Freewheel Panel at CES: Embracing the Inevitable Ad Trends in 2023

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Cover image for  article: Freewheel Panel at CES: Embracing the Inevitable Ad Trends in 2023

From the moment the Jetsons' did their first video phone call and Dick Tracy fought crime with all his gadgets (especially his two-way wrist TV), people dreamed that these technologies would become a reality. It seemed inevitable. Mark McKee, General Manager of FreeWheel, a Comcast company, believes that there are three inevitabilities of TV advertising in 2023. He spoke about them during an event organized by FreeWheel, "Improving The Consumer Experience To Maximize Viewer Value," which took place at CES last week.

Among the inevitabilities in his view: consumers have the power and will use it. Keeping consumers at the forefront of priorities is imperative. According to eMarketer, there are 218 million video-on-demand subscription viewers. And the number of free ad supported TV (FAST) options is growing exponentially. Year over year, FAST viewership has doubled, and 29% of total TV ads are provided via FAST services, according to a research study by Comcast.

The second inevitability is that regulations will bring more chaos. The industry has seen more legislation over the last two years than in the last 50 years combined, McKee said, referencing the General Data Protection Regulation, California Consumer Privacy Act, the Online Privacy Act, and a mosaic of state regulations.

"We are stewards of the consumers we serve," said McKee. "As such, we must invest in privacy-first advertising technology and innovate with purpose" to protect consumer experiences.

The third inevitability McKee identified is that siloed TV strategies will fail. From the erosion of ratings to the fragmentation of TV measurement, the industry must work together to unify silos to benefit the consumer.

During the session, FreeWheel also featured a panel and a fireside chat with Lisa Giacosa, Chief Investment Officer at Spark Foundry.

Giacosa believes that the biggest inevitability of 2023 is that it will be the "Year of Data." With so much regulation, advertisers need to get comfortable with data compliance to not only get better insights but to also understand where and when consumers are engaging with their content.

Giacosa is focused on innovations around data actionability. "Not all impressions are created equal, so how do we use actionable data to find and scale the ones that are driving the most profitable business outcomes?" she asked. One answer is to put data first and utilize it to solve issues like "over frequency."

Another key theme throughout the fireside chat and the subsequent panel was the importance of advertising in a recession. Giacosa likened it to dating. "If you have a great first date, but don't come to the second and third date, you can't expect to come back 10 years later and get married," she said.

FreeWheel's panel was moderated by Katy Loria, Chief Revenue Officer, FreeWheel. Her panelists included Joseph Cady, Executive Vice President, Advanced Advertising & Partnerships, NBCUniversal; Samantha Jacobson, Chief Strategy Officer, The Trade Desk, and Marcien Jenckes, President, Xumo.

All panelists were in full agreement that the consumer and their experience need to be the No. 1 priority for advertisers and solutions alike.

Still in its early days, connected TV (CTV) has an opportunity to rethink the consumer experience for the better. NBCUniversal did this by forming a streaming council to create Peacock's consumer experience. Cady said the work clearly resonated as 90% of their users are FAST subscribers. One example of this is Peacock's Binge Ad format where a user can binge a longer ad, which then decreases ad load time. "Consumers that engage with a Binge Ad view two times more content, and advertisers see a 12-point lift in business outcomes," Cady explained.

Another way the industry is rethinking the consumer experience is by elevating the content and making the "where" secondary. "Consumers don't care where they watch, they simply want to watch the content they are interested in, no matter the platform," Jenckes noted.

With an economic downturn, the cost of multiple streaming services is top of mind for many consumers. Traditionally, ads have been thought of as the "tax" of watching shows. "There's a bias that consumers would rather pay for content than watch ads," said Loria. But with the pressures of how to save money, more consumers are willing to watch ads.

Cady said NBCUniversal is focused on helping to make it easier for more advertisers to measure premium TV buys with their self-serve programmatic ad portal, Peacock Ad Manager, launching this quarter. Built on top of FreeWheel and Comcast's advertising technology, it is designed to pair NBC's streaming portfolio with out-of-the-box attribution measurement.

The Trade Desk is taking another approach to rethinking the consumer experience by empowering advertisers with better ways to onboard and activate their first-party data. Ahead of the panel they announced the launch of Galileo. The solution shifts away from legacy payment models and utilizes fractional pricing to offer data and targeting in a more cost-effective way for advertisers, Jacobson explained.

In addition, Galileo enables advertisers to onboard and activate their first-party data across all publishers, platforms, devices and channels, including CTV, proving a true omnichannel identity environment.

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