Exchanges Will Play Role In Addressable TV Says Visible World President Tara Walpert Levy

Tara Walpert Levy of Visible WorldTara Walpert Levy is President of Visible World, a provider of targeted television solutions. What momentum has Visible World seen in 2009 for itself as well as its clients?

TWL: Visible World’s business is up substantially in 2009, despite the tough economic environment.  While many advertisers are cutting back on TV advertising, they are also looking for new ways to make each dollar more effective.  We are pleased that our solutions are able to help advertisers improve their marketing results during this critical time.  We typically see client campaign performance improve by more than 30% from running targeted, relevant campaigns.

Is big media and Madison Avenue ready for addressable TV media?  When will the scale in addressable TV arrive?

Addressable TV exists at some scale today.  Our zone-based addressability platform will cover 80% of cable homes by year-end, and our household addressability deployments will be in the millions of households by early next year.  Madison Avenue adoption is growing rapidly as well – we ran 5,000 different spots just last week, and annual campaigns are nearly doubling year on year as more performance results are shared.  The combination of message and media optimization is proving particularly powerful, and the number of targeted spots per campaign is also growing rapidly.  Current campaigns average 18 spots per campaign although advertisers range from only two spots into the hundreds at any one time.

How do you see the media agency model evolving?  With your product line it would seem that marketers can potentially go direct, no?

Our product line actually has the potential to make the agency more important than ever.  Agencies are already beginning to work more closely to develop a holistic view of the target consumer and an ongoing strategy of how to best reach that consumer across all mediums – digital, television, print, and direct – at any given moment.  Addressability represents a huge opportunity for media agencies to share in the value created by deeper strategic execution and the ability to provide new, innovative services to their advertisers.  As for the core business, Visible World does not buy or sell media.  We provide services that enhance the work that the media agency does today and that increases the value of every dollar spent.  This should make agencies more important, not less.

What is your view on the ad exchange model (where buyers and sellers of media get transparency and control to eliminate waste and improve ROI/yield)?  Is the exchange a good fit for addressable TV?

That topic could be a whole interview in itself! Many of the goals behind an ad exchange are similar to those of addressable TV – more automation, better ROI.  However, significant complexity exists in TV – from both buy-side and sell-side – that makes rollout of an ad exchange particularly challenging, as evidenced by the many historical efforts in the past.  Exchanges will almost certainly play some role in the future of addressable TV, but our crystal ball hasn’t said when or how.

Do real-time (RTB) and impression level bidding features of online exchanges ever become an important part of the addressable TV media model you’re enabling?

Performance optimization is an important aspect of addressable television.  The first step is to be able to enable targeted campaigns that have been proven to drive significant campaign results within the traditional television model.  How, when, or for which inventory types that will extend into impression-level buying and selling is unclear.

What is the revenue model for Visible World?

Similar to a Doubleclick, or a Pointroll, we provide, for a fee, media solutions for media companies and marketing solutions for advertisers and agencies.

Is cross-channel attribution (tv, online, radio, etc.) achievable? What is Visible World doing about attribution?

What is most important is that multiple mediums simultaneously deliver a consistent and holistic brand message, and that the combination creates incremental value for the advertiser.  Only then can marketers leverage the data from the different mediums to cross pollinate ideas, iterate, and optimize.

Does online/digital need GRPs to get a bigger slice of the media pie?

Online/digital and television serve very different and complementary purposes.  Not everything that works in TV will work for online and vice versa.  While GRPs might attract some portion of buyers who are used to working that way, competing to be more like traditional media is unlikely to generate the kind of premium CPM and explosive growth the online world is seeking.

Where does context and placement fit with addressable media?  Is it all about audience?

Great question!  The first instinct many marketers have is to use addressable capabilities to target audiences.  However, data suggests that message context is just as important.  This isn’t to say that it’s not all about the audience; it is to say that it’s not only about the audience characteristics but also about their frame of mind. What an audience will find relevant and when has been shown to be heavily dependent on context.  This is why our solution is set up to be able to target messages based on any data-driven condition, including context, programming, time of day, weather, etc.

To date, Visible World has taken $73 million in funding according to a recent AdAge article.  The AdAge writer, Warren Lee, suggested that “Raising too much money too early and before hitting key milestones (e.g. getting paying customers, showing attractive margins) can be [a problem].”  How do you respond?

We agree with Warren.  Fortunately we do not fall into the category of companies he is describing.  We have consistently been hitting key milestones since our conception nine years ago, which is how we raised money to fund further expansion over time.  We are very grateful to the hundreds of advertisers and media companies who use our solutions and have helped drive our growth.

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