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Premium video unified: The currency conundrum

Credit: The FreeWheel Council

The unification (or convergence) of video is upon us but measurement remains the No. 1 challenge for buyers to invest more in cross-platform executions. At the heart of that challenge is a constantly changing viewing landscape and the inherent differences between linear and digital television and all its incarnations.

"Linear and digital are exactly the same except for the products, currency, measurement and technology"
—John Alleva, senior VP-digital planning and monetization, NBC Universal

That is one of the key takeaways from several recent interviews and surveys conducted with brand marketers, creative agencies, media agencies and premium publisher members of the FreeWheel Council for Premium Video (FWC).

As part of a survey of 243 brands and agencies in partnership with Ad Perceptions, we found the following:

Investment in the Upfronts and demo guarantees remain key components of the ad ecosystem.
Decision makers were planning to commit 45% of all cross-platform video budgets upfront (and generally higher for cross-screen TV investment), and almost 40% of cross-platform campaigns use demo guarantees as their transactional currency.

Q: In the coming year, what percent of your cross-platform video budgets will be allocated for upfront, and what percent will be reserved for scatter?

Q: In the coming year, what percent of your cross-platform video budgets will be allocated for upfront, and what percent will be reserved for scatter?

Alternative metrics are being leveraged.
Unsurprisingly, brand lift and sales lift are two of the most important measures for evaluating cross-platform campaigns today. Increased importance is being placed on audience targeting, and with each campaign's goals being different and more data available to them, advertisers want to leverage different metrics, whether as a currency or a KPI.

Q: For cross-platform deals, which metric is most valuable?
Q: For cross-platform deals, which metric is most valuable?

Unification and measurement challenges are exacerbated by a number of structural issues preventing more cross-video investment.
Respondents ranked the following as the top three (out of 10) obstacles:

  • Tracking/reporting complexities
  • Constantly changing media landscapes
  • No single cross-screen measurement capabilities

70% of marketers and agencies believe we will end up with three to four key third party cross-screen measurement providers.
While measurement will typically trail changes in viewership, stakeholders are becoming more creative and skilled at leveraging disparate data sets to create an understanding of inventory and audiences across all platforms. Enhanced analytics and reporting will give both the buy- and sell-sides the intelligence required to make smarter decisions, driving both results and the ecosystem forward.

"Cross-platform measurement is one of the biggest challenges facing marketers today. Third-party providers are trying to keep up but consumers continue to change their consumption habits. Our agencies and partners help to close the gap by stitching together alternative metrics but there is still more work to do"
—Charlie Chappell, senior marketing director-head of global integrated media, The Hershey Company

Given the complexity that fragmentation has created, a single currency provided by a single measurement provider is unlikely. What is more likely is a mosaic of currencies and metrics that drive cross-screen campaigns and success, fueled by a handful of providers.

Q: In terms of cross-screen measurement, in the coming years, do you think we will end up with...?
Q: In terms of cross-screen measurement, in the coming years, do you think we will end up with...?

While the measurement challenge is real, there are opportunities to advance the industry forward through collaboration and more standards.
Alignment of buyers and sellers of media, and the technology and distribution partners that sit between will be essential to enable the data to be shared in a way that streamlines the cross-platform transaction.

"There is clear opportunity for the industry to move forward incrementally as more screens and platforms are incorporated into current measurement providers' capabilities. Ultimately, creating more universal identifiers for content, ads and devices is key to accelerating that process"
—Brian Hughes, senior VP-audience intelligence & strategy, MAGNA

So what's next?
Unified video has not yet reached its full potential in terms of budget allocation. While the future of unified cross-screen measurement and currency is still not clear, there are some certainties:

  • Premium video providers will continue to aggregate their audiences across all platforms
  • Buyers will look to consolidate their media investment across all video
  • A single currency across all platforms is unlikely and perhaps unnecessary, but we will need to work as an industry to enable flexibility to map to campaign goals and platform nuances.

Stakeholders are recognizing that cooperation will be crucial in driving that industry momentum, and the industry must focus on metrics that truly move the needle for advertisers. Screens and wires should be mere details.

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An educational and organizing resource, The FreeWheel Council for Premium Video assists marketers to reach desired audiences by conducting research and documenting the benefits of premium video environments. It also champions the interests of member publishers, including A+E Networks, Comcast, Discovery Communications, Fox, NBCUniversal, Turner Broadcasting System and Univision Communications. Learn more at www.FreeWheel.tv/fwcouncil or follow us on Twitter: Twitter @fwcouncil.
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