How data clean rooms will help you make better TV

How data clean rooms will help you make better TV
Devon DeBlasio
Tuesday, June 14, 2022

We take it for granted today, but people weren’t always in control of their TV viewing.

The Gen-Z generation was born after 1997, the year Netflix launched. If we go further back, millennials haven’t known a world without CNN (1980) and MTV (1981). The development of modern television—more programming choices, more control, more ways to watch—has been great for consumers. And it’s been a boon to showrunners and independent producers interested in developing shows for non-mainstream audiences.

But the fragmentation of the TV ecosystem has been problematic for advertisers. TV shows with ratings in the 30s (like Happy Days on ABC and Dallas on CBS) or even in the 20s (like Seinfeld on NBC) are long gone, and with them the argument that TV is a way for advertisers to reach massive audiences. It’s still doable, of course, but it takes a lot of planning, coordination, and a lot of faith too in a measurement system that hasn’t quite evolved with the times.

So there’s excitement, but also some level of trepidation in the industry over the rapid growth of new forms of TV delivery—and what it all means to the advertising community. That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to sponsor a new whitepaper on identity in advanced television. Winterberry Group (WG) surveyed and interviewed nearly 150 top executives in the US and the UK, and the report that just came out really dives into the topic and does a great job of balancing challenges and opportunities. It’s clear that there’s a lot of hard work ahead for all stakeholders. But from our standpoint at InfoSum, it’s also very encouraging to see the central role that data clean rooms will play to connect the dots.

What will you learn in this new report?

TV currently stands between a rock and a hard place

According to WG, by 2026, addressable TV advertising will be a $48 billion business in the US, and over $10 billion in the UK. It might be even bigger if Netflix indeed jumps into the AVOD race this year.

But first, the industry is going to need to reconcile two polar opposites: the traditional linear TV media planning and media buying culture, where direct relationships between buyers and sellers rule the day (and commitments are often made months in advance); and the media buying culture associated with digital channels, where inventory tends to be bought and sold programmatically (and in real time). Is today’s ‘Advanced TV’—a term WG uses to describe all forms of TV delivery, from set-top boxes to Smart TVs and streaming apps—an extension of the linear TV experience, or is it rather an extension of the web and social media experience?

The question isn’t just a matter of philosophy. It has major implications on the types of media objectives that brands can reasonably expect to achieve with TV advertising (the old reach vs. targeting, and brand-building vs. performance debates), and on the makeup of the technical infrastructure necessary to activate campaigns and measure their success.

Identity is essential to unlock the full potential of Advanced TV, but it’s complicated

In the digital universe, the deprecation of the third-party cookie (and device IDs for mobile platforms) has created a furious race for a new user identification mechanism. First-party data has come center stage over the past couple of years, and the consensus is that identity-based solutions are the industry’s best bet to maintain the promise of addressability while complying with all the new privacy regulations being enacted around the world. The problem is that there are multiple identity solutions around, and few hopes for a standard to emerge anytime soon.

Similarly, a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to work for Advanced TV, adding much complexity to all use cases—from media planning and targeting to audience building and activation, frequency capping, measurement, and attribution. And to make matters worse, identity solutions designed for the digital world are aimed at identifying individuals, not households. But TV viewing is often a communal affair. Password-sharing and co-viewing are already raising big questions around identity-based TV attribution tools, with knock-on effects across the entire ecosystem.

Interoperability and data collaboration to the rescue

Data clean rooms, it turns out, have a fundamental role to play to help Advanced TV fulfill its potential as an advertising platform. They can be used to bridge the gap between multiple identity solutions, create safe private marketplaces, and foster better all-around data collaboration between buyers and sellers to find solutions to the above challenges.

Many publishers have already developed their own IDs. With a data clean room, advertisers can adapt to their media partners’ identity solutions without sacrificing scale or use case functionality for their campaigns. That’s especially important considering how fragmented the ecosystem already is. And media owners can develop powerful identity graphs—just like large retailers are doing in the retail media space—where they can offer unique audience segments and activation opportunities to their brand partners.

Not all data clean rooms are created equal, of course. There are many important dimensions to a robust data clean room, but the one quality that was brought up the most in the WG interviews was the non-movement of data. Marketers in the US are drawn to it for privacy and security reasons in equal measures, while marketers in the UK seem slightly more likely to be motivated by privacy (60%) than security (40%), but the net benefit is the same: compliance and peace of mind.

Nearly 40% of agencies and media owners in the US, and 50% in the UK, are planning to increase their investments in data clean rooms this year.

We invite you to check out the full WG report for many more insights and in-depth analysis of the Advanced TV industry. And please get in touch with us. We want to show you how you can use a data clean room to make better TV.

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