The End of the Beginning for Advanced Advertising

BTR_Feature_Art_Solutions_3_12_13_ The world of advanced advertising is broad. On the cutting edge, much of what is occurring is in the formative stages, while earlier elements are in the field and generating revenue today.

The general sense is that advanced advertising still is very much a work in progress. On one level, precise taxonomies and nomenclatures - basic building blocks of any initiative - must be developed and accepted in order for the system to function. That's a fancy way of saying that more people will have their hands in the pie, and there has to be agreement on how to describe what each is doing.

A separate but interrelated priority is for the industry to figure out how to rework the wide variety of contractual agreements and audience measurement and reporting techniques to account for a far broader array of types of advertising, delivery platforms, network types and end user devices. Put more simply, the procedures that worked just a few years ago - and were already complex - must be expanded radically.

It all can be overwhelming, and figuring out who is doing what is an important first step. Duncan Potter, the chief marketing officer for SeaWell Networks, said these basic communications still are being worked out.

He cites the fuzziness around "manifest manipulation" as an example. The actual changes to the manifest - the code that details where an advertisement is headed - are done by one team. The actual insertion of the ad markers - the code that implements those intended changes in the data flow - is done by another team. Both teams are likely to refer to what they are doing as as manifest manipulation. This type of imprecision, needless to say, must be wrung out of the system.

Progress is being made. It isn't often that advertising equipment vendors paraphrase Winston Churchill, but that is what Potter did. "We’re getting to the end of the beginning," he said. "We still have a long way to go until we solve the implementation and operational issues. That's where the tier 1 operators are."

The path to monetization, too, will be far more complex than in the past. Aslam Khader, the chief technology and product officer for Ensequence, pointed out that the industry must understand at a deep level that it is a whole new ball game. His example was that of an app that is downloaded to accompany a particular piece of programming. Now, he said, advertisers want proof that the end user actually is doing something with that app when he or she gets it. That is a far more specific and demanding goal than traditional advertising, in which the main goal is to prove that a spot ran.

Programmers and other advertisers must accept that advanced advertising assumes a certain level of multitasking. If success of an interactive app connected to a product is its immediate use, the programmer must assume that the viewer will be absent for at least some period of time. That clearly requires a change of thinking for many companies in the advertising chain.

This all is demanding: The good news is that the monetization opportunities connected to such immediate and deep involvement are greater than those related to traditional advertising. Chris Hock, the senior vice president for product management and marketing for BlackArrow, suggests that three things must happen in order for the advertising world to make the transition from stationary and essentially one-way to portable and highly interactive. Current business models have to be extended to new platforms, and both audiences and their measurement must be unified.

Hock's point is that it is a new world. The business relationships between various players are still relevant, but must be updated. Ways must be found to track audiences across the various screens and to present advertisers, agencies and other interested parties with statistics and metrics that take all screens and modes of interaction with ads - both active and passive - into account.

In essence, the viewers have taken advantage of a revolution in how they get content. Cable operators who don't adjust will be left by the side of the road. "We think these are fundamental changes that needs to [happen], and is, happening in pay TV," Hock said. “Because of trends of when and where people want to watch, we don't think it's optional."

As usual, the bigger operators are out ahead. Hock pointed to SCTE 130 and SCTE 35 as families of specifications aimed at extended existing platforms into the interactive, multiscreen and unicast worlds. "Tier 1 operators have gotten their hands around the technical aspects and have deployed solutions," he said. "Tier 2 and 3 operators are at earlier stages and can benefit from learning from the tier 1s."

Carl Weinschenk is the Senior Editor of Broadband Technology Report. Contact him at

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