of addressable enablement at Comcast Advertising, cited the fragmentation that has forced buyers to buy addressable audiences piecemeal or through patchworks or aggregators, calling this a “massive constraint on the market” and stressing that unlocking scale across platforms is the endgame.

ATV Insider reached out by email to Go Addressable members to ask for more specifics on how this group aims to provide value-added amid these ongoing efforts. Allen and Hasan Rahim, vice president, advanced TV at Altice’s a4 Media, responded.

Here’s what we asked, and what they had to say…

What will Go Addressable offer to the industry that's not being worked on by the existing addressable coalitions, mission-wise and composition-wise? How are its role and dynamics different, and why do its members believe working together in this group will make a real difference in accelerating industrywide, cross-platform implementation of addressable ad buys/campaigns?

Allen: Go Addressable brings together many platforms that are technically enabling addressable TV and therefore laser-focused on providing marketers (and programmers) with scale, efficiency and enhancements needed for broad adoption. The goal is to foster discussion to evangelize the benefits of addressable TV and provide insight into areas of improvement for the industry. 

Rahim:  Go Addressable has brought together the largest combination of MVPDs, with a [clearly defined] goal of removing friction and streamlining and standardizing definitions and processes for both marketers and programmers, in an effort to offer authenticated audience targeting on the big screen in highly-produced linear TV content.

How far has addressable for linear TV come in recent years, in your view?

Allen:  Addressable TV has come a long way. Most distributors are offering addressable inventory as part of their local sales efforts and seeing great adoption. Enabling national programmer inventory has begun, which is moving out of the testing phase and into a more scaled production phase. Lastly, technical capabilities are being enhanced to allow for faster turnaround times and scaling of addressable campaigns. This is an exciting time to be in the TV industry, as it is moving aggressively away from spot-based to impression-based buying.

Rahim:  Addressability in linear TV will represent more than 50% of the entire national U.S. cable universe by the end of the year, making it an undeniable complement to traditional TV, with measurement and insights previously reserved for digital-only tactics.

Can you expound on how fragmentation continues to be an obstacle, and what the other biggest challenges are at present to making it possible for advertisers to make scalable, national addressable buys as easily as traditional national buys?

Allen:  A big focus of this initiative is to directly tackle the fragmentation issue. Marketers and programmers don’t want to be implementing addressable campaigns 10 different ways and across various technologies that aren’t interoperable. Go Addressable seeks to highlight areas of opportunity to simplify and streamline the workflow associated with addressable TV campaigns across endpoints. One big challenge is the requirement to upgrade the TV ecosystem to support addressable TV at scale. That means unpacking and modifying nearly every component of the current legacy TV workflow, from agency planning tools all the way through to the devices displaying the advertising to the consumer.

Rahim:  While there are — and likely always will be — different  ad delivery systems, preferred attribution and data partners, and bespoke planning platforms, addressable’s core value proposition will greatly benefit through the common ground at scale that the industry can create through a collaboration like Go Addressable. We are at a point where nearly all of the advancements in the digital ad space are flowing toward the addressable TV product. That will likely have a dramatic impact, similar to the way cellular phone adoption has impacted our world over the last two decades.

How does addressable fit with big media companies’ leaning into streaming services? [Posed only to Allen.]  

Allen: Addressable TV sits at the intersection of streaming and STB linear and VOD. It will help programmers and other inventory owners converge the two into a single, unified opportunity. It is the way programmers build scale and stave off more fragmentation of their inventory.  

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