Everybody’s blogging about Super Bowl 50 and advertising, for good reason: it provides an annual measure of the movement of the tectonic plates of media as the massive continent of TV collides with the unstoppable movement of digital.
With so much power up for grabs, an inevitable question is: which team is winning? It’s broadcasters versus cable and satellite companies versus internet giants versus device manufacturers versus ad tech disruptors – not to mention consumers and marketers, whose money and mindshare are at stake. My colleague Marty Kihn put a stake in the ground: “[advertising’s] salvation will be measurement” which suggests an approach to handicapping: who’s winning on the measurement front? …and what does this mean for marketers?
Let’s watch TV. My colleague Charles Golvin notes that CBS has vastly expanded SB 50’s streaming options, and Adobe recently pointed out that as many as one in three viewers will watch SB 50 on a device other than a TV. Put another way, this means as many as two out of three will still be watching on TV. Many of these, of course, will be streaming the content rather than watching a traditional broadcast, which complicates the measurement problem, as pointed out recently in the NY Times. The problems this is creating for Nielsen are reflected in a number of recent competitive moves, notably Comscore’s merger with Rentrak and TiVo Research’s announcement of a deal with Oracle, both of which promise to bring more TV data into the world of digital metrics – with the caveat that we’re still talking about set-top box data, not over-the-top streams. Meanwhile, the data about OTT viewing remains a bone of contention between content owners and distributors.
Here’s where the manufacturers have an opening. Four the last four years or so, they’ve been quietly putting technology in their Smart TVs known as automatic content recognition, or ACR. At Gartner we identified ACR as a transformational technology in hype cycles dating back to 2012, although its impact hasn’t unfolded quite as we envisioned (in those days it was part of a fad called “Social TV”). There are about 10 million TVs in the U.S. today with active ACR capabilities that can recognize the fingerprint of a commercial as it appears on the screen and send that data to a manufacturer’s service on the Internet in real time. Companies like iSpot.tv and Viant buy this data to measure TV ads, but Viant’s solution goes further: by connecting this data with an IP address, it can link it with the vast corpus of digital media data collected from web sites and mobile devices in what it (and others) refer to as a “people-based” platform – meaning brand exposure and reaction can be tracked at an individual level as part of a full multitouch attribution solution, with requisite attention to the demands of privacy. Putting that glowing concern aside, real-time signals of TV ad viewing open a path to digital engagement on a mobile or desktop device that leverages high-impact exposure and coordination among channels.
This degree of measurability and responsiveness has deep implications for advertisers and marketers as they try to harmonize activities across media, including all forms of TV viewing, on all kinds of devices. For one thing, Super Bowl advertising need not look like quite such a gamble as far as metrics are concerned. For another, marketers might not need to wait for the broadcasters, TV distributors, and metrics providers to work out who will provide the targeting and interactive pay-offs that advertisers crave to make the most out of their big media event investments – the manufacturers and ad tech disruptors might just win with an end-around.