Issue No. 4, December 2020

Data Trends
for the Year Ahead

We’ve seen incredible shifts in viewer behavior across digital video channels throughout 2020. Media owners have debuted new streaming services and content to meet consumer demands. Advertisers have eagerly followed viewers, adjusting their campaign budgets accordingly.

With over-the-top (OTT) video making up a larger portion of the media mix, audience data is playing a bigger role in helping buyers bring a new level of precision to their video advertising. As we look forward to 2021, we expect data strategies to evolve in three key ways:

  • Data accuracy is non-negotiable. Buyers are turning to data providers who demonstrate rigorous methodologies for ensuring data quality. One of the key challenges to navigate in the upcoming year is balancing data accuracy with the scale necessary to achieve campaign goals.
  • The value of first-party data continues to increase as buyers demand greater validation of their audience-based campaigns. Media owners are working with data management platforms (DMPs) to activate their own first-party data and increase their inventory value. Moving first-party data to the supply side can provide more complete forecasting, which helps scale data-driven campaigns as they execute.
  • Growing privacy concerns, along with rising connected TV (CTV) viewership, is leading to a boom in contextual targeting as advertisers look to pair their message to the right viewer in non-cookie environments. Improved standardization of video categories along with new technology that goes beyond text analysis and leverages machine learning to analyze cross-screen video content will help power contextual campaign growth.

This issue, we’re focusing on the trends to come in 2021. What’s new in data? And where are the opportunities?

We hope the guidance and predictions will help you gear up for a successful year. As always, our team will be here to help as you organize and activate your data.

Kristen Williams
VP, Strategic Partnerships

We spoke with leaders from a few of our DMP partners — Nielsen, Oracle Data Cloud, TruOptik, and LiveRamp — about how to advance your data strategies in 2021. Here’s what they had to say.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for data in OTT next year?

Matan Bik, Vice President, Commercial Strategy: We have all witnessed the high trajectory of CTV and its growing adoption, especially during the pandemic. The advancements in this area, both from an adoption and technology perspective, are blurring the lines between TV and digital, which is creating great opportunities across both sides. As these lines continue to blur, the industry will need fungibility and comparability to plan, activate, and measure across different platforms. This includes a deep understanding of the incremental reach that CTV is bringing to cross-platform campaigns and how CTV drives outcomes. High quality, scalable, and ethically sourced data will continue to play a significant role in empowering planning, activating, and measuring reach and outcomes with confidence, allowing companies to push the limits within CTV.

Nate Socolof, Partner Management: Because of COVID-19, people are watching more video than in years past. Global events have also accelerated changes within the digital advertising industry and how advertisers can confidently connect with consumers across various channels in ways that are relevant and respectful.

As the landscape continues to evolve and more advertiser dollars shift to formats like advanced TV, a major opportunity lies in measuring performance across platforms to reduce waste, increase campaign efficiency, and protect investments. Gaining a singular view of the consumer across a fragmented space will be paramount in uncovering which campaign levers drive the highest outcomes and engagement.

Michelle Swanston, Chief Client Officer: Audience targeting across OTT and CTV, in particular, has increased dramatically over the past 24 months. The majority of audience targeting across CTV has leveraged branded third-party data. Unfortunately, even the same third-party data can be assigned to different CTV devices or homes across the fragmented platform and publisher ecosystem. Thus, the biggest opportunity for the next year is the interoperability of data across activation points powered by identity graphs with scale, accuracy, and respect for consumer privacy.

Jay Prasad, Chief Strategy Officer for LiveRamp TV: Against the backdrop of viewership fragmentation, a promising opportunity for 2021 is cross-screen measurement. This fracturing has been greatly exacerbated this year due to the growing cohort of cord-cutters, fewer people paying for subscriptions, and increased competition between streaming and linear. In order to plan, activate, and measure around this accurately, brands must invest in a cross-screen approach in order to manage reach and frequency.

To combat this, brands should explore all the ways data can improve addressability, which includes finding smarter ways to use OTT. Making OTT data more addressable not only makes more media investments accountable, but unlocks the ability to apply learnings from addressable linear to OTT in order to improve targeting, discover new audiences and measure on business outcomes.

Calculating incremental and unique reach from linear TV to CTV is a massively important capability for media owners. Brands are looking to become more strategic in their portfolio planning. This can be done by leveraging ad exposure data + viewing data + identity resolution in the form of custom audiences that are distributed to ad serving and programmatic platforms.

When it comes to audience data, achieving accuracy can come at the expense of scale. How do you advise clients to think about this and what are you doing to ensure accuracy?

MB: Accuracy and transparency are critical for any dataset. Understanding the origins and methodology of each dataset and ensuring that it is reflective of the audience you are trying to reach will go a long way in maximizing the impact of your data and media strategy.

Different use cases require different levels of scale. For example, advertisers may try to reach as many new prospects as possible for a prospecting campaign, while still staying true to their core audience. In cases like these, it is critical to balance accuracy with scale, in order to get your message in front of a higher volume of potential customers.

Utilizing a comprehensive measurement solution that is backed by an accurate, representative methodology will allow clients to fully understand if they are getting the maximum returns on their investments, and provide the ability to make adjustments to improve future campaign success.

NS: The best audiences are fit-for-purpose. Advertisers have both campaign-specific as well as continuing objectives, and together with publishers, they should work with providers that demonstrate a commitment to quality through rigorous internal and external audit programs. This supports confidence and accuracy in following best practices, like using both precise audiences to drive direct sales lift and scaled audiences to reach potential new customers.

Specific to audience quality, Oracle Data Cloud uses a variety of validation methods, such as developing precision curves using hold-out groups and response-rate indices, in addition to external approaches like survey-based audience validation.

MS: Our massive scale and dependable accuracy have been the calling cards to the success of the Tru Optik Data Marketplace. The first step is to clearly identify the desired audience. From that point, best-in-class data providers and relevant segments can be selected, with an ability to forecast the size of the custom audience. With a household graph that updates and syncs to our data marketplace daily, we can maintain accuracy at the points of media activation.

JP: We advise our customers to do more than “check the CTV box” and utilize cross-screen measurement, which is the key to achieving accuracy at scale. Enabling cross-screen measurement is the smartest way possible to add CTV to a media plan. It delivers actionable insights that help depict how audiences are consuming media, and optimizes business needs while laying a foundation for a future of successful planning. Our recommendation is to utilize a cross-screen measurement partner and ensure CTV accounts for at least 10% of the TV and video budget.

As part of this equation, it’s also crucial to test against actual business outcomes in the real world. Advertisers who are embracing an experimental mindset have a unique opportunity to leapfrog over standard KPIs and jump light years ahead. But, without testing ways to buy and measure based on different outcomes, many marketers are missing an opportunity to show the true value they are driving with their advanced TV media. By comparison, marketers can build on customizable metrics that reflect their actual business KPIs when utilizing outcome-based measurement.

What can media owners do in 2021 to get more use of their unique first-party data?

MB: First-party data is a highly valuable dataset for media owners. This will continue to hold true as certain user IDs begin to depreciate in 2021 and beyond. It is therefore important that media owners take the necessary steps to future-proof their businesses and ensure that they can maximize their first-party data in a sustainable way. This can begin by:

  • Ensuring privacy compliance: In an era where user privacy is more important than ever, it is critical for media owners to proactively ensure that they collect data in a manner that is compliant with laws, including providing appropriate disclosures and obtaining the necessary permissions from consumers. This positions media owners not only to expand their current first-party data, but to ensure that operations do not suffer disruptions or loss of scale.
  • Controlling your customer identity: As the industry evolves, media owners can no longer rely solely on third-party IDs to define their customer base. Publishers may want to institute their own first-party IDs to define, capture, and segment users across channels.
  • Identifying premium datasets to enrich first-party audience data: Complementing valuable first-party data with additional data points that are not available through first-party properties has enabled media owners to attract and retain more revenue. It is critical that media owners evaluate their data partnerships to understand if the data is premium enough to survive the deprecation of IDs.

NS: As the industry navigates a dynamic landscape around the future of identity, publishers are at an inflection point. Media owners need data to showcase the value of their audiences from a monetization standpoint and can use first-party data enrichment to more deeply understand their customers. This, in turn, enables them to maximize the value of this data.

Publishers can also use enriched first-party data to deliver higher-quality customer experiences and inform acquisition strategies of new subscribers based on attributes of their most engaged visitors. Enriching their owned audience segments can uncover incredible insights that can increase ad yield, entice advertiser spend, and drive effective prospecting.

MS: Media owners need to find and utilize trusted partners. These partners should specialize in delivering on addressability balanced with consumer privacy through solutions that are open and transparent. Once partnered, media owners can leverage their first-party data to create targetable audiences that can be used to reach the consumers their advertisers most covet.

JP: This year, we saw TV forced into an inflection point where viewership fragmentation and demand for addressable inventory went to an all-time high. As we look ahead to 2021, media owners should use data to ensure ads reach valuable audiences across all screens and platforms where they consume content.

This means investing in a first-party data strategy, which makes permissioned data a competitive advantage and every consumer engagement a chance to win. Our recommendation would be to use first-party data to enable data-driven ad targeting and high-value yields with an authenticated solution.

As data-led personalization has matured, there is also an opportunity to collaborate with first-party data in order to deliver better customer experiences. By joining forces with their natural partners, media companies can deliver a better value proposition while reaping rewards in the process. When sell-side companies show brands direct insights on performance, they become a truly strategic partner and a new source of highly coveted data (e.g., comparing loyalty card data and TV ad impressions against actual sales performance).

The key here, though, is trusted collaboration. In order to be successful at working together to create more personalized experiences, media companies and their partners cannot compromise privacy and security.

Ask an Expert:

Everything to know about ACR

Automatic content recognition (ACR) signifies an important milestone for cross-device targeting and more advertisers are considering ACR data segments when developing a multichannel marketing strategy. As we hear more conversations and questions about ACR in the market, we asked Zach Atlas, Product Marketing Manager at SpotX, to share what you need to know.

Zach Atlas
Product Marketing Manager

What is ACR and how is data collected?

ACR technology uses a content database to recognize and identify video and audio content that a user is engaging with. ACR vendors capture data, including time of viewing, show title, genre, advertised brand, and more, typically through one of three collection methods:

  1. Video fingerprinting: Matches video frames from content being viewed in real time to a content database
  2. Audio fingerprinting: Uses a microphone from a mobile or tablet application downloaded by the user to identify content based on audio clips
  3. Digital watermarking: Identifies content using a digital tag that is embedded within the content prior to its distribution

Why is this valuable to advertisers?

Advertisers can use ACR data, collected via smart TVs, to gain insight into ad and content views on linear TV and use those insights to target audiences through digital channels. This allows advertisers to retarget linear audiences on digital screens, reach non-exposed TV audiences, conquest audience categories exposed to certain ads, or target audiences of syndicated shows. Overall, ACR technology helps advertisers align their broadcast TV and digital media strategies with a cohesive and consistent message across devices.

What do media owners need to know about ACR?

ACR is still a nascent technology, which means brands have an untapped opportunity to boost their data strategies and improve their holistic media strategies. Advertisers are eager to leverage ACR segments particularly as smart TV viewership grows, and can do so by working directly with media owners to retarget audiences or participate in curated marketplaces with multiple media owners to increase campaign scale. Because advertisers run campaigns of various sizes, they will often layer on additional first- or third-party audience data and contextual targeting to ensure reach.

How does SpotX support ACR data enablement?

SpotX works with several leading ACR partners, including Inscape, Roku, Samsung, Samba, and Nielsen Gracenote. We activate segments through our Audience Management Engine (AME) in the same way that we enable traditional third-party data segments.

New Report:
2021 Global Video Advertising Trends

Learn the seven key trends that will help ad tech leaders plan for a successful year ahead