Home EuropeEurope II 2009 Advanced advertising – from concept to product

Advanced advertising – from concept to product

by david.nunes
Tim Spencer Issue:Europe II 2009
Article no.:15
Topic:Advanced advertising – from concept to product
Author:Tim Spencer
Organisation:Sigma Systems
PDF size:304KB

About author

Tim Spencer is the co-founder President and COO of Sigma Systems, having served previously as Sigma’s CTO; he has over 20 years experience in telecommunications software design and development. Prior to Sigma, Mr Spencer held various senior positions with Bell Canada. He was Director of Software Engineering for advanced services at Bell Mobility, where he was responsible for the design and development of real-time OSS solutions such as message processing, service activation and fulfilment, inventory and network management. Mr Spencer also led several international OSS consulting projects for Bell Canada International in Central and Latin America. Tim Spencer holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and software design from DeVry University.

Article abstract

Advertisers are facing greater budget restraints than ever before. To get the best results for their spending they are increasingly turning to the sort of advanced, targeted, advertising that digital media makes possible. By combining demographic data and viewing habits, Subscriber Information Services (SIS) construct individual, group and community profiles that are used to target meaningful advertising to specific viewers on their mobile phones, TVs or PCs. The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ SCTE 130 architecture standardizes this process.

Full Article

While there have never been greater opportunities for advertisers to identify and reach specific customer communities, there has never been more competition or market pressure facing those who provide advertising channels. As the global economy staggers, advertisers are under severe budget pressure and need to demonstrate tangible returns on their ad investments. Those returns are best measured through vehicles that can target specific customer segments and support measurable interactions with them. This is why advertisers are intrigued by the promise of interactive TV advertising. It combines the power of the TV medium with the Internet’s interactivity, behavioural targeting, and community-orientation. Delivering interactive advertising as a viable, value-added product is high on many TV providers’ priority lists, but not everyone will make it work right on the first go around. The business case Many print publications have lost massive portions of their ad revenue to thousands of online publications. Traditional broadcasters have lost revenue and market share to an ever-increasing number of specialized programmers and cable channels. With businesses looking to optimize their marketing dollars, competition to sell ad space has further intensified. The search to find better ways to identify, engage with and sell to customers continues to advance while advertiser expectations increase. Advertisers want to target, interact with, and measure their success in reaching out to specific customer segments. Part of the reason print publications are struggling is that they couple a high cost to advertise with relatively poor means of customer identification, interaction, and measurement. Advertisers cannot justify major investments in print advertising if they cannot demonstrate tangible returns on those investments. Similar forces are affecting major television advertising outlets. What is a strong audience share today was an embarrassment ten years ago. Rarely does one see a television commercial that does not attempt to push interested prospects to a website where they can be captured as qualified leads and be exposed interactively to various content-based promotions. Converting the passive viewer into an active prospect is a major challenge now because there is not a direct linkage between the TV advertisement and the online, or mobile, ad components. This is where the business case for advanced advertising becomes extremely relevant. From the viewer’s perspective, advanced advertising brings together the TV, mobile phone and Internet experiences into one seamless channel. Technically, it allows the viewer to do anything from an impulse buy to ‘deep-dive’ research on a product and find detailed information and specifications, professional and peer reviews, cross-marketed and affiliate discounts, and trial offers. The big challenge is to put this kind of information and interactivity in place, make it work seamlessly, and ensure that it is directed to relevant audiences. Targeting matters TV network programmers seek ‘DVR proof’ in new programming. One of the reasons live programmes, like major sporting events, can command premium advertising rates is that they are immediate. A recorded match just does not carry the same excitement, anticipation and emotion as the live event. Viewers are more likely to view such events live rather than see them later on a DVR (digital video recorder) that allows them to fast-forward through the adverts. Advertisers know that many viewers, especially when using a DVR, ignore broadcast advertising. Advertising that the viewer does not look at is worthless, so finding ‘DVR proof’ content is essential. Advanced advertising capabilities are game-changers for TV programmers and service providers because of targeting. A major reason viewers change the channel or hit fast forward on their DVR during a commercial break is that they are just not interested in whatever is being advertised. Huge percentages of viewers will turn away from a given advert because it is only relevant to a small percentage of the audience. Advanced advertising changes the way ads are delivered – via TV, web and mobile device. All viewers do not receive the same ads. Instead, they sees ads targeted to their interests based on an analysis of their subscriber information, the services they already use, the shows they view and interact with and preferences they can adjust. This helps ensures the delivery of only relevant – potentially compelling – advertising content to each viewer. It also allows TV providers to sell each time slot to a number of advertisers. Well-defined ‘audience qualifiers’ will direct content to the right audiences. Audience qualifiers are advertising-relevant attributes that apply to viewers and groups of viewers. These qualifiers, and specific combinations of them, mark subscriber profiles as belonging to defined audience groups. Audience qualifiers can be based on anything from traditional demographic characteristics, like geography and household income, to viewing or usage habits. In layman’s terms, a viewer from Toulouse, say, could be tagged as a middle-income, rugby-loving, DVR user. Audience qualifiers, and the subscriber profiles of which they are part, also include the viewer’s device and location. The mechanism whereby audience qualifiers and subscriber profiles are defined, stored, managed, and made available to systems that handle advertising delivery is now called a Subscriber Information Service (SIS). In North America, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ (SCTE) 130 architecture specification for advanced advertising ensures a standardized and extensible message-based interface for both the cable and telecommunications worlds. SCTE 130 specifically defines the SIS as the component of the architecture that centralizes and manages information about viewers and audience groups. SCTE 130 also provides tools to define granular audience qualifiers. The SIS provides the audience qualifier information to the systems that execute ad insertion and delivery. The European market is likely to adopt the SCTE 130, or a similar standard, as well. Interaction sells Audience targeting will help counter the DVR effect and, when coupled with interactivity, will increase revenue opportunities even further. Introducing interactivity to advertisements makes targeted ads more engaging and compelling by including animation, games, live contests, polling, and access to detailed information. Interactive elements can be present in other places beyond the traditional commercial time slots on TV or standard banner ads online. Interactive elements can be tied to product placements or embedded in programming; they can also be telescoping elements in a window frame or translucent overlay that the viewer can choose to interact with at any time. These elements can appear as pre-roll ads in advance of pay-per-view and VOD (video on demand) movies, or on-demand DVR and entertainment programme guide menus. This allows TV providers to offer new advertising products that can behave similarly to online ads. Picture a scenario where any time a viewer presses fast-forward on the remote, a telescoping ad appears. The same ad can be served to viewers online or to their mobile device. Outside of the constraints of in-program time slots, ads are more difficult to tune out or fast forward past, and they also let viewers choose when they want to be entertained, browse, shop, or learn. Coupled with targeting and opt-in/opt-out controls, it becomes possible to deliver a highly personalized experienced. Interactivity makes TV a more effective element in multi-channel campaigns that aim to engage, capture, qualify, and transact with customers at any entry point. In other words, the advertiser should no longer need to entice prospects to visit a website just to engage them as customers. Making it work Bringing advanced advertising to market will involve significant challenges. For example, advertisers and service providers ultimately need to agree upon common audience qualifiers or common guidelines for defining them. This will allow them to develop ads and campaigns that target similarly defined viewer communities regardless of on which service provider’s network they appear. Initially, audience qualifiers can be defined based on demographics, a subscriber’s existing services, and even pay-per-view and on-demand transaction records used for billing. Delivering more granular and adaptive targeting over time will require an enhanced infrastructure to collect and analyze viewer usage and behaviour data. As patterns, trends, group and community preferences emerge from this information, new audience qualifiers can be defined and attuned to them. This will result in more accurate ratings and more specific targeting of both viewer groups and behavioural patterns. Behavioural analytics are already commonplace in the Internet realm and have become part of advertisers’ general expectations. Any solution, however, that involves detailed user data must respect the audience’s desire for privacy and needs to be coupled with both education and support for strict opt-out/opt-in controls. The service provider community needs to provide customers with the opportunity to control the in-flow of ads. Further, any SIS-like component’s job is to abstract personal information from audience information. Advertisers should be able to select the groups defined by audience qualifiers they wish to target without ever having access to personal information. Complex fulfilment processes represent another key challenge. While most interactive elements like on-screen buttons and menus are embedded in the set-top box infrastructure, the viewer’s actions can kick off a variety of fulfilment processes – such as financial transactions, hard goods shipments, and content retrieval and delivery – that call for third-party involvement. These processes need to be automated and integrated into other operations, such as billing, supply chain, warehouse, credit and debit card processing, credit checks, and any number of business-to-business processes related to ad campaigns, promotions, and trials. Leading technology suppliers have been working with organizations such as the TM Forum and CableLabs to define the standards and specifications necessary to automate these processes. This work has resulted in the first generation of production-ready solutions that can deliver advanced advertising capabilities today and provide a foundation for more complex options in the near and long term.

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