Is Convergence The Mantra For Digital Media in 2012?

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February 6, 2012 – 12:06 am

Connected Ideas"Connected Ideas" is a column written by members of the TVexchanger community and containing fresh ideas on the digital revolution in TV and media.

Today's column is written by Krishnan Parasuraman, Chief Architect, Netezza Digital Media at IBM.

Over the last few years, Digital Media and the online advertising industry has seen enormous growth and innovation. 2012 seems to be the year where innovation and advancements from prior years will finally begin to converge to create the next set of opportunities for growth. Developments from prior years have teed us up to a place where convergence seems to be the mantra for 2012.

If 2011 was any indicator of things to come, we are only going to see a massive proliferation of purpose built devices and a phenomenal growth in online content. In order to effectively manage ad budgets and drive performance the industry needs to converge across various dimensions.

Convergence needs to occur in terms of how we manage audience attention across multiple devices and channels, how we buy media and measure success, how we think of inventory across different media types, how we track and manage identity and how we leverage location specific information.

1. Audience Attention: Television / Internet convergence

2011 saw an unprecedented growth in online media consumption and we are now at a point where audience attention is split pretty much evenly across television and the Internet. It was also the year where we saw rapid growth in online videos and a new generation of devices that make online viewing of video content easier.

Nielsen observed a growing trend among viewers increasingly tending to “co-view” video content across traditional/time-shifted television and mobile/Internet streaming video.Last year’s Consumer Electronic Show set the stage for the next generation of devices that delivered online experience via television sets. We are not only seeing the next generation TV sets from Sony, Samsung and LG with intrinsic Internet capabilities but also set top boxes (“Smart TVs”) from Google, Cisco and Yahoo that can bring the power of Internet to any TV. The number of connected TV sets is set to exceed the number of connected game consoles by end of 2012 and we will continue to see improvements in technologies that strive to provide a seamless video viewing experience across multiple devices.

The focus will now shift to advertisers and their ability to treat this as an integrated medium. With targeted TV ads set to takeoff, the learning and experiences from behavior targeting in the online world would now be applied to TV advertising. Tools such as Tivo and Quantcast’s cross platform measurement service would become the barometer to analyze media buying effectiveness across TV and Internet. 

Point of convergence would be when advertisers are able to effectively use online and TV viewing activity for behavior targeting and understand clearly which TV campaigns influence online activity and vice versa.

2. Media Buying: Trading Desk/ DSP/ Ad Network Convergence

Over the last couple of years, we saw the emergence of a fundamental shift in terms of how media was being traded. Individual pieces of technologies began to emerge that excelled in various aspects of media buying such as aggregation, optimization, arbitration and order settling between ad exchanges and media buyers.The logical next step in this evolution would be a convergence of these different pieces of technologies to enable trading desk professionals to become smarter media buyers and exchange traders through consolidated platforms that help them drive better performance for their portfolio of clients.Industry analysts have predicted that within the next year or so, more than 50% of available display inventory would be purchased through an integrated platform. We are seeing solution providers use terms like  "operating systems" and "interactive hubs" to describe their offering alluding to a one stop shop for all activities related to media planning, buying and measurement. We will also see agency holding companies invest more in their technology operations or acquire/partner with DSPs. 

Point of convergence would be a single technology platform that provides the simplicity and performance of a DSP, deep insights and control using data and analytics, access to wider pools of inventory thru auction based mechanisms (such as RTB) and the ability to attribute conversion and measure success across channels.

3. Inventory: Mobile/ Video/ Social media convergence

Mobile and video inventory are increasingly becoming part of ad networks and exchanges. Especially in the mobile applications space, the projected inventory growth would be enough to consume all of US display ad spend. Advertisers and agencies are beginning to take notice and are including mobile and rich media as part of their campaigns.

Adoption of IAB's Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) and emergence of HTML5 will drive increased standardization and trading of video ad inventory. The emergence of video only ad networks also signals a future consolidation of television and online video inventory.With social media sites accounting for more than 28% of all display ads delivered in the US, social networks and social data have become extremely important components of overall available inventory that needs to be planned for. 

Point of convergence would mean that exchange traded inventory would include large proportions of video, mobile and social media and the quality dilemma will be solved thru diversification across these different media types.

4. Identity: Cookie/ Fingerprint/ Tracking convergence

With increasing effectiveness of behaviorally targeted advertising, information about audience online activity has become paramount to the future of online advertising.Browser based cookies used to be the most popular means of tracking online activity. However flash cookies, web beacons and browser fingerprinting are fast emerging as alternates. Also, device fingerprinting techniques provide a mechanism to uniquely identify audience across multiple devices.

Amongst growing privacy concerns and an FTC backed legislation around a  'Do Not Track' program, one could foresee a possible revamp and convergence across the various tracking technologies.

Point of convergence would imply a unified process that would provide an individual greater control and transparency with respect to managing their identity and online behavior.

5. Location: Places/ Check-in/ Footstream Convergence

Location Based Services (LBS) and applications that leverage information about an individual’s current location were the rage last year; fuelled primarily by the growth of location aware smart phones and novelty LBS applications such as Foursquare, Gowalla, and Loopt. Apart from publishing their user’s location and awarding them with some type of a medallion, these LBS also started creating a massive database of locations, venues and points of interest with supplemental data such as GPS co-ordinates, tags, reviews, ratings etc. During the past year we also saw digital media majors integrate location into their offerings; be it Groupon’s acquisition of whrrl to improve location aware targeting of deals or Facebook’s reincarnation of places from being a mere check-in service to something that is intrinsically part of their platform.

For marketers this becomes valuable information as one not only knows where their target consumers are but also understands their behavior and preferences. However, a proliferation of location-based apps has created information silos and there isn’t a single consistent repository that can be acted upon. This leads to ambiguity and one could end up having conflicting location names for the same set of GPS co-ordinates across different LBS.

To address the ambiguous location names issue, there have been talks of either creating an open source database of locations or bestow that responsibility to either Foursquare, Facebook or Google and have them aggregate/federate location information. 

Point of convergence would mean that there exists a single repository of all location-based information that could be accessed by multiple applications. This would imply that at least the core metadata about locations is publicly available.

As in every growth industry, multiple ideas germinate and go through an independent evolution and vetting process. But periodically they do need to converge to set the stage for the next round of innovation. 2012 seems to be that year for Digital Media.

Follow IBM Netezza (@IBMNetezza) and TVexchanger (@tvexchanger) on Twitter.

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February 6, 2012 – 12:06 am

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