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Why We Need A UPC Code For Ads

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Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Vijoy Gopalakrishnan, senior vice president and principal at the IRI Media Center of Excellence.

Fifteen years ago, ad tech was a manual affair. Piecing together ad serving was such a headache.

While that headache may have virtually disappeared, the growth in ad servers, demand-side platforms (DSPs), data management platforms (DMPs), supply-side platforms and onboarders has created another challenge: the interpretation of data files.

The proliferation of platforms has exposed marketers to new insights, but the collateral damage comes in the form of differing levels of data formats and extraction capabilities. There are no standards on ad exposure file formats and no incentive for platforms to standardize data or help make it seamless.

Marketers may have to deal with as many as 200 different data formats – quite a humbling experience. The advertising industry has successfully created highly advanced analytical solutions, such as exotic machine learning algorithms and zero human touch, multithreaded, in-memory computing products, yet marketers are brought to their knees by lowly nonstandard file formats.

In speaking with industry veterans across agencies and ad tech, market research and CPG companies, this theme repeats itself. The first priority for all is to serve ads, making standardization of data formats a third or even fourth priority. In the heat of campaign execution, we heap casual cruelty on inputs, outputs and descriptor standardization.

Can we all take a collective breath and step back?

A problem worth solving

This is a challenge worth solving to maximize the value of ad exposure data. What lies at the end of the tunnel is a commercial benefit through automation (bottom-line impact), increased speed and scalability (top-line impact), seamless interoperability across the ecosystem and transparency.

The challenge is formidable but worth it. This will require a common standard across all the metadata normally ingested for a campaign among ad exchanges, servers, DMPs, DSPs and agencies.

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Progress being made

Several organizations are already making progress against this goal, including Ad-ID, Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM), IAB Tech Lab and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). Ad-ID, an advertising asset identification system, has improved cross-platform adoption and continues to educate the industry on the importance of standardized metadata. The metadata is comprehensive, including ad title, length, product industry, etc., and goes a long way in meeting the needs of asset-related information.

CIMM, Kantar and SMPTE developed the Trackable Asset Cross-Platform Identification (TAXI Complete) initiative, which includes an open standard watermark embedded into audio TV or digital files that incorporate the Ad-ID code and associated metadata. TAXI Complete is new to the ecosystem and needs adoption and advocacy to make the watermark ubiquitous.

Another piece of this solution requires greater adoption of the updated VAST protocol developed by the IAB Tech Lab. It includes the Ad-ID code in the United States as part of the Universal Ad ID, which provides the framework for increased cross-platform interoperability. This, too, will only be successful if more vendors initiate adoption of VAST 4.

While much work has been done to advance standardizing metadata, there is still much more work to do. The IAB Tech Lab, CIMM, 4A’s and other industry associations need to collaborate on expanding the standards for advertising metadata to reduce, or even better eliminate, the many variations of data formats currently in use. It is in the best interest of the entire ad tech ecosystem to prioritize standard metadata within the industry.

Follow IRI (@iriworldwide) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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