Thursday June 2nd, 2016

At last tailored accountable TV advertising

Andy Sarfas

Andy Sarfas

Strange looking boy and girl sit ready for a formal photo shoot.

Great advertising tells a story that makes an emotional connection with the viewer. We can all remember those ads that made us laugh or cry and somewhere deep down we remember the brand with affection. However, everyone is different and it is very difficult to make an emotional connection with a large audience, especially when you only have 30 seconds. The brands creative agency will research the brand and its audience and create a brand audience map. This will detail who are the target audience with the ideal purchaser in the bulls-eye. A good creative agency will tightly define each ring using personas which include the audience motivations and desires.

This is where it gets difficult. Each ring on your target – each persona or target group is different. Whilst they are all potential purchasers of your brand, they have different motivations and desires. To create a story that appeals on an emotional level to more than one target group is extremely hard. The strike rate is low – however those ads that hit the mark are the ones we remember. A creative director once told me that he would love to create an ad that appeals directly to the bulls-eye on his audience map. But airtime is expensive and to generate the required return the ad has to appeal to a wider audience. This compromise increases the audience size but dilutes the message and makes it harder to gain that emotional connection.

A bulls-eye every time

Now imagine a scenario where you could identify which target group your viewer belongs to before they see your ad and, depending on which group they are in, deliver them an ad tailored to their profile. Suddenly more ads would hit the spot, each would be a bulls-eye ad for that specific consumer group. The ads would be more entertaining and less intrusive and, if the creative agency have done a great job, they would increase sales! This is the foundation on which Facebook have built their successful advertising program. An ad campaign delivered via Facebook can target specific user profiles based on, amongst other things, behaviours. You can tailor your advertising message and make your ad a bulls-eye ad every time. This is one of the reasons why online advertising has been taking ad dollars away from TV.

So what if you could use the same logic that online ads use to deliver your TV ads? With HbbTV you can. HbbTV or hybrid broadband TV combines online addressability with the broadcast stream. It works on connected TV sets or connected set top boxes which can already reach over 50% of the audiences in many European countries including 80% of the market in Spain, 70% in Germany, and 40% in France.
In its simplest form, the broadcast stream comes over the air and the added value content is delivered via the web. This opens up the return path and the potential for interactivity with the content (more on that in another post). However not everyone wants to interact with advertising and it is unlikely that many consumers will interact with multiple ads during the commercial break. So there is still a role for the ‘linear’ TV ad, informing and entertaining without the requirement to interact. HbbTV allows the broadcaster to deliver tailored ads to the connected TV set via the broadband stream. The commercial break becomes a placeholder into which tailored ads are delivered. These ads use the profile data or viewing patterns stored on the device to deliver relevant ads. Now we are not talking individually identifiable information but more ‘personas’ or defined user groups. So now instead of a single story board detailing the thirty second slot, creative agencies will develop a series of ads around a theme. Each one connects with a specific target audience group or persona and the ad is delivered via the broadband connection.

Accountability for TV and about time!

Another major factor pulling ad dollars from TV is verification and measurability. Online advertising is well served with companies both measuring audiences and verifying where and when ads have run. This has been missing from TV ads since their inception. Yes, there are companies who quote audience numbers for TV shows. However these are almost entirely based on samples – some of these samples are so low as to quote a zero audience for certain shows. I once spent several hours pouring over printouts supplied by my media agency for a campaign that ran in the US promoting a specific online competition. The ad gave clear direction to the online competition offering a highly aspirational prize and targeted specifically to a teenage audience segment. The printouts, which were delivered under protest by the agency were the overnight ratings from a large TV audience measurement company. They told me that my ad ran, when it ran and the precise TV show and slot. They also told me the number of people who ‘saw’ my ad. Yet my online stats showed zero correlation to the TV schedule. Without a bank of TV’s or multiple PVR’s I had no way of challenging the stats.

With the return path of HbbTV online verification and measurement will come to the big screen. The years of practice using the online advertising standards of VAST/VPAID and their various incarnations will enable advertisers to gain insight into precisely when where and how their ads ran. Crucially the HbbTV return path will also allow advertisers to tell who saw their ads. The ‘who’ will relate to the specific audience segment/persona as defined by their viewing habits or their stored profile. This is the ‘missing link’ for TV advertising and the information that CMO’s have been crying out for.

Combine this accountability with the ability to deliver tailored content and we will see fewer viewers reaching for the remote when the ad break comes on – in fact we will be able to tell how many consumers changed channels during the ad break. We will also be able to see which audience segment switched channels and we can deliver different creative next time. So the world of advertising on TV is about to get a whole lot more accountable which might frighten a few in the industry but this accountability will lead to better ads, ads which connect on an emotional level with more consumers and ads that ultimately deliver what they are there for – increased sales.

Leadin are working with the European MPAT project to deliver an easy to use open source standard for developing HbbTV content. You can read more about the MPAT project, and more on the potential for interactive HbbTV (opens in new window)

The Editor,  Andy Sarfas, is Marketing Manager at Leadin, working in our UK office and has worked extensively in the field of interactive video advertising.