Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

supertvAdjectives sound familiar?
Two years ago former Carat CEO David Verklin left the media agency to become CEO of Canoe Ventures, a company that has a sole focus of making television advertising addressable, engaging and interactive.

Canoe has been working with MSO’s around the country and Cable Labs , the non-profit research and development consortium of cable operators that is dedicated to pursuing new  technologies for  MSO’s, to establish what you may call the framework for the evolution of television advertising’s potential.

Benefits and functionality sound familiar?
The new framework provides format standards, increased availability and usage of metadata, measurement & reporting, and interoperability across different systems.

Convergence here we come, finally.

The Official Word
From the press release today: the new “Advanced Advertising 1.0 Specification” comprises a set of component specification and standards that, individually, allow cable companies to provide more innovative types of advanced ads, such as interactive advertising, Video on Demand advertising within existing VOD platforms, and advanced forms of addressable advertising. Taken together, the Advanced Advertising specification allows multi-system operators (MSOs) to offer such products with consistent technologies, metrics and interfaces across a national footprint. The Advanced Advertising 1.0 spec was developed and will be maintained by a CableLabs Working Group composed of MSO, Canoe and CableLabs technical leads, with selective input from the vendor community.

For the techie geeks like me, the current version of the spec includes the following component pieces:

  1. Specifications:
    1. ETV – A CableLabs specification for interactivity that can be implemented on millions of digital set-top boxes deployed by cable operators. ETV, based on the Enhanced Television Binary Interchange Format or “EBIF,” is part of the OCAP specification so advertising applications written for ETV can run on OCAP (OpenCable Applications Platform) specification, intended to enable developers of interactive television services and applications to design products so that they can run successfully on any cable television system in North America.
    2. VOD Metadata 2.0 – A CableLabs specification for descriptive data associated with a package of VOD content, whether a movie or a long-form advertisement. This metadata is used in MSO and programmer VOD systems today, but in the future will assist in the delivery of prospective ad products for the VOD space, or in adding greater addressability to different types of ads.
  2. Interfaces: There are currently four interfaces for advanced advertising, targeting EBIF, that are in the early draft phase but will be added to the 1.0 spec
    1. Service Measurement Summary Interface (SMSI) – enables MSOs to export information about the execution of a campaign.
    2. Interactive Fulfillment Summary Interface (IAF) – provides a means for messaging generated by an interactive application to be exposed to an external entity.
    3. Interactive Application Messaging Platform (IAM) – provides a critical interface between interoperable applications (apps distributed to more than one MSO) and MSO systems, defining the common form of messages instantiated by interoperable apps and how MSO systems decode them.
    4. Campaign Information Package Interface (CIP) – provides information to the MSOs on the configuration of application messaging processing, such as identifiers relevant to the messages.
  3. Standards: Relevant SCTE standards that the CableLabs Working Group has decided should be supported as part of the Advanced Advertising 1.0 spec
    1. SCTE 35 – enables measurement, enhanced applications and ad placement on linear and on-demand content – includes related support from SCTE 30 / 67 / 104.
    2. SCTE 130 – separates new addressable ad delivery systems from ad decision systems that allow for dynamic ad selection for interactive, linear and on-demand content.

What Does This All Mean?
Canoe has propelled the industry forward, and the first step of creating the standards and framework for a national roll-out was the biggest step. Within the next few weeks the first pilot programs will deliver custom creative to consumers in different geographic locations across a national campaign. The anticipation is to next move addressability to a household level.  Later this year we’ll see what has been a drab implementation of VOD pushed into the iTV promise that we have all been waiting for – where a consumer can interact directly with ads and click into more engaging experiences.

On top of all of this, the new framework also sets the stage for the eventuality of centralized ad delivery, and direct set-top box-level research. It’s a bright day for the TV industry.

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buy-sell-exchange-photo For those who are wondering why I am writing about the TV industry today, the annual TV upfronts is an important event that affects the entire  media ecosystem, and ignoring the largest macro-economic event in the media industry is not a wise move.

For anyone who has worked for a major marketer, media agency or  TV network, the month of May represents an interesting and eventually an evolutionarily outdated event – TV upfronts.  The upfronts (for those that live under a rock) is the time of year that major advertisers and their agencies plan and buy a large share of their TV ads for the coming year. The networks package up their new series and existing hits and provide a dog and pony show that only the advertising industry can do.

Over the past few years we have witnessed some interesting changes in the upfronts. On the buy-side, in some instances major marketers pulled out, opting to plan and buy ad hoc throughout the year rather than commit to large scale upfront buying (but not to a degree that affected media sellers or the tradition itself).  On the sell-side, we’ve seen a full on integration of digital channels in the packaging of ad programs, and there are small upfront events hosted by online only entities as well (mainly video), taking full advantage of the planning season. The upfront sessions have as much to do with major networks selling online inventory, particularly video, as they do television. Well …  maybe not as much, but it’s become increasingly more important to the networks.

Digital Video

Hulu was just officially ranked the number two video site on the web after YouTube.com. For the advertising industry that is huge news. Unlike YouTube, which grew because of consumer generated content, Hulu grew because consumers embraced the high-value production type content you would expect from NBC and Fox. The consumer adoption is a boon for marketers. Rumor has it that Hulu is conducting ad hoc upfront presentations and I imagine that we’ll soon hear about a small bash during the formal upfronts in May. The only downside – the price tag. Ads on Hulu are sold at CPM’s that are exponentially higher than TV. That simply can’t last and the model will have to change.

Advertisers Pulling Out?

Apparently many big advertisers, like P&G for example, have been exercising their contractual rights to cancel a portion of what they purchased upfront last May, which will severly impact networks income between now and the 2009 upfront in May. I have to imagine this sets a somber tone for the upfronts and the potential from these same advertisers and categories. So it begs the question – in this economy, what will the 2009 upfronts be like? Oh yeah and the bigger question. .. does it really matter for anyone other than the networks?

Yes TV ratings are eroding as it is, yes low consumer confidence will affect budget for big box retailers and their budgets, yes the automotive & financial categories in an upheaval, and yes there is a general conservative and ROI-sensitive mindset amongst marketers. You’d think that this year’s upfronts will be going down in history as an evolutionary milestone of marketer hesitancy. We’ll see. Networks have begun selling at higher CPM’s as a way of adapting. One thing’s for sure – the trend continues to give digital a leg up, even amid our own identity crisis. The lack of standards, high CPM’s, and confusion over measurement hasn’t made it easy in the digital video world, but the growth rates and addressability cannot be ignored by advertisers.

Another interesting tidbit – Ad Age reported that Univision is scrapping plans for the traditional upfront presentation in New York (last year was a bash in Lincoln Center) and will be hosting several smaller events in key agency markets, bringing the presentation to agencies versus asking them to fly in to the upfronts in NY. Probably a wise move and definitely a sign of the times. CBS will be selling less inventory upfront and focus on continued sales during the scatter market (ie: the rest of the year). NBC has jockeyed for position and will begin their upfront presentations a bit earlier than the other networks, a move they made last year as well.

So, Why Does This Matter To Us Digital Folks?

The concept of the upfronts revolves around supply & demand, or at least the concept of it (often there are no real supply/demand issues). Digital media is rarely purchased upfront because buyers know that there is often an endless supply of inventory to reach our targets. In certain categories like pharma or automotive (even in today’s market), there is a real supply/demand issue and buys occur “upfront”, but the timeline of upfront is different for each advertiser. The concept of the industry getting together for a few weeks of the year to plan out a significant portion of the market is unheard of and will almost never (never say never) happen. The moral of the story is that marketers have a common currency (audience) that they understand, and a historical understanding of what media wieght (GRP’s) required to move their businesses. As an industry we (the digerati) have not been able to help marketers establish that same historical level of budget allocation confidence. Marketers understand that their consumers spend a significant percentage of their media time online, that they are addressable, that we can engage them, and that we can measure that engagement – but until we can establish more industry level data and case studies on specific digital budget allocations as part of a media miz affecting their businesses, we will be stuck in the holding pattern we are now in. It is no wonder the web is often pigeonholed into the direct response bucket by many. DR is very black and white. It’s a shame that the medium has come to this. There have been many calls for creativity, and for revised standards, but I also add to that the call for more research and testing at an industry level. Something the industry once embraced, but has fallen by the wayside. Digital media IS the most accountable media, we CAN engage consumers, it DOES move the needle. I ask the IAB and 4A’s – can we systematically formalize this data for the world to see?

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video_iconI could not agree more that the industry needs a new video standard. Amen to that. I interact with enough senior agency folks to know that we all want a new standard. So I’m not quite sure how the new effort from Publicis’ VivaKi launched without the collective support and participation of any of the other holding companies. To that I say “Really? You couldn’t rally the support from any of the other agencies?”. That in and of itself could possibly put a damper on things. VivaKi managed to incorporate participation from some of the industry’s top online video publishers (AOL, Broadband Enterprises, CBS, Discovery, Hulu, Microsoft, and Yahoo, and a handful of VivaKi clients who will be testing new permutations of video units throughout the year with the intention of rolling out what VivaKi hopes to dub as a new standard by year end (thus allowing enough time for publishers to package it with the 2010 up-fronts). Of course, VivaKi clients will then have first  dibs on the new units.

Although in my humble opinion, the partial collaboration doesn’t wreak of a process that standards will emerge from, it should shake things up a bit, and I’m glad to see someone doing it (albeit I would have rather seen a collective of active agencies pool their collective thoughts together on this versus just VivaKi).

I’ve been preaching this for at least 3 years now. The online video model should focus on harnessing some of the unique attributes of digital media. Currently it replicates the TV model. I’m hoping to see the new formats include all of the following:

From the consumer’s perspective:

– Interactivity & Interoperability: Video as an experience not solely a message

– Relevancy: Improve the segmentation of content and the ability for consumers to find specific video via improved search functionality and recommendation engines

From the industry’s perspective:

– Interactivity: marketers need the ability to engage the consumer and provide the necessary depth of experience consumers have become accustomed to online

– Addressability & Improved Targeting: current targeting parameters for video are pretty weak, this is a major area that needs imrovement – delivering different content and ads on the fly to specific consumer segments

– Evolution Of Ad Serving  For Video: if agencies had the ability to serve video themselves, they would have more control over on-the-fly changes and the benefit of  immediacy of data for analysis

– Portability & Syndicatability:Video content providers and publishers with a need for more video content would benefit from a standardized method for dynamically serving these new video experiences, sans the restrictions of one video player versus another

New Metrics? Not So Fast…
You’ll notice that I did not mention common or new metrics. We have a slough of metrics already, such as levels and duration of engagement, increases in branding effectiveness and DR metrics that can and should be applied based on the client’s goals. If anything, we need more data on the correlation between advertising metrics and market impact (this is true for other aspects of online media as well). For example – what is the interrelationship between engagement percentage, duration of engagement, reach and impact on influence, brand preference and purchase intent (and over time, market share)? Ultimately every marketing investment is being compared to every other option available, so we must look at the overall ability of channels, formats and options to influence the target, not just the subset of engagement (or worse yet, response)… and this must be analyzed in the context of a media mix.

The Model & The Media Mix
The media industry has come come a long way and yet we never have been able to definitely develop media mix models that are universally accepted – why? Because there is no such universality. But furthermore there is little industry-level research on the correlation between various advertising metrics and the true influence within a market. The GRP/TRP has been used as a surrogate for the inter-relationship between reach & frequency and market impact, but this metric is predicated on the replication of historical performance and has not evolved to include the unique attributes of digital media so therefore it is not a standard used online. Hence so many career marketers and traditional media folks pulling the hair out of their heads trying to figure out how to integrate the canary in the coal mine.

The Moral Of This Online Video Story
We must focus on mapping the features and requirements of online video standards to the unique attributes of the medium itself, while evolving the consumer experience. Specifically, we must provide engaging and relevant experiences with the ubiquity of text, the interoperability of functionality beyond video, the discoverability and contextual relevancy of search, and the portability of RSS, we then have a platform that has aligned with the trends of online consumer behavior. Increased consumption will follow, and advertisers will follow the light.

What do you think about the next generation of online video standards?

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Jan 20, 2009. What an amazing moment in history. Our first black president, renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, and recuperation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society. Oh yeah – and the online coverage and engagement were astronomical.

Watching today’s history unfold for me was a unique experience. I had to go to the hospital for some testing, and was sitting in the waiting room as Obama gave his inauguration speech. We all huddled around the TV and watched one of the best (if not the best) political speeches in my lifetime. It reminded me of some of the powerfully emotional and motivating speeches from before my time, from a breed of politician all but extinct until this campaign and election. I also had my mobile phone handy Tweeting, blogging (in fact, I stated this post on my mobile phone) and scanning the reactions from others – what would turn out to be millions of others. CNN’s Live coverage via the first really kick ass Facebook Connect integration, topped 1.5 million Obama-related status updates during the inauguration day coverage. Watching live TV on Facebook and discussing it with your friends – truly triumphant!

Additionally:

– Obama’s page on Facebook has over 4 million fans.

– CNN.com itself streamed over 21million streams of the inauguration, and generated over 136 million page view.

– At exactly noon, the Obama administration relaunched WhiteHouse.gov, right on schedule.

– An Obama administration run SMS program provided valuable info to the 2 million+ fans who attended the inauguration

– Our executive government understands integrated communication and is also part of  the proverbial conversation. Kudos all around.

Folks, the water cooler has come to the internet! Live television met social media in a truly impactful way and the implications are far reaching. There’s a huge revenue model in there somewhere, and surely we have watched history unfold in more ways than one.

Another week – another slough of progressive announcements from the industry leading giant.

Google made two announcements this week, one focused for small businesses and one focused on large agencies.

Honing in on the huge market of small businesses that use AdWords for text only buys, Google released a tool that helps these clients quickly and easily build display ads. They describe it as: “… lets you create professional-looking display ads in AdWords without needing to hire a designer or start from scratch…”  I haven’t kicked the tires on it, but it looks better than the MySpace MyAds builder tool that I wrote about earlier this week, which was a little rigid (v.1.0, updates to a tool like this are easy and surely will follow). Specifically the AdWords display ad builder forces a best practice or two like highlighting a call to action, this is intrinsically built into the tool.

On the agency side of town, Google has tied reporting of GoogleTV inventory into the COREMedia reporting interface, which has become pretty much the de facto standard among most mid to large agencies that buy a lot of DRTV. By tying GoogleTV reports into the CORE system, agencies can analyze results and optimize media schedules faster and more efficiently. By the way, since CORE also integrates seamlessly into Donovan and other popular agency billing systems, in theory, will make it more attractive for agencies to buy ads through GoogleTV.

While most of the industry is wondering how the troubled economic climate will affect their businesses, Google continues to laugh their way to the bank. It’s actually quite an interesting beast to watch growing before our eyes.

I just received my Hulu.com newsletter and was pretty excited to read that NBC will be experimenting with some of their line-up, which will be premiering online a week before television. That’s right, the next experiment from a major broadcast network and an effort to bolster online video ad revenue is “web first” – a break from what has been “web after TV”. Of course many have been calling for simulcasting of content, but it seems to not be something that the broadcasters are interested in…yet.

Of course this “web premiere” concept is indeed for now an experiment, and as far as I can tell only 2 series – “Knight Rider”, and “30 Rock”, will indeed premiere online a week before they’re broadcast on TV. In theory, the popularity of certain programs should command serious viewership and ad dollars for an online premier.

The future of online video is incredibly bright, and the models are being ironed out right in front of our eyes. Personally, I love Hulu. Why they didn’t launch a similar VOD network through major cable MSO’s is beyond me – it just may have dominated the airwaves.

Meanwhile, On The Other Side of Video Town
I had posted previously about theWB.com rollout, and I finally found a few minutes to really kick the tires on what has the potential to become a suite of very effective consumer engagement tools, namely the “video dialog search”, and the mashup tool.

The WBlender, a mashup tool that allows a consumer to mix and match video clips, stills, captions and effects is perfect for the younger demographic that is most likely to flock to theWB versus Hulu (when I last logged in the site greeted me with “Word Up, Jason! Have you met the sultry vixens of Sorority Forever yet?”).  The mashup tool is easy to use and offers an engaging experience that should prove effective as long as they keep it up to date with fresh content to play with. Of course in true beta fashion, I was getting errors saving my mashups and then to make matters worse, there was no easy way to notify any support at the WB about it – that’s a big mistake 2.0! The site provides tools, but no way of interacting with theWB – get it together folks! You’re still in beta so I won’t hold it against you…yet.

The dialog search utilizes DigitalSmiths technology, which translates the audio into text and allows for searching, and soon advertising, based on the relevance of specific keywords contained in the dialog of the video. The results bring up entry points to the parts of the clip where the dialog mentions the keyword. It’s a very cool glimpse at the future. This will prove to be a slippery slope to walk down due to inaccuracies with this type of technology, but one with a fruitful future. Think contextual advertising within video content. However, we have a long way to go until we get there.

Having just spent an hour on Hulu and theWb.com, I am very proud of where we have come and excited about where we are going!

Yes that’s right, Warner Brothers revives The WB brand and launches TheWB.com as an online video hub poised to compete with Hulu.com (my favorite time killer when sitting in a plane on the runway on delayed flights). Actually Warner Brothers call it “a premium, ad-supported, video-on-demand, interactive and personalized network”.

The site is aimed at the Adults 16–34 demographic highly coveted by advertisers, with an emphasis on women, and will consist of four main elements: original programming created or acquired specifically for TheWB.com, the re-release of a collection of The WB Network’s most popular series and other successful programming, a commitment to interactivity, and an extensive network of distribution partners.

One of the more sophisticated features is a comprehensive video search powered by DigitalSmiths, which will transcribe the audio component of the video into text to allow for search and targeting. Of course we all know how accurate these technologies are – but it’s a great step in the right direction and it’s nice to see a major media brand experimenting with it. (See my post from Feb “The Future of Video is Audio…Text Actually“).

The press release also hones in on a few key elements of the launch and distribution:

TheWB.com’s debut features the unveiling of an original application that will launch on Facebook and allow seamless integration of Facebook’s social utility on TheWB.com, and TheWB.com’s entertainment content on Facebook. Additionally, TheWB.com’s shows will be distributed across the Internet, on television and in the wireless space via a variety of preferred partners, including Comcast Cable, Fancast.com, and AOL. Johnson & Johnson has signed on to be the charter sponsor of TheWB.com at launch.

The announcement of what seems like a lot of original content is great to hear. I have been predicting a breakaway online hit to happen this year or (more likely) in 2009, after the failing of Quarter Life on MySpace/NBC/Bravo. The target of 16-34 year olds skewed female will be reflected in the choice of programming, and a few of the original series are slated to premiere along with the launch, with the remainder rolling out through 2009.

The full press release can be found here.

Apparently the networks are finally realizing that simply airing programming in plain vanilla packing 24 hours after airing on TV just doesn’t work – not for consumersnot for advertisers, and certainly not for the networks. Adding value to the experience with rich features, and providing original content should prove to be the right approach – or at least part of it.