TV Syncing Is Top Of Mind For Media Agencies And Big Game Devs

MediaComwywyDigital advertising is a budget behemoth, but television advertising is still a nearly $70 billion business – a fact that informs the planning process at WWP-owned media agency MediaCom.

Because although digital video and streaming is starting to take a big bite out of linear’s lunch, TV is still the dominant consumption source, according to Nielsen.

“The world will continue to evolve, but we have to be cognizant of the fact that we’re living in a linear world and a digital world,” said Nick Slaymaker, global head of trading at MediaCom. “From a media execution point of view, we need to look at where we can bridge the gap with technology to sync the two.”

Rather than viewing the second screen – or the third or the fourth – as a potential threat to advertisers, fracturing consumption and siphoning attention away from the main TV screen, Slaymaker sees it as an opportunity.

“If you can understand how search reacts to TV campaigns in as real time as possible, if someone is multiscreening and you can serve them an ad on their tablet at the same time they’re watching TV, then you can perpetually compound the effectiveness of your TV commercials,” he said.

It’s in that capacity that MediaCom works with Munich-based TV ad-syncing platform wywy for clients like energy shipping company BW Group and eBay in Europe.

In addition to MediaCom, wywy works with agency trading operations like Xaxis, Amnet, Cadreon and VivaKi. On the brand direct side, clients include Verizon, Nissan, Hyundai, BMW, Suzuki, eHealth and Nationwide.

The tools in wywy’s product suite tackle syncing in a variety of ways, from connecting search campaigns to TV or dynamically displaying specific products on a brand’s website just after they’ve been featured in a TV commercial, to serving ads onto a second screen in conjunction with a live TV broadcast.

It’s able to do that by monitoring about 500 different TV stations around the globe, most of them in Europe. Wywy creates what company COO and co-founder Andreas Schroeter calls a “digital footprint” of a TV commercial using audio recognition technology.

Wywy’s database is alerted when a linear TV signal matches the fingerprint, which usually happens within roughly two seconds of airing. From there, the sync tech takes over. [Although over-the-top is not yet part of wywy’s product offering, Schroeter said that it’s on the agenda.]

As part of a recently announced partnership with mobile attribution company Appsflyer, wywy is also going to start measuring the impact of TV ads on app installs – which becomes particularly relevant as more and more app developers, the game guys in particular, invite TV into their marketing mix.

One only has to look at Machine Zone’s spots for "Game of War." Game developers are spending on television.

But TV doesn’t come cheap and neither does Kate Upton or the Super Bowl. And if devs – even massive, big-spending game companies like Machine Zone, Supercell or King – are going to shell out for TV, they want to see the same kind of analytics they’re used to in the app world, especially since they often prioritize the download over brand awareness.

But although products like the ones provided by wywy are a step in the direction of dismantling the channel-centric mentality that keeps budgets siloed, there are limitations to sync technology.

For one, there is no guarantee that a viewer is actually watching or has seen the TV ads in question at the moment they click on the synchronized display or run a search.

And then there’s consumer behavior itself. Just as commercial breaks have been an excuse to go to the bathroom or grab a snack, second-screen activity is often centered on taking a break from what’s happening on the main screen, whether that’s checking email, hitting Facebook or playing a game. They have their tablet on their lap, but they’re far from receptive to advertising.

But it’s not just consumer behavior – it’s the industry mindset that needs to shift, Schroeter said.

“The user switches between TV, Facebook, email, search, websites – but the ad industry is still set up in separate TV, display, social, search, website and analytics teams,” he said. “That makes the connected story the user expects really difficult to execute.”

Not to mention the fact that TV is still centered on generating the most GRPs for the least amount of dollars. A viewer might react to a TV ad by visiting a website, but “TV teams only have limited experience in how to interpret website analytics numbers,” Schroeter said.

There are also technical challenges around real-time syncing. Even though wywy can detect an ad in near real time, ensuring that search and display ads render in real time and that an advertiser’s home page changes dynamically requires integrations with ad and content platforms that weren’t necessarily designed to act upon real-time information, Schroeter said.

Finally, programmatic TV is in its infancy, which means targeting synced ads at scale is a thing of the future. A call to action at the end of a TV spot for car insurance might lead someone to search for the words “car insurance,” but it’s a far cry from targeting users who have demonstrated through previous behavior that they’re actually in the market to buy auto insurance.

That said, other companies are also starting to embrace the move of app dev dollars to TV, including TV ad targeting firm Simulmedia, which launched SimulX in early July, a specialized unit designed to help companies that are new to the TV space get up to speed. And for its part, Tapad released its own cross-device measurement solution for linear TV data in June called TV Pulse, with Mullen Lowe media buying sub-agency MediaHub as a launch partner.

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