Ramping Up for Advanced Television

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Last week, I wrote about the extension of LiveRamp's Identity Link tool to television, and how one particular vendor, iSpot, was partnering with LiveRamp to help clients not only execute on people-based TV audiences, but track the impact of TV ads on customer activity in other channels.

At LiveRamp's RampUp 2018 summit, here in San Francisco, there's a whole track devoted to "people-based TV," and a lot of excitement around the concept. In essence, it should allow brands and agencies to preserve the spectacular reach of TV advertising, while at the same time personalizing it, and being able to close the attribution circle. And remember: we are talking about old-fashioned linear TV, as well as addressable and connected.

We heard from a number of players in the fast-developing space (including iSpot's Sean Muller, and LiveRamp's own head of advanced TV and video, Jessica Hindlian). I took the opportunity to sit down with Walt Horstman, SVP and GM of advanced media and advertising at TiVo. Yes, TiVo.

Not Just DVR

"We're re-branding what TiVo is today," he told me, "because it's much more than just TiVo DVR or even the TiVo Experience."

How did Horstman come to TiVo? "I launched a company called Audience Express, a programmatic TV sales company. We were automating the entire workflow of selling linear TV inventory, and applying data to it, understanding the audience beyond traditional age and gender." That company was sold to Comcast; after some time there he was recruited by TiVo to help join together a number of TiVo (and Rovi) acquisitions into a coherent business unit with two purposes: "One is to drive audience loyalty and engagement between the consumer and content. The second is to, with that engaged audience, drive increased value of TV inventory."

In terms of engagement, TiVo provides a "white label" recommendation service in an à la carte TV environment, or anywhere there's a library of content ("white label" because the recommendation carousels are not branded as by TiVo)."What we're doing is, while a viewer is in the midst of the content consumption experience, we're looking at past consumption to make a recommendation as to what the viewer should be watching next. As a result of this dynamic content recommendation capability, we increase viewership by 35 percent, as opposed to just blindly coming into an available set of content and just picking something."

And increasing the value of inventory? "A lot of what we're doing is very relevant to this conference with LiveRamp. We've amassed a very large pool of TV viewership data; it comes in daily. We have unfettered rights to match that data to any other data set. Take the following use case: An advertiser has all of their first-party data. They would like to create a targeted TV campaign [based on programming which] over-indexes on their first party data. So we can take their first-party data, go through LiveRamp, match it to our TV viewership, and put out a list of [programs] which over-index. They run that campaign. 

"We can then take the schedule of what ran, do that analysis again, and ask how did we do on the over-indexing of commercials that aired during your campaign? Then, even one step further, we can take the individual household IDs that were exposed to your campaign, give them back to you; you can then match them across the digital eco-system and look at the effectiveness of changing consumer behavior. Did you see incremental purchases? Did you see more activity going to your website, based on the exposure of that original targeted segment."

For linear TV, this works for audience segments; but it can't be targeted in a "unicast" way. Addressable TV, however, can be targeted at individual households, and of course with OTT, personalization can happen at the individual level. "When we talk about TV now, we're defining it as any premium video inventory, no matter how it is distributed."

What are the advantages of partnering with LiveRamp? "They've got a real comprehensive data-set across all these different media channels, and also have partnered with so many folks who've got interesting data-sets. And they've put an organizing principle around it. We can show up with our TV viewership data and match with any data-set that's in the LiveRamp store. We have a very high match rate of our deterministic data-sets, so that there's confidence and credibility that what we're generating in terms of insights is accurate."

Connecting data generated by TV viewership and digital activity seems so breathtakingly obvious and necessary, it's surprising in some ways that the space is only now developing. I asked Jim Nail of Forrester and Claudio Marcus of FreeWheel why what they agree is the "inflection point" has suddenly been reached. The technology, Nail said, has been around for a while, but at networks and media companies "the light bulbs are starting to go off. They're starting to question old habits, old frameworks, and old processes, which have been set in stone for 50 years."

Marcus had a blunt response. "One word: fear." TV companies are under very real pressure from other players in the advertising game. And yet, "they have a major asset to play with. The amount of time people still spend watching TV, which is enormous."

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