Why I Hate Thomas Middleditch

By AdTech InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Why I Hate Thomas Middleditch

I first noticed the problem about 18 months ago, when I was watching some show through an on-demand platform.  Ironically, while I can't remember the show, I can very much recall the multiple (4+) Thomas Middleditch Verizon ads in the show.  At first I thought this was a scheduling error.  Then, a few nights later I witnessed another series of Middleditch ads in a single program.  Fast forward a few weeks, and now I can't get Thomas Middleditch out of my living room.  While I love him as the lead character in Silicon Valley, I was growing increasingly irritated with his unwanted, Verizon stumping, drop-the-mic ads.  Could this be some new strategy concocted by a misguided media planner who had constructed a TV schedule with some ridiculous frequency goals?  Or, was I now such a high value target of Verizon (according to their data sets) that they were trying to beat me into submission? 

Two months ago I finally discovered why Mr. Middleditch had been an uninvited guest in my living room.  Simplistically, in the OTT space and elsewhere in the digital video distribution world, multiple ad servers might be employed to deliver ads into the same show.  Since there is no universal standard for commercial identification, each ad serving company would use its own commercial identifier schema.  Without a manual pre-log check of the commercials (which defeats the purpose of dynamic ad insertion) it is not possible to fix this.

Of the many issues with which the industry is grappling, too much exposure for a brand may not be at the top of the list.  However, it should be troubling for a marketer, if you are detracting from the brand message through over-exposure of an ad.  Furthermore, media planning 101 suggests a reallocation of those dollars across other media vehicles should be required to optimize communication goals or you're wasting money.

I made this revelation because I had been working on a project for Ad-ID and speaking with a few dozen folks across the TV and OTT industries.  Ad-ID supplies marketers and creative agencies with the alphanumeric codes that are assigned to commercial units as their unique identifiers.  Think of it as a UPC code.  Many people I spoke with called it an ISCI code.  Unbeknownst to them ISCI (R.I.P. 2007) was replaced more than 10 years ago by the upgraded Ad-ID platform. 

Although Jack Myers has written articles previously on the importance of Ad-ID adoption by the media community, most people are not aware that 1) Ad-ID is a joint venture between the ANA and 4As, and 2) more than 700 agencies and 3000 advertisers use it.  (Note: About 70% of linear TV advertisers use Ad-ID, but the adoption rate within the digital ad ops world is small.)

I find it surprising that neither the marketer procurement police, nor the media auditor community has jumped on the issue of frequency capping.  Also, where are the protestations from the media buying teams?

The issue has not gone un-noticed, though.  Some dedicated folks in the ad ops world, some of the distribution platforms, some OTT publishers and several industry organizations are working to solve this problem before the fickle finger of fate from marketers and media agencies points in their direction. 

For an industry that prides itself on being innovative, forward-leaning and always embracing the next new thing (agencies are now outlawing plastic straws!), we're incredibly short-sighted about getting in front of industry issues.  It usually requires some cataclysmic event to galvanize the forces for change.  Now we have another looming industry issue that has been simmering for a couple of years.

The adoption of a universal ad identifier across the media ecosystem would be a necessary first step toward an industry solution to frequency capping and managing cross platform reach.  This would create more transparency in tracking ads by all parties.  Also, there are a myriad of audience targeting enhancements that could be derived from a UPC-like ad identifier.  And ask any TV ad ops leader about the savings in man hours and data storage costs that could be realized from the system interoperability enabled by a universal ad identifier. 

Of course, from my perspective any industry initiative that would encourage Thomas Middleditch to spend less time in my living room as an unwelcome pitchman would be a good thing, too.

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