Mastering New Skill Sets in a Multi-Screen Ad World: 4A's Recap

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What will it take for linear broadcast and cable networks, and the burgeoning universe of smart TV gadget-circulating programming services, to get their fair share of advertising revenue in the years ahead?

Participants for one of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) latest Decisions conference panels last Tuesday agree that what it will take is both agencies and the ad sales units of programmers to develop common buying and selling ground. They also agree that this year and next are critical to having that ground in place, and in practice.

"It's a strategic imperative," advocates James Rooke, general manager of Comcast's Effectv sales organization. "We can't wait until 2024. We need to accomplish this now, and both sides want it."

Rooke suggests a three-sided strategy both agencies and programmers can adopt to transform the current advertising outlook where sales are based on reach, frequency and audience size for individual programs or services to an environment where deals are multi-screen, or cross-screen in nature, propelled by audience impressions and product or service sales results off specific demographics. His proposal:

  • Accelerate a shift from buying against content to buying against audiences enabled by quality data
  • Deliver across multi-screen video inventory (linear TV + streaming TV) versus thinking of these separately
  • Demonstrate proof of performance against the metrics that brands care about

For Rooke, "it's up to us to prove the value of our solutions to brands."

Whatever common ground gets formed, the result must "allow consumers to have a (great) advertising experience. That's a huge focus. Put the viewer first," believes Laura Nelson, senior vice president of ad products and enablement for Disney Advertising Sales. The development of advanced ad formats over the last few years at Hulu, under Disney's control for nearly two years, should be a standard-bearer for all programming services, she went on. Those formats include interactive messages, where viewers can request more information on a product or service, or order products and services on the spot. Other Hulu options are binge ads that show up after a viewer watches several episodes of a program, or pause ads that welcome viewers back to the set.

Matt Sweeney, chief investment officer of leading ad agency GroupM, agrees with Nelson and wants this multi-screen environment to begin with the upcoming 2021-22 Upfront season. He, and a number of his agency's clients, are willing to shed some long-standing practices to accelerate matters.

"Consumers are voting with their money and their time. They want a better viewing experience," Sweeney advises. "Stop thinking about just running 30s, 60s and ad pods. Let's work to place the right ad with the right message at the right time."

What Twitter U.S. Agency and Platforms Director Doug Brodman wants to see evolve as 2021 unfolds is "an alignment of standards," where common ground includes a refocus of ad buying metrics on diversity, culture and inclusion. "We need room for standards and to protect user privacy," Brodman says. "The push is there, and we feel it." One way to bring that around is use both first and third-party data from a variety of sources that work with a variety of TV platforms. In recent weeks, Twitter has reached third-party information agreements with Nielsen and Oracle.

"Everyone is on a different stage of this journey," Nelson acknowledges. "We have to rethink how companies are set up, especially with streaming services. We have to do this in accelerated fashion. Also, we must work on selling both direct and programmatic (cross-screen campaigns) with more ease. And we must scale ad tech deployments across all ad agencies."

If there's one big legacy for 2020, it's that events like the coronavirus pandemic can speed up the ability to master new practices and skill-sets. That accelerated mindset by both agencies and programmers must continue into this Upfront season and beyond, Rooke believes. "It's on us to prove value with everything we do. We need to stop (determining ad buys) on gross rating points and outdated practices. We've got to rally against this. Shame on us if we don't."

In a follow-up presentation, Cross Screen Media Chief Executive Officer Michael Beach offered three ways agencies can fashion common ground via multi-screen campaigns. Breaking down silos is first and foremost, followed by evaluating media plans with a "consumer currency" across all screens, and building media plans from the bottom up.

Beach's organization predicts the U.S. video advertising marketplace will expand by $40 billion over the next four years, and that by 2024, digital and smart TV/device-distributed services will account for the majority of TV advertising dollars.

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