Commentary

Addressable's Remaining Obstacles: More Business Than Tech?

Are the key remaining obstacles to a boom in addressable TV advertising technological?

Not according to several senior executives at leading ad-tech platforms.

Asked to summarize the technical challenges during a recent Go Addressable webinar, Jamie Power, chief data officer and COO of ATV at Cadent, said: “I actually don’t think there are any technical challenges now. But I think there are business challenges. What we really need to do is work together. We all seem to recognize the value, and the right technology exists — we just need to put the pipes together. We have to put it all together to make sure that we’re managing the experience for the viewer. Tech can solve that problem if we’re willing to work together.”

Blockgraph CEO Jason Manningham agreed. “Addressability is about serving the right household the right ads at the right time,” he said — and interoperability among the numerous players and platforms involved in buying and executing addressable across linear and connected TV is first and foremost about making brands’ first-party data interoperable with both suppliers and distributors. 

“Technologically, that’s not that difficult to accomplish; a number of companies have been working on laying that foundation,” he said. “But unfortunately, the business dynamics are complex. Integrating first-party data with the supply and distribution has posed challenges. There are a variety of business reasons why it hasn’t happened yet. But looking forward, I’m optimistic.” 

“There are a couple of companies already servicing about half of the total linear addressable footprint in North America, and we’ve had conversations about interoperability,” said Bruce Anderson, CEO and global chief technical officer, Invidi Technologies.

Interoperability “comes down to how can we tie together the ecosystems that have grown up on their own, so that there’s a national footprint that’s easy to buy and measure,” he said. Most of the technology is already in place, but “we need business arrangements to connect the pipes” so that an order can be easily be implemented across platforms.

“Marketers don’t want to know what’s going on at the set-top box or satellite-dish level,” he stressed. “They want to get the right creative to the right audience at the right time, and be able to measure and determine whether a campaign is selling products.” 

“Tying systems together is a technology challenge,” said David Porter, senior vice president, general manager addressable advertising at Canoe Ventures, taking a somewhat different view. 

“That’s not to say that this isn’t being worked on; it is. But the reality today is that disparate [platforms] each have their own idiosyncrasies as to how they execute buys — and that impacts advertisers. The lead time for sending creative is different for every MVPD,” and data reports across footprints are not cohesive, he said. "The technology has to become more unified and systematic across all of the footprints,” he concluded. 

Instead of trying to make demand-side platforms built for digital work for television, the industry has now developed technology actually built to connect the buy and sell sides of television for ease of reporting, and the supply side is showing willingness to aggregate inventory in marketplaces, noted Cadent’s Power. 

Still, she conceded, the industry ultimately will have to combine digital and legacy TV workflows to create a unified way to allow buyers to execute seamlessly. 

“Workflows should not be different, ultimately,” agreed Canoe’s Porter, and since dynamic advertising insertion does not exist in a linear feed, media planners and buyers and campaign implementers will at some point need to learn to use a different workflow than what they are used to with digital. 

Asked what watersheds they see for addressable in the coming year, Blockgraph’s Manningham cited the use of addressable not just for audience targeting, but also as a reach vehicle. Operators want to cooperate in helping use addressable to optimize reach and frequency across both linear and connected TV, and agencies are starting to take a leadership role in this area, he said. 

Canoe’s Porter cited several necessary capabilities that will see progress in 2022 and coming years: unified execution of standardized audience segments, adoption of standardized signaling and third-party measurement, and enabling planners and buyers to have the addressable information needed to define target audiences and campaign goals at a campaign’s inception. 

Both unified audience segment definitions and unified execution will be needed before advertisers can assess the value of an impression across platforms and return on investment for addressable, said Power — “and I think we’re very close to that.”

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