The Advanced TV Balancing Act

"On TV And Video" is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Andrew Hoeberichts, general manager of advanced TV at ADARA.

What’s an advertiser to do when media planning meets audience targeting? It’s the best and worst case scenario. You get great content and great audiences, but with that comes scale limitations, both for inventory and segment size.

In a 2018 study, agencies and marketers were most concerned about the scale they could achieve on advanced TV, despite the massive investments being made by big cable and satellite companies (aka MVPDs) and digital platforms to increase the advertising pipes to the millions of users that are already consuming advanced TV programming.

Understanding the limitations and working with them, rather than against them, will help advertisers prioritize and plan effectively. In this balance between scale and precision, it might be necessary to sacrifice some precision to get enough scale. The balancing act allows brands to reach a good enough audience while getting sufficient data to learn about an important new channel.

Too early to pick favorites

Similar to digital, advanced TV encompasses technologies and advertising options across a fragmented landscape. Just looking at options for sports content reveals the breadth and depth of advanced TV offerings. While Samsung is partnering with companies like PGA Tour to create new content for fans that’s great for sponsorships, Sling was selling March Madness spots only a few weeks before airtime. Meanwhile AT&T created the NFL RedZone on its U-verse platform, which delivers live streaming, stats and more.

In these early days, brands should refrain from committing to one partner, even a large MVPD that promises the world, because a single partner doesn’t currently have enough scale. For addressable TV, brands should consider working with the three or four largest partners, including Comcast, Xandr, Charter and Dish. Each partner offers a new audience, and brands should test formats as well as audiences at this point.

Get to know the new customer journey

Digital media planners are used to the insane complexity of the customer journey. Attribution models, first-party cookies and many other processes and technologies have been created to account for where customers come from and where they go. Advanced TV is now being brought into the fold.

Advanced TV lies somewhere in between the TV and digital status quo. While mobile has turned digital into a one-to-one opportunity for brands, advanced TV still appeals to household-level viewing.

This is where the scale and precision balance comes in. While TV media buys reach millions of households, digital targeting enables brands to select a segment of Midwestern millennial dog owners that might only include a few thousand people. Therefore, it’s important for brands to balance the two approaches to reach a segment that’s equally well targeted and scaled.

Brands should also test upper and mid-funnel messaging and not just treat advanced TV as another unique conversion opportunity. To further support this approach, advanced TV, while digitally enabled, will still favor longer format content, which can work against conversion-based messaging.

Measure and modify

Advanced TV will offer advertisers many opportunities to learn and improve as they identify the right balance between precision and scale. While data should come much more quickly and easily than on linear TV, it’s not necessarily in the real-time environment of digital media. Rather, brands should account for media cycle times when determining messaging and audience selection, and rely on reports to understand audience overlaps, responses and opportunities across partners. Brands can test options like predictive modeling to determine optimal segments for a particular campaign.

This is also the right time to start using attribution models to compare the effectiveness of branding and mid-funnel messages to different target audiences. This will help marketers understand how well they’ve balanced reach vs. specific segments.

There is still a lot to learn in the process. Brands will need to understand how GDPR applies to these new opportunities. In some cases, data is only available at the household level. In other instances, such as partnerships like Sky and Virgin, unique IDs are created independently of PII and are GDPR-compliant, but they aren’t easy to fold into larger measurement practices. LiveRamp and others are bullish on people-based targeting, which is a much more granular and potentially effective approach, but which might require GDPR treatment.

To move quickly, advanced TV requires the expertise of both linear and digital practitioners. From planning content and audience targeting to measuring household and individual effectiveness, each side has important knowledge to bring forward, and most importantly, improvement that is best done in lock step. Not every brand is set up to work hand in hand with their counterparts. Uniting the team around a common advanced TV initiative is the first step to take as this channel gains momentum.

Follow ADARA (@adaraglobal) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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