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TV PROGRAMMATIC: THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS?

BY: MITCH OSCAR

There was a Panglossian philosophy, the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigology, espoused around the time of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which stressed that “things cannot be otherwise than they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end.

TV programmatic for example.

If, for the entirety of this article, we discount the value of real time bidding and automated time managing wizardry (that creates fiscal reward through man-hour reduction and augmented commissions) from this vivisection and focus instead on the core value proposition i.e., TV inventory and more precise audience targeting beyond age and gender, we could discern most probably a historio-evolutionary understanding that would demonstrate within, but not be limited to, the current industry-wide discussion, that TV programmatic platforms  are what they are, created for some end, and therefore an evolutionary necessity created for the best.

The 3 stages of TV programmatism – with an apology to those valiant algorithmists and industries (trade associations included) that ventured into the TV programmatic wilderness prior to this missive’s publication and who will certainly, without prejudice, not receive acknowledgement – are:

1)    The Local Conundrum: Cable vs. Broadcast

2)    Contextual Audience Networks (CANs)

3)    As We TV Programmatically Is

The Local Conundrum: Cable vs. Broadcast

One of the monumental issues facing the cable industry at the turn of the century was how to persuade TV buyers, local in this instance, that local cable was as valuable in delivering an audience as local broadcast. The impediment: a TV station in a major market could offer a one stop, one commercial delivery of let’s say, a 5.0 household rating but local cable operators were only able to offer, on average, a 0.5 household rating by network. A disproportionate comparison.

Enter: Invidi

By mid-decade, Invidi, which was in the pre-throes of challenging Visible World for the mantle of leading purveyor of addressable technology in the U.S., began experimenting with the concept of Invidi Media. The premise of the platform was to aggregate local cable inventory in a market to roll up into a highly concentrated audience (age and gender) rating that would be competitive with a standard broadcast TV spot delivery. A 5.0 rolled-up household rating from a plethora of local cable networks that had a high concentration of a desired audience would be more competitive than a rival broadcast station’s equally delivered 5.0 household rating. The price would be comparable – even more efficient in many instances, but the effective CPM would be …well… more effective. One campaign post analysis, one invoice and affidavits (network and program) would be proffered at the conclusion of the campaign.

At that moment in time, the impediments expressed by the TV buying and selling community were: 1) lack of transparency in the rolled up offering, and 2) if opaqueness did allow partial visibility then would the rolled up networks replicate what the TV buyer was already purchasing from the local cable sales team and therefore, create a redundancy that minimized reach and over extended frequency. From the point of view of the pay TV operators, the issue was emphatically sales channel conflict i.e., “if a TV buyer could purchase my inventory from you at a more efficient price then wouldn’t I be negotiating against myself.”

Today, Invidi remains the leading technology backbone for addressable TV advertising, deployed with Dish, DirecTV, Verizon, and Cox, and with a deal in place for deployment with Comcast systems – which in a short while could also encompass roll out with Time Warner systems.

Arise: Navic

On the heels of the Invidi offering arose Navic, a purveyor of interactive banner addressability accessible through a cable operator’s set-top-box.

Navic’s platform built upon Invidi’s accumulation concept in what is referred to as the horizontical (see MediaPost article, “TV Programmatic: A Horizontical Transmutation” published on August 22, 2014). Not only would Navic aggregate cable inventory in a local market to build a competitive, robust, highly targeted audience delivery comparable to a broadcast household delivery – a horizontal build out across multiple networks, but it would also provide analysis of the cable operator’s programming to ascertain what programs might target a particular audience in what might be considered a non-intuitive approach. As an example: a marketer is only interested in purchasing programming that relates to ice hockey. Easy enough to find via Tribune’s Zap2it program guide. However, upon Navic’s analysis, many of those devoted hockey fans also watch knitting programming – a discovery that led to a vertical view across multiple networks. Navic would build out a plan to accommodate both horizontal and vertical delivery of a marketer’s targeted audience.

Today, Navic is no more. The company was purchased by Microsoft for a reported $200+ million, transmogrified into Admira, and after a short while, laid to rest. More on that later.

Contextual Audience Networks (CANs)

Building upon the conceptual audience aggregation platforms that Invidi and Navic promulgated, three companies arose within the next couple of years to expand the category referred to as contextual audience networks: Google TV Ads, Admira and Simulmedia.

The premise: the utilization of set-top-box viewership (Rentrak, TRA, Kantar’s DirectView, AT&T U-verse, Charter) coupled with third party data (Prizm segments, Equifax, P$ycle, Experian, custom segmentation, Nielsen) to inform the acquisition of local cable TV and national cable networks inventory. Essentially, these platforms took the shift away from buying TV inventory based upon program content and most popularly rated TV programs to concentrate on audience delivery in less popular dayparts and less highly rated programming.

Although the media community was enthralled at the time – and still is, rightfully so – by the promise of addressably targeted TV ads, the CANs offered something less than addressability but more than the standard traditional approach utilized by the buying community thus far, by delivering higher concentration of the audience target (demographic viewer per set).

Each offered a unique twist to the model: Google TV actually purchased inventory to re-sell to the TV buying community and utilized a Real Time Bidding (RTB) mechanism to sell the TV spots it acquired via a TV upfront; Admira, formerly known as Navic and foster-parented by Microsoft, only offered inventory (when available) from national networks – claiming priority partnerships; and Simulmedia developed relationships with local and national inventory providers – cablers, satcasters and telcos – claiming the largest inventory universe (when available) across 106 million TV homes. Simulmedia’s initial approach was to focus on the marketing vertical of “content promoters” or TV networks, to make its bones and improve its product prior to expanding its sales efforts to other marketing verticals. Also, the company was founded on the heritage of Tacoda, a behavioral targeted online advertising service delivering ads to consumers based on their web surfing habits and now algorithmically focused on TV surfing habits via set top box reportage.

Similarly to Invidi and Navic, the CANs rolled up inventory to create a nationally delivered schedule and provided one campaign post analysis, one invoice and affidavits (network and program) to be proffered at the conclusion of the campaign. To their credit, these platforms added some unique twists to their predecessors’ value proposition: excluding RTB by Google, both Google and Admira offered delivery guarantees based upon a minimal viewing of the commercial, which translated to less than 5 seconds for Google and less 10 for Admira before the audience could be counted towards their guaranteed delivery. Also, a program title and content keyword search was injected into the offering across all three platforms to help determine, as one of the criteria, the best schedule programming mix.  

At that moment in time, the impediments expressed by the TV buying and selling community were: 1) lack of transparently in the rolled up offering – even though sometimes the platforms would share information about the networks and dayparts during the negotiation and/or prior to campaign airing; 2) if opaqueness did allow partial visibility then would the rolled up local/national inventory replicate what the TV buyer was already purchasing from the local and national pay TV operator sales team and therefore, create a redundancy that minimized reach and over extended frequency; and 3) the universe of each platform was not universal: Google covered a realm of 30+ million homes with 9 national networks coupled with local inventory from pay TV operators; Admira, 100 million homes through coverage on 22 national networks; and Simulmedia, the largest of the footprints, covered nearly the entire swath of TV households in the U.S representing national TV networks and local inventory from pay TV operators (cable, satcaster and telco). From the point of view of the pay TV operators and TV networks, the issue was emphatically sales channel conflict i.e., “if a TV buyer could purchase my inventory from you at a more efficient price then wouldn’t I be negotiating against myself.”

Status: R.I.P. Google TV Ads and Admira (2012) while Simulmedia stands and expands to other verticals.

As We TV Programmatically Is

A succinct historical departure: 2006.

In 2006, the broadband video community announced the death of TV. By 2011 the digital video community adopted the notion of “if you can’t deplete them join them” and developed broadband video TV reach extension products that would add reach to a marketer’s traditional TV campaign by utilizing set-top-box data coupled with third party data and first party data appendages plus, of course, broadband video inventory. By 2013, these entities looking to enhance their public media persona – whether contemplating IPO’s or becoming attractive acquisition targets – began the early stage development of TV programmatic programming.

Some, such as Videology and Clypd, hope to become pipes helping TV buyers and TV sellers to commercially communicate, while others, such as Turn, arrive with a valued DMP secret sauce to manage data across digital (social, display, video) and television inventory, and still others, such as AdapTV and TubeMogul, evolve with the “if you can’t deplete them join them” approach and of course some others still, born out of the TV side of the marketing equation, such as AudienceXpress, Placemedia and AdMore, hope to use their infinite knowledge and relationships in the TV space (local and national TV supply side personages as well as the TV buying/planning community) to their advantage, while others yet, who some perceive may have been slow to the market, such as Collective, Tremor, and YuMe whose roots are planted in the broadband realm as well as unwired networks from predominantly the TV station realm, are in stealth mode but rumored to be approaching visibility.

At this moment in time, the impediments expressed by the TV buying and selling community are: 1) lack of transparency in the rolled up offering – the platforms primarily provide breakdowns of networks, and total schedule dayparts and only after the campaign is complete will there be a possibility of individual spot affidavits shared; 2) if opaqueness did allow partial visibility then would the rolled up local/national inventory replicate what the TV buyer was already purchasing from the pay TV operators (currently referred to as MVPDs), national cable networks, and/or broadcast station sales team and therefore, create a redundancy that minimized reach and over extended frequency; and 3) the universe of each platform is not universal: many programmaticists seem to have access to similar inventory replicating the plug-and-play concept propagated by the broadband ad networks and their publishers. From the point of view of the MVPDs, TV networks and TV stations, the issue is emphatically sales channel conflict i.e., “if a TV buyer could purchase my inventory from you at a more efficient price then wouldn’t I be negotiating against myself and/or taking commission out of the pockets of my valued salespeople to populate the coffers of others.”

To quote Dr. Pangloss: “For it is impossible for things not to be as they are, for everything is for the best.”

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TV PROGRAMMATIC: A HORIZONTICAL TRANSMUTATION

BY: MITCH OSCAR

I remember that when I started in the media business, around the mid-70s, the community’s attention was focused on reach. Mass reach. Broad reach. Television. The cult of the horizontal. Three broadcast networks. Someblack-and-white syndication. TV “upfronts” concluded no later than late May’s Memorial Day. In the early to mid-80s, emulation expanded beyond the limits of its reflection, as cableco-opted the vertically magazine approach and injected it with horizontal modifications. ESPN, MTV, CNN, Nickelodeon and Discovery sought and won their niche psycho and demos. At the turn of the 21st Century, as the televisual universe expanded and video became much more prevalently experienced across all static and mobile TV platforms (traditional TV, broadband, mobile), we entered the horizontical epoch. Snuck up on me, too. I first witnessed this phenomenon when salespeople – particularly start-ups – presented their pitch in what first appeared to me as contradictory parallels. From their vantage point, one could utilize their value proposition in an either/or basis. I think I need some illustrations:

Social Video Networks:

Social video networks, such as NextNewNetworks – acquired by YouTube in 2011 – and For Your Imagination, built their video brands by discovering meaningful social networking communities and generating video programming that was attractive to that audience. Oftentimes, they will discover their program hosts, champions and content within that community. Once they have established a foundation within the communal vertical, they forge ahead to generate another vertical of loyal socialists that have similar characteristics (age, wealth, education, hobbies) but are drawn to different subject matter. In their sponsorship proposition to the marketer, they stress the value of their vertical i.e., males that watch boxing, as well as the value of their horizontal i.e., males that watch boxing programs, males that watch basketball programs, males that watch  baseball programs, and package it all together: niche and broader reach unique audience synthesized into one package.

Addressable Media Companies:

By mid-2005, addressable media companies Navic, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2008 and subsequently laid to rest, and Invidi evolved internal corporate value propositions that travel down opposite roads simultaneously – though only at first glimpse. When I first started utilizing Navic’s interactive TV applications, it was to send the appropriate message (banner overlay on video commercial) to zip codes as well as to individual households in a select group of markets. I was able to match the technology with Acxiom’s segmentation analytics and provide what I hoped was the most relevant messaging to a particular household. The vertical approach worked for me. Navic introduced its Admira ad auctioning product which drilled down into the individual set-top-box program usage and was able to sell, through auction, specific programs delivering video commercials to specific set-‐top-boxes within a cable zone (a gaggle of zip codes) as well as aggregate those STBs with similar program viewing characteristics to create abroad reach of narrow demographic i.e., the horizontal.

Invidi, whose investors include Google, NBC, GroupM, and who is now the predominantvideo addressable technology utilized by the majority of MVPDs (Dish, DirecTV, Verizon, Comcast, Cox), had a similar but different approach. Their technology delivers specific video commercials to households with specified characteristics. These characteristics can be determined by partnerships with dataminers, marketer’s loyalty databases or their fuzzy mathematics. In fact, Invidi has said on occasion that it doesn’t matter what program is being viewed, they know the broad psychographics of those watching and have the ability to deliver the appropriate video commercial. That’s the vertical. However, in the same breath, they continue to hint at a model in which they partner with a pay TV operator (cable, satellite, telco) to sell commercial time in an accumulation of audience ratings to rival local TV stations. As an example, in a given market the broadcast TV station delivers on average a 5 rating during a particular daypart, whereas the average cable operator delivers a .5 rating per network for the same daypart. The Invidi horizontal solution: aggregate enough local cable inventory to equal a 5 rating, offer competitive pricing and increase the local cable operator’s market share.

OTX & It’s LMX Study OTX:

OTX was a leading independent global consumer research and consulting firm that was acquired by Ipsos in 2010. One of its publications, “The Longitudinal Media Experience Study” (LMX), first pointed out to me that the 24-hour day is now 33 hours, we still sleep a consistent 8 hours a day and the additional 9 hour expansion of our day is the result of multitasking mostly within and accompanied by media consumption. OTX developed this tome to provide understanding into the evolving U.S. consumer’s multi-media experience from a behavioral and attitudinal perspective. In other words, provide insight on the media dynamics across the life cycle and the implications for content choices and device adoption moving forward. Although I remember as a kid doing my homework and watching TV or my next door neighbor, Uncle Bill, the policeman, watching baseball games with the volume off and the radio on, or practicing the piano and simultaneously speaking on the phone (landline) with my girlfriend, multitasking didn’t have a dramatic effect on my daily existence and marketers’ media plans. The OTX LMX suggests now it does. Simultaneous media usage through vertical absorption of content as well as horizontal aggregation of impressions for marketing campaigns suggests further immersion in the horizontal and vertical crossroads.

Turner Broadcasting’s TVinContext:

In 2008, Turner Broadcasting introduced a new advertising system, TVinConext, whose altruistic mission was to match commercials with the content of its programming. Theoretically, the system is designed to match the ability of digital media to place ads next to relevant content. For example, if a movie features a scene about pregnancy, the next commercial break would feature a related product, such as gift ideas for new moms and newborns; if the program featured a bathroom scene, then the next commercial break would feature a related product, such as a comb for a woman or Rogaine for a bald man. Turner Broadcasting continues to position itself as a broad reach network – a horizontal rival to cable siblings and challenger to the broad reach broadcast networks – as well as offer advertisers the opportunity when appropriate to vertically target pregnant women, and people with and without hair.

TV Programmatic:

Since 2013, when TV programmatic platforms and concept sound bites began peppering the trades more regularly, there appears to be many similarities to the aforementioned examples of vertical and horizon integrations for marketers to exploit:

  • Footprints: The majority of TV programmatic platforms allow marketers to purchase TV schedules comprised of broadcast and cable programming – national and local – to reach broad audiences or proffer addressable opportunities for specific verticals via Clypd and Videology. RevShare’s Admore offers broadcast only inventory from TV stations across the country, while AudienceXpress provides a rich trove of national cable inventory for advertisers to vivisect.
  • Data: Inventory can be measured, planned and purchased through traditional Nielsen age, gender and light/medium/heavy viewership or vertically through a combination of first party and third party data from Acxiom, Experian, Epsilon and Rentrak special segmentations.
  • Cross Media Applications/Implications: From a horizontal view, TV programmatic schedules can be purchased and analyzed – cause and effect – in a stand alone fashion, or in combination,with complementary digital verticals media including search, social, display, and video via a value proposition offered by Turn, and I imagine soon by TubeMogul.
  • Secret Sauce: Platforms like AdapTV, Simulmedia and Collective (TBD) utilize their proprietary algorithms to help marketers purchase traditional linear TV inventory by selecting programming that have the highest concentrations of desired audience to extend the reach of the traditionally negotiated TV schedules. AdapTV acquired PrecisionDemand to enable the platform to ascertain which is the most valuable TV inventory given a marketer’s criteria; Simulmedia is able to analyze a marketer’s current and/or prior campaign to provide unduplicated reach extension; and Collective, when it announces its TV programmatic foray, will most likely incorporate its TVA product that measures the symbiotic relationship between TV program viewership and site visitations.
  • Automation: Automation is the theoretical backbone of the successful TV programmatic implementation. Some argue that it will save time that is valued and translated into GRPs while others are of the allowance for greater individual productivity. Regardless, at this juncture, TV programmatic is still one phone call away.

Welcome to the horizontical.

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IT’S ALL TV, ISN’T IT: A RUMINATION

BY: MITCH OSCAR

I’m a TV guy and proud of it. I enjoy horizontally watching a slew of my favorite professionally produced TV programs, surfing the electronic program guide, neurotically scanning my personal video recordings selections to ascertain future storage capacity, and fast-forwarding through advertising messages – though less so recently, to see if I can accurately time the activation of “the play button” with the final second of the last commercial position in the pod preceding program content. And selfishly, I admit, I rejoice in the $66 billion spent on TV advertising annually; remain unaffected by naysayers’ pronouncements about TV – the dying medium – and the 30-second commercial – a relic of the neo-Paleolithic media age; and eagerly await the ubiquitous deployment of advanced TV applications in the televisual realm: addressability (with interactive extensions), telescoping, intuitive navigation (encompassing all content, all the time, on-demand) and TV programmatic pragmatism coupled with more meaningful, manageable “big data.”

That’s me. So here is my question to you. Why the continued TV and digital video divide, though agencies religiously profess the shuttering of silos?  A rumination or two:

Video Streaming Designation
At its inception, why did the online agency professionals insist on calling the video viewing experience in the broadband arena “video streaming?” Why didn’t they refer to it as television?” After all, TV is defined by Webster – haven’t checked Wikipedia – as “the transmission of video images.” In my opinion, had they utilized the time-worthy appellation, they would have more readily gained access to a greater share of the $66+ billion in TV ad revenue, make my job and that of other digital transitionists easier, and accelerated bridging the gulf between the two mediums to mutually share in the ability of the fundamental sight, sound and motion attributes of the video experience to engage the consumer.

TV Programmatic Nomenclature
I posit that had the media community – traditional and digital – gleaned lessons from its divisive video streaming christening experience, the digerati might have chosen a less complex nomenclature for TV Programmatic, one that was not built upon the collision of foundations endemic to traditional TV and digital video. The term “programmatic” in the digital sense is derived from a computeree’s concept of programming software and/or hardware i.e., algorithmic conversations between 0”s and 1”s. To the contrary, the concept of “program” in the TV universe relates to context as expressed in the dialogue and action within a set timeframe between animate objects, with terrestrial plots imposed for effect. Both concepts heavily ensconced in their heritage. Both camps having difficulty extricating themselves from the past.

Cultural Obstruction
Historically, part of the cultural obstruction between the two communities lies in the line of demarcation drawn by the online community that unceremoniously labeled the traditional media community as “offline” – kind of like the tail wagging the dog, albeit a very long, but nonetheless considerably smaller tail. Broadband video generates upwards of $4+ billion in the U.S. in ad spend compared to TV’s $66 billion. Not a pleasant way to encourage a fellowship between mature and burgeoning advertising sectors – particularly when the mature/traditional community, via the media planner/account director, oftentimes is still the gatekeeper to allocation of ad budgets by medium.

The other half of the dilemma seems to reside in the traditional community’s need to disproportionately silo ad budgets to different distribution platforms, even when they fall within the same consumer experience. As an example, when a television viewer in New York City watches Channel 7 (an ABC station) via an over-the-air signal we call it “broadcast.” Pretty simple. However, when a cable subscriber watches Channel 7, do we define the viewing experience as broadcast or cable? And when a satellite customer views Channel 7, is the experience broadcast, cable or satellite? And let’s not forget other platforms that contribute to this miasmic discussion: broadband publishers, mobile, telcos, apps, over-the-top devices, streaming video services, gaming consoles and of course, antenna-farmed Aereo – oops they are a cable system. Right.

I think that a positive step in encouraging a synergistic relationship between the two video cultures is best accomplished by at least delineating on paper real and imaginary differences:

image

In closing, I would argue that to the consumer, it is all the same experience. It’s television. And if we, the ad community, both mature and burgeoning, are successfully going to engage the viewer of video, whether it is via traditional television, broadband, over-the-top devices, streaming video services and/or mobile, we must view it as TV as well, and utilize each platform’s individual attributes and applications to enhance our messaging capabilities in the service of our client’s goals.

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