Recently, I sat down with my 5-year-old son and explained to him what I do for a living. After a 15-minute conversation he said, “So Mommy, you send commercials to me for things that I like, like M&Ms and apple juice because I like them.” I’ve been working in the advanced television space for more than seven years, and yes, it really is that simple. I explained addressable TV in simple English instead of speaking in acronyms or big, scary words.
From experience, I can tell you that the concept of addressable TV is pretty easy to understand: Identify the right households, send messages only to those high-value audiences and have the ability to measure each campaign’s impact against a brand’s KPI.
Set-top-box addressable television (via cable and satellite providers) began rolling out more than ten years ago, hitting real scale (70 million households) in the last couple of years. In addition, as traditional TV audiences continue to fragment, OTT addressable applications give marketers the ability to target high-value audiences across all screens.
When speaking to brands or agencies or reading trade publications, I’m constantly surprised at the misconceptions around addressable TV. And the language we use as an industry doesn’t serve the goal of clearing up what’s possible and not possible with the medium. It’s clear that the marketplace cannot truly scale until we all start to speak the same language, understand the true opportunity and come together to create standards.
The reality is that marketers want to enter the world of data-driven television, but it’s still difficult to activate an addressable campaign in a unified way. When all is said and done, there aren’t a lot of tools that let marketers reach audiences in a granular way through TV. Understanding how to reach customers at scale without duplicating ads is tricky.
Post-campaign, it’s challenging to surface data in a meaningful, uniform way. If the targeting, test design and metrics are not consistent across screens and suppliers, the data is not useful. Analytics groups and data scientists’ time is eaten up by how manual addressable advertising campaign reporting is today, which involves collecting differently formatted raw data from multiple suppliers and viewing environments before they actually can analyze it.
In order to move addressable TV from a buzzword to a flowchart staple, much easier execution is necessary. There a few things brands and agencies understand about this new reality.
- We live in a multiscreen world. Just 25 or so years ago, TV didn’t have much competition. The internet existed, but smartphones didn’t and neither did tablets. These days, people consume premium television content on multiple devices. To get an accurate picture of viewing habits, marketers have to take all of those into account. Nielsen recently found that nearly half of TV viewers always or very often use a digital device while they watch TV. Often they use devices to look up information related to the content they’re watching, “using digital platforms in tandem with TV and audio to augment their overall experience.” Using a second device is a part of how people watch premium, engaging content today, making it more important than ever to focus on the entire picture of who the consumer is versus what content they’re watching.
- Cross-channel attribution is the future. It’s typically difficult to use a thoughtful approach across all screens today, but it’s possible to activate on data across screens fairly easily from both an addressable and indexing standpoint. Starting with an understanding of television is key. With full transparency into how TV compares to digital performance, marketers can recognize when they should allocate more to digital or more to their addressable spend.
- Automation is possible, and it’s changing everything. Marketers want to focus on gleaning insights from their campaigns to constantly optimize their efforts. Simply knowing a campaign worked is not enough. It’s important to go beyond results and provide recommendations to optimize future addressable campaigns, linear television media effectiveness or targeting audience allocation. Automation makes execution easier for both targeting and attribution, and it creates the ability to cleanly target a uniform audience and measure campaign impact.
One objection brands and agencies have to addressable TV is that they have tried doing it manually at scale and found it to be too complicated. That’s a valid criticism. Historically, executing an addressable campaign manually has been extremely complex and very arduous. Putting together an addressable TV campaign has been accessible only to those who have put in the time to understand its nuances versus those of traditional television and were willing to put in the time to manage the manual processes. Technology is starting to change that, and the partners who solve challenges through unification, automation and data science are the ones who will guide brands and agencies into a new era of TV that’s data-rich and technology-driven.