Not To Be Left Out, Roku Announces Its Clean Room Service In Time For The Upfronts

Roku wants in on the clean room conversation.

The streaming TV platform announced its proprietary clean room offering on Tuesday, with agency partners including Omnicom Media Group, Horizon Media and dentsu. The product was built on Snowflake’s media and ad tech cloud data infrastructure.

The timing is no coincidence. Roku is introducing its clean room now because it’s part of a new set of offerings the company plans to test with major advertisers during the TV upfronts next month.

Roku’s clean room is analogous to other walled garden varieties, such as Google’s Ads Data Hub. An advertiser can bring its own data to Roku and combine it with the platform’s first-party data to measure and target campaigns, but without either side exposing its customer data to the other. Also similar to Ads Data Hub, the Roku clean room creates audience segments that can only be targeted with its own DSP (Roku’s OneView, the former dataxu business).

“Clean rooms are the wave of the future,” said Louqman Parampath, Roku’s VP of product management.

The output of a clean room can support other offerings that are on the market now, he said.

Foursquare, for instance, is a measurement and data partner in the new Roku clean room, and it can overlay its first-party location data with Roku’s data set to, say, target households in a certain area that stream sports programs or have a man between the ages of 25 and 45 years old in the house. Foursquare knows mobile location, but Roku can bring behavioral and basic demographic info.

A Roku-to-Foursquare audience match is already feasible without the clean room, but within a clean room there’s much more complex tracking that can be layered into the campaign, Parampath said.

An advertiser can match Roku and Foursquare data to boil down an anonymized audience segment in an area that meets its target requirements and later target that segment on Roku.

But that’s a one-and-done action item. If the advertiser wants to do the same thing next year, it needs to resync its data and create another list for what will likely be a similar but non-identical segment.

In a clean room environment, that same audience can be tracked and maintained over time to answer questions such as how many of those original users eventually converted or whether ads served against certain shows eventually led to sales. Advertisers can learn what kind of streaming content triggers transactions.

This is helpful for advertisers because a typical Roku ad buy can’t be sliced and diced by the actual content a viewer saw.

The purpose of Roku’s clean room is to serve as “more of a macro planning tool” than a data onboarding and matching service that ingests first-party data and spits out audiences, Parampath said.

But there’s another reason clean rooms are becoming the next big thing. They provide the privacy-compliant model advertisers and media companies must adopt for consumer and regulatory reasons, he said.

The kind of data matching and ad tracking Roku can enable through its DSP based on multiple first-party data sets would already be illegal in Europe under the GDPR if it didn’t have privacy compliance measures in place. (The only way to use Google ad server data in the EU is through Ads Data Hub).

The Roku clean room is still in the early stages, but it figures into Roku’s long-term plans for advertising, Parampath said.

Right now, Roku’s clean room services are focused on syncing its data with advertiser data, but other data providers will be incorporated down the line, he said.

Beyond the Foursquare use case, Kroger also has a unique data partnership with Roku to attribute campaigns based on store sales by matching Roku’s user base to Kroger’s rewards program shoppers. Eventually, he said, a partnership like that could be centralized on the clean room platform.

And although its clean room isn’t a Nielsen alternative per se – many advertisers and broadcasters are testing new currencies or ways to measure TV campaigns – it fits neatly into the trend of new TV attribution soutions.

“More and more measurement will happen through interfaces like these,” Parampath said.

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