May 10, 2017

Digiday "Four Things We Learned About Advanced TV at This Way Up NY"

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The adtech industry supports the entire digital media ecosystem, providing the underpinning that allows content producers to distribute and monetize while enabling buyers to target the right consumer without any waste. Despite its critical position in the digital ecosystem, programmatic can be confusing–often swamped in needless jargon. It’s this surfeit of squishy language that led Tremor Video, a video-only technology platform, to launch This Way Up, a thought-leadership platform and series of invite-only summits where tech and digital professionals on both sides are encouraged to leave bullshit and industry speak at the door, and tackle big challenges head-on. On the agenda last week: Advanced TV and the promise of bringing digital measurement to television.

On hand for the event, held at the Le Parker Meridien’s penthouse in New York City, executives from The Trade Desk, Hulu, POPSUGAR, The Young Turks, Turner and more, all prepared to go deep on the complicated topic of advanced TV. Here’s what we learned:

Our viewing habits have changed, so should our thinking.

The keynote was delivered by Alan Wolk, television industry analyst and author of “Over The Top: How The Internet Is (Slowly But Surely) Changing The Television Industry.” Wolk noted that it’s not just that time-shifting is putting an end to must-see-TV programming blocks, it’s that our viewing habits have changed altogether. Traditional assumptions about how people view television needs a rethink. Rather than jump from program to program, we now binge hours of the same show. Instead of switching channels to find new shows, we’re switching between multiple devices while we watch the same one.

To succeed with the binging set, marketers need to stop thinking in day-parts and demographic groups and start thinking in targeted segments and personalized campaigns. Basing our thinking about OTT viewers on traditional television audiences could prevent the industry from taking full advantage of the advanced TV era. As Tim Sims of The Trade Desk summed it up, “OTT is an amazing opportunity to tell stories across devices and build campaigns that aren’t bound to one screen.” Instead of the couch-bound audiences of yesteryear, today’s TV consumers are moving targets better snared with cross-screen and cross-device campaigns.

Handle Gen Z with care.

The rise of Gen Z is not the title of an upcoming zombie movie, it’s the latest demographic shift TV has to tackle. Raised in a world of OTT services and TV anywhere apps, the under-21 crowd has markedly different viewing habits than Gen X or millennials, according to research conducted by Tremor Video and Hulu.

Chief among the findings, Gen Z doesn’t actually dislike ads, or at least they dislike them less than older cohorts. This could be due, in part, to their comparatively low life-time exposure to ads. In other words, the industry should handle them with care, and not to burn through their goodwill with bad ads. Shorter but more frequent ad bursts are perfect for a quick texting break, the research suggests, while lengthy ad blocks might prompt them to switch to another platform.

If everything is “premium” is anything premium?

Digital content owners love to talk about their “premium” video content, but if you spend a few minutes with those same execs you’ll soon realize that no one seems to have the same working definition for what premium actually means. Is it a matter of distribution method? Top tier talent? Production quality? That ineffable TV-ness that makes Netflix different than YouTube? Industry pros from POPSUGAR, Hulu, and The Trade Desk sparred on what makes content premium.

Geoff Schiller, Global CRO of POPSUGAR, called out his competitors with a frank assessment. “Everyone says they’re in video. But they’re not.” Digital publishers can’t just throw a green screen in a conference room and call it a studio. But the problem is bigger than how things get made. Panelists discussed the idea that truly premium content may be defined by its ability to deliver quality targeting. For video to truly be premium, it has to be reaching the right audience at the right time. To marketers and media buyers, premium is only as good as the returns it gets, so precision targeting means far more than the square footage of your studio space.

Panelists also agreed that the industry needs to shoot straight with clients when it comes to quality. Until the buy-side is fully educated about the potential of digital video, it will be difficult to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon definition. For now, content owners must make the case on the grounds of quality and technology if ad dollars are to follow.

Convergence is already here.

The very term “advanced TV” poses a question in a world where video delivered via an internet connection looks just like video delivered through a cable connection. If the narratives are just as complex, the production values just as high, and the targeting capabilities in many cases better, then, what exactly is TV?

The two are already becoming one through the ubiquity of smart TVs, web enabled devices, and TV anywhere apps provided by MVPDs. In other words, if your mom thinks of Hulu as TV, then is it? Or at least, it doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?

Regardless of when convergence arrives for digital television, the beauty of that transformation, panelists agreed, will be the wealth of new data with which advertisers will be able to work. The days of demos and dayparts are drawing to a close, replaced by a more targeted future where television ads can be served with the precision of programmatic digital.

Moving forward.

The This Way Up Summit provided participants and panelists with an opportunity to elevate the discussion around advanced TV. Panelists and presenters discussed potential developments, shared insights, and raised concerns. While there remains much work to do before the promise of advanced TV is fully realized, it is through these sort of frank discussions that the industry can indeed move forward.