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Day One of the NewFronts And Data Is King

While the NewFronts are traditionally about content, the Covid lockdown means that no one knows for sure when most new shows will be available, hence the focus on data driven ad solutions this year. Which, given the massive advantage that digitally delivered television has in that area, was not necessarily a bad move.

I had the pleasure of co-hosting the first day of the NewFronts along with Scott Rogowsky of HQ Trivia fame (who am I happy to report is actually a great guy and was very interested in the business angle of television.)

That meant I was there from the start of Day One of the virtual event all the way through the Hulu presentation on their site.

Some highlights:

Frequency Capping: Given that bingeing is a hallmark of streaming, the fact that viewers are often served up the same ads over and over and over is often a problem. This is made even worse when viewers see the ads on linear TV and then see them again on OTT.  

To remedy this, Tubi introduced a tool that scans the video in ads so that the same ads are not run multiple times. While this sounds counterintuitive to anyone familiar with traditional TV buying, it’s necessary with streaming services whose inventory often comes from a number of programmatic vendors (DSPs) and where said vendors may use different naming devices for the same spots, hence the inadvertent duplication.

Tubi’s play benefits the consumer as well as vendors who buy directly from Tubi’s ad sales team (at present it is only available to those advertisers) as it can increase reach anywhere from 200% to 300%.

Addressability and The Hammer And The Dance: The Hammer and the Dance is the more lyrical name given to the reality that states will be opening up and then clamping down over the next year, often in a thoroughly unpredictable manner and, as such, brands will want to be able to send the right ads to the right households based on current situation at their location. 

Roku addressed this head on, talking about stats they’d collected in lockdown and promising much greater flexibility on ad buys made during the NewFronts. For example, Roku will allow brands to make a national buy zip code targeted if conditions in a specific geo change. They will also give brands full refunds on cancellations with just 14 days notice (versus linear where, even with 60 days notice, you traditionally just get a 50% refund) along with the ability to swap ads from different sub-brands within the same company. 

Interactivity: Crackle is introducing True[X]’s interactive ad format that gives viewers the opportunity to interact with an ad at the beginning of a show in exchange for getting to watch the rest of the show ad-free.

In a similar interactive vein, Hulu, which was where the aforementioned True[X] format first launched, announced their much-anticipated new GatewayGo ad format, which allows for actual t-commerce. Viewers will see a screen after the ad where they can request a special offer from the advertiser via text or email.

Bonus move, of course, is that the advertiser and Hulu ge to track how many people were interested enough to request the special offer, along with all sorts of (anonymized) data about the requesters.

ACR Data: Nielsen’s David Kenney, whose company owns ACR vendor Gracenote, noted, in response to a question from Rogowsky, that in his opinion, ACR data was most definitely a big part of the future of TV measurement.

The value of ACR data was further driven home by Samsung Ads, which played up its access to the largest singe set of ACR data as a source of both viewing insights and ad targeting on Samsung’s TV OS-based ad platform.

Samsung’s participation was notable too in that it served to highlight another trend–TV OEMs like Samsung and VIZIO taking control of their ad-supported inventory in a way that challenges streaming device manufacturers like Roku and Amazon.

Outcomes-Based Measurement: Roku announced that it would be doubling down on outcomes-based measurement (actually tracking what viewers do after seeing a commercial), highlighting a deal it had with supermarket chain Kroger, that tracked sales lift in areas where ads were running on Roku.

Premium Content: One of the biggest slams we hear about Roku is that buyers feel that they are never sure where their programmatically bought ads will wind up–on a top tier platform or on one of the hundreds of smaller channels in the Roku ecosystem.

To remedy this, Roku is introducing something called Roku Reserve, which is not an estate-bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, but rather a way to guarantee that your ads will only wind up on one of the top 1% of all Roku channels. 

It’s a way for them to compete with YouTube Premium and Facebook Reserve while touting the fact that with Roku, the ad is likely to be seen on an actual television set, not a mobile phone or laptop.

Pet Costumes: There was a trivia question about pet costumes, sponsored by Roundel, Target’s ad agency. 

It seems that Americans spent $490 million on pet costumes in 2019.

Which, hands down, was the most surprising thing I learned all day.

As for streaming services leaning into their data advantage, that was less surprising, but still noteworthy and I think we will see a lot more of it in terms of ad targeting, frequency capping, reach extension, ACR and outcome-based measurement, and, above all, more addressable options.

PS: When the producer tells you that you are going to be sitting in the same chair for over three hours, so make sure it’s a comfortable chair…believe them.