The video ad currency gauntlet has been thrown.
I spent a good portion of yesterday at NBCUniversal Advertising’s third annual technology conference, One23 -- what TransUnion’s strategy vice president, Frans Vermeulen, aptly described to me as “a nerdy upfront to the upfronts.”
That nerdy description was perfectly on target, given that the opening fireside chat was none other than Apple founder Steve Wozniak riffing on everything from the future of AI, to why the Apple II was a success and the Lisa a failure, his lifelong friendship with co-founder Steve Jobs, and the most important element in building great things.
Session topics ranged from the future of streaming video, data and privacy, to platform-based ad buying -- and, most critically, the future of measurement currency in video advertising. It was the final topic on that list that garnered the most attention from the crowd, and the biggest panel of speakers.
NBCU Advertising’s chair Linda Yaccarino has long advocated for change in the TV ad measurement world, publicly pressing incumbent Nielsen for years, and was a key driver in the recently announced creation of a joint industry committee (JIC) to certify video ad measurement currencies going forward for linear and streaming video ad campaigns in the U.S. For sure, the JIC was the much-anticipated hot topic and panel of the day.
Here is some of what I saw and heard:
The JIC panel was big. Moderated by NBC News’ Stephanie Ruhle, the JIC panel had NBCU Advertising Sales’ president Krishan Bhatia, Paramount Advertising president John Halley, TelevisaUnivision executive vice president Sarah Squiers, and OpenAP CEO David Levy. They were joined by a number of agency chief investment officers: Horizon Media’s David Campanelli, Geoffrey Calabrese of Omnicom, Dentsu’s Cara Lewis, and Amy Ginsberg of Havas. In unison, all voiced support for a future with multiple currencies for streaming and linear video ad ratings, noting that everyone has to be on board to make this work.
Cooperation and compromise now can ensure a level playing field for the future. Paramount’s Halley emphasized the importance of having industry transaction systems on board (dominant supplier Mediaocean’s support was announced earlier in the day), noting that cooperation and compromise among companies that otherwise compete was essential at this stage, since currencies won’t work if they create competitive advantages for one company over another. TelevisaUnivision’s Squiers called out the importance of inclusiveness when it comes to minority and underrepresented audiences and their massive and fast-growing consumer spend.
What if the numbers are bad? One of the funniest moments was when journalist moderator Stephanie Ruhle, ruminating that publishers tend to like audience numbers when they’re up and not so much when they're down, asked panelists, “What if you don’t like the numbers?” To which one of the buyers on the panel responded, “That’s their problem,” gesturing to the ad sellers at the other end of the panel.
Pooled first-party data up next. NBCU’s Bhatia offered up a bit of a roadmap for the future, announcing that the second objective for the JIC after certifying measurement suppliers was to jointly build out a pool of first-party data, aggregating and harmonizing the massive sets of audience and subscriber data possessed by participating media owners for use in ad targeting and measurement efforts.
The most precious human trait for success. My favorite line of the day was when CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla pressed Steve Wozniak for his perspective on the most important human trait in creating success, noting that Wozniak and Steve Jobs had largely created the personal computer industry with its enormous global impacts. Wozniak's answer was simple and clear: “Motivation. Motivation is more important than talent or skills.” Having the motivation to solve a really difficult and complex problem is how it gets solved -- not by having special talents or skills, he added.
Quite a day. There's no question that the multicurrency debate is just getting started. What do you think?
Pooling/sharing first party data in not a new idea but is a critical element. In a business that hasn't seen much "cooperation and compromise" a multicurrency system that includes first party data will require it. It's done in other businesses, like banking and mobile phones. It would make a world of difference.
I totally agree Jack.
We used that with the press and it did improve measurement, but the demise of the press made it virtually obsolete.
I wonder exactly how much and what kinds of "first party" data a broadcast TV network has about its "subscribers" regarding viewing habits, product purchase, brand preference, consumer mindsets, awareness of advertising, receptivity to advertising, ad attentiveness, etc. that it can contribute to the pool of shared data. And what if the data---or some of it---indicates that a rival network is better placed to offer targeting opportiunities to advertisers---will each party still want to share such data?
Dave: There are so many red flags around this matter it is hard to know where to start. You are the lawyer so several earlier Media Post articles, including fundamental comments regarding this intitiative which is not a JIC or even close yet, may help.
OpenAP is a probable research provider to any consortium developing an alternative TV/Video currency. Research providers are selected via an RFP issued by the management of the JIC on behalf of the JIC's Techncial Committee and Board. Per Joe Mandese's piece, "Where's Disney?", OpenAP is owned by some of the Networks involved. Consequently it is unequivocally inappropriate for them to manage this effort as announced based on both these "conflict of interest" counts if a real JIC is desired. (Do you agree?)
In addition JIC's deliver a single currency by media platform. Such single currencies are used as a "basic persons-based viewed (Eyes-On/Ears-On?) truth set". These are then enhanced or adjusted using other research suppliers data by planners, buyers and sellers to optimally reflect the brand objectives and the creative message.
As important as media is, it is the creative message that primarily drives the impact of the ad and any outcomes.
The idea that "we" can use more than one "currency" for TV time buys on a national level has interesting implications. Suppose that "everyone" cooperates and it is determined by the "JIC" that there are four metrics---or "currencies" ---that should be "certified" and used by all parties. These are 1)"average commercial minute viewers"---based on the commercial appearing on the screen for at least two seconds;2) attentive viewing---based on the number of people who actuallly looked at the commercial for two or more seconds; 3) clickthrough rates to the advertiser's website and 4 ) Short term share of market---or sales lift--- for the brand within two days of attaining commercial "exposure". Let's also suppose that suppliers for each of these "currencies" are available---and funded---but mainly by the sellers. Moreover, each of the methodologies has been thoroughly vetted by the MRC and it has been determined that all are valid and about equally accurate.
So how is national TV time to be sold---say for the upfront--where there is no hard information about how the various shows---including new ones----will fare in terms of attracting viewers and even less so about attentiveness, CTR rates, or share of market lifts---indeed the commercials that will be used aren't even created as yet?
That's easy, say the theorists. You simply go by what data you have in hand--meaning past data. And you simulate what will happen in the future by creating prototypes.Then, once the buyers and sellers agree on the "currency data" the negotiations begin. It's so simple.
But questions persist.Do the sellers offer guarantees for each "currency"? Or only for some"curencies"? And if the latter is the case, why are we calling the non -guaranteed ones "currencies"? Also, if a seller guarantees on three or four "currencies" and "delivers" what was promised on one but not on two others, how are these conflicting gurantees reconciled? Is a weighting system used which gives each "currency" a relative importance index, which is then applied to the whole mass of data to see what ---if anything--is owed to the buyer?Will such weights be standardized---unlikely--or are they negotiated individully for each buy---which is more likely?
And this is just the beginning. What if certain sellers don't like certain "currencies" while buyers prefer them? Will the sellers prevail---and start using only those that favor their sales interests---very likely----or will everyone continue to "cooperate"and use all of the "currencies" anyway---not likely?
In short, is the idea of all parties agreeing---or "cooperating"---regarding what "currencies" should be used a realistically viable idea? What do you think?