Commentary

Why I Don't Love Slack Like I Used To

  • by , Featured Contributor, August 12, 2021
When will we put viewers first in video ad delivery? I got into this business almost 30 years ago with the idea that technology was going to help advertisers personalize ads and create a media future with fewer, more relevant ads. Maybe even a world with ads people want.

At that point, the benchmark for bad ads was television, where viewers got way too many irrelevant and redundant ads. Who would have thought that, three decades later, we have not only failed to solve the irrelevant, redundant ad problem, but that we’ve actually made it much worse.

We’re in the midst of a massive shift from linear TV viewing to streaming video viewing. One would hope that as we enable viewers to watch their favorite studio-produced premium content in an on-demand, streaming mode, we would have our digital ad servers and programmatic platforms tuned up to make sure the ad experience mirrors the premium, viewer-controlled content experience.

Tough luck with that.

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How come the six minutes of ads that we see per hour on some of our favorite ad-supported streaming services almost always consist of at least three minutes of the exact same ad, over and over?

I love the Olympics. I believe NBCUniversal totally nailed it in giving us access to every event, athlete and expert commentary when, how and where we wanted it. I also love Slack. I really enjoyed the Olympic Slack ad, the first 10 or 20 times I saw it. But I didn’t love seeing that exact same Slack ad the next hundred or more times I was hit with it over those two weeks.

I don’t love Slack nearly as much anymore. In fact, I’m now a bit  angry with Slack.

I’ll never forget being challenged on a conference stage more than 15 years ago by Walt Mossberg, the legendary technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He asked me why, if digital ad targeting tech was so great, he kept getting so many of the same crappy ads when he read articles online?

I’m sorry, Walt. We failed you. And, unfortunately, we’re now exporting too many parts of that same crappy online ad experience with full sight, sound and motion onto our 60-inch living room TVs for the whole family to experience together.

We don’t lack awareness of the problem. We certainly don’t lack technology to fix it.

Incredibly, it’s probably going to be the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon that fix it for us -- and collectively take even more share of the ad market. They all have lots of first-party data. They are all instituting new privacy regimes that harden their control of their users’ data.

And they are all pulling their inventory away from open, programmatic markets. Finally, they are all well-tuned to the regulatory environment and know that doing things like putting consumers first in a very public way can only be good for them.

What do you think? Are we ever going to put viewers’ interests first in our video ad delivery?

10 comments about "Why I Don't Love Slack Like I Used To".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 12, 2021 at 2:31 p.m.

    Dave, a key question is whether the scheduling you describe---the same commercial being repeated over and over within the same installment of a series---as opposed to the ad messages being spread out in many venues and at different times----is deliberate.  Most likely it's a function of automated buying and placement and the failure to fix these systems to avoid this type of bunching up.

    Which raises another question. If this is recognized as a problem by advertisers---and, in most cases, it should be, why don't they do something about it---like buying direct. And here's another question. Is the "bad" scheduling mainly for direct response/search advertising or for branding campaigns---or both types equally? If it's mostly for DR/search advertisers  the reason why they don't seem to care is their fixation on CTR with the sellers being paid only when a clickthrough takes place. In such a situation, most advertisers don't have to worry about offending consumers ---providing they get enough of a response. But branding advertisers should take an entirely different view. For them, each "exposure" is part of a campaign based, in part, on reach/frequency objectives. Hence annoying consumers with excessive repetition is not only wasteful but  can be counter productive as every "exposure" is supposed to contribute to the success of the whole campaign. A DR/search advertiser may care only about the number of "impressions"---tonnage--- and the resulting CTRs, but the branding folks should care more about how the exposures are presented, their frequency patterns, etc.

  2. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, August 12, 2021 at 4:30 p.m.

    Ed, you raise some very good points. in this case, I suspect that it had nothing to do with response, since there couldn't have been a closed loop or even spike analsys was to respond and change the schedule that quickly.
    As to whether it was intended to overload and dominate, that may very well have been the case here with Slack. However, it never should have been enabled. It probably had to do with delivering a very high volume of impressions, which were probably carrying a great rate, and they kept beating out other "brand" ads for each slot, and no one or no system stopped it from happening. Just watch Hulu and you see the same thing all of the time.
    Under any circumstance, it was bad for the viewer and bad for the brand in the end.

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, August 12, 2021 at 8 p.m.

    Excellent post and comments Dave & Ed.

    There is an obsession of too many advertisers to focus on maximising impressions and the lowest cost - thinking that they are driving 'efficiency'.   To Ed's point thet should be focussing on 'effectiveness'.

    Programatic buying, in the main, accelerates this issue when the focus is on lowest CPMs rather than effectiveness (hey ho .. haven't served an ad to Joe Blow recently .. probably a good time to rather than the hundredth ad to Fred Nerk today).

    We had the same issue here in Australia, though the broadcaster with the Olympic rights did seem to manage to reduce the ad repetition in its primary, secondary channels and catch-up  services.   Oh, hang on.   That was achieved as the booking was made according to plans rather than CPM algorithms.

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, August 13, 2021 at 10:50 a.m.

    Thanks John! So good to be reminded the power of strong planning in media!

  5. Kevin Lee from Didit, August 18, 2021 at 1:28 p.m.

    It's lazy media planning / buying, pure and simple. Reach and frequency are 101 level concepts in media and regardless of whether or not you think the "right" daily impression cap is three and the weekly 8 or other numbers, it's just not an efficient deployment of media capital. 
    Yes, tech can and will solve it, but not based on how "linear" TV is measured, sold, purchased, trafficked and reconciled currently.
    Lots of inertia. 

  6. John Grono from GAP Research replied, August 18, 2021 at 5:21 p.m.

    Kevin, what makes you think that 'traditional' media buying is not loaded with heaps of tech?   The  current 'lazy' part of media planning and buying is over-reliance in sub-standard programmatic and stuffing swathes of the budget into it.

    But I do agree that programmatic is more efficient given the low agency fees that advertisers pay.   But I like to focus on the effectiveness of the comms campaign for the client, then sort out the efficiency.

  7. Kevin Lee from Didit, August 18, 2021 at 5:27 p.m.

    @john Grono.  I don't see programmatic (particularly not display and online RTB video) as the solution eitehr.  OTT and CTV to autenticated set-top boxes using addressable households (and sometimed individualized eitehr anonomized or not) allows for frequency capping and better targeting. And even if targeting isn't as important to a specific wide-audience advertiser, frequency capping is there. And frequency overload was Dave's primary issue.  

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 18, 2021 at 6:59 p.m.

    Reach and frequency is merely a way of approximating---and that's all it is---the potential scale of an ad campaign's reach---or penetration---over certain periods of time. It's not even close to being the whole ball game where media planning is concerned---merely one set of stats to be considered along with many other variables---like editorial compatibility, timing, the sequence of ad exposures, commercial exposure variables, many intangibles-such as an advertiser's image shaping needs when these are spelled out, merchandising aspects, promotional tie-ins, etc. Why is this media 101? Also, frequency capping sounds fine---but you have no way of knowing whether the assumed audience---and that's all it is---watches the commercial whenever you chose to send it. You may think you have "capped" it at four "exposures" per month for Joe Palooka in Podunk, but Joe may  have watched your message only once---is that enough?You may think that 7-8 "exposures is redundant and try to prevent Joe from getting that many opportunities to watch your message---but Joe may only be attentive to two of your eight commercials---so what's the problem?

  9. Kevin Lee from Didit replied, August 18, 2021 at 7:35 p.m.

    LOL. Hi Ed... Dave outlined the problem fairly well. Sure, he was the only person in America that watched that much of the Olympics, but you reach a saturation point (at different points based on viewership density) at which the media dollars could have been better allocated. Would the Olympics even have been in my TV plan had I been given the profile of the buyers (decision-makers) and influencers for a Slack purchase? Not sure.  To your point, there may have been a TON of value add that forced the deal to blanket the event.

  10. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 19, 2021 at 7:33 a.m.

    Kevin, the Olympics, like the Super Bowl, is not a media planner's buy. It  doesn't matter what the demos are or the rating levels---so long as they don't drop to near zero---or the ad clutter. This is a promotional buy, tied in with numerous intangibles like player endorsements, tie-ins with various sports or athletes, all sorts of merchandising ploys to impress  "the trade", etc. etc. I don't know about the latest Olympics "sell" but I have sat in on a number of past sales pitches by the networks and they focused almost entirely on what a great place the location was to visit, how the buyers ---and their clients---would get free transportation and accomodations, shopping and dining guides for the main city in the area,etc. etc. The same thing probably applies to lesser specials like The Oscars. Not one of these would be in a normal media plan which is based on targeting, audience and frequency patterns, cost efficiency and other data-based variables---and nothing else.

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