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Blockgraph CEO Jason Manningham: Envisioning a New Infrastructure for TV Advertising

A highway in Shanghai
(Image credit: Jackal Pan via Getty Images)

With a new presidential administration and renewed bipartisan talk of significant investment in infrastructure as a means of kickstarting the economy post pandemic, it looks as though 2021 may be the year when the U.S. gets serious about addressing its aging infrastructure. The need to invest in critical infrastructure like roads and bridges is glaring. Without addressing cracks in the pavement and rusted beams, the country’s ability to function can be compromised.

Less visibly, television advertising has been experiencing the consequences of a similarly aging infrastructure. While digital advertisers have benefited from advanced targeting and measurement, TV advertisers have largely been left to use the same tools that have been in place for decades. However, changing consumption behaviors and privacy concerns are forcing us to rethink our models of connection and they provide us with the perfect opportunity to evolve the entire industry. 

We are at a tremendous crossroads in our industry, and to really move forward and better serve brands and put their increasing budgets for video content to best use, we need to completely rethink the infrastructure for TV advertising itself. 

When we talk about infrastructure in this context, we’re not just referring to the mechanics of advertising: getting ads to where they need to be and having the right software in place to collect data. We’re also talking about the infrastructure that facilitates the fundamental marriage between TV and data. That’s what will really help the medium move forward--beyond traditional age and demographic targeting and panel-based measurement. 

Just like lawmakers in Washington, the ad industry can’t afford to wait.

Jason Manningham

Guest blog author Jason Manningham is CEO of Blockgraph.

Inflection Drives Evolution

As a result of the quickly changing consumption and privacy environment, media companies have been working to retrofit established business models to this new reality. Unfortunately, the bridge between digital and TV is not an easy one to cross.

These companies have found that the models for linear TV are a challenging fit for on-demand media, and the access to data and attribution that marketers have come to appreciate from digital advertising is not yet easily achievable through the new TV platforms.

While it would seem like the solution is simple—leveraging first-party data (from device manufacturers and content distributors) and applying digital marketing tools to streaming content—the real world isn’t so cut and dry. Rather than developing effective tools from the ground up for a brand new medium (as was the case with the advent of performance-driven digital advertising), the TV industry is still working to evolve and find the right solutions for today’s reality—this, for a medium that is approaching its 100th birthday. 

The tenets of speed, efficiency, and cost are table stakes now. Let’s build the right on-ramp for data that focuses on quality, connectivity, and privacy.

Building a New “Highway” System

The industry can’t just attempt to copy what worked for the digital giants. Flexibility - in utilizing new systems, while leveraging existing legacy investments - is critical to the success of a new infrastructure. A data-driven future must meld the best of traditional TV (safety and reach) with the best of digital advertising (targeting and measurement) while preserving consumer privacy at the core.

This isn’t just limited to the current media darling, CTV, either: in spite of the cord-cutting trend, many consumers still bounce from linear TV to CTV to DVR to mobile streaming. What’s more, the growth of walled gardens introduces a new range of systems and devices that must be factored into brands’ strategies. 

Addressing all of this is a complicated task, but it isn’t insurmountable. A logical approach would be a unified platform that brings all of the disparate TV companies, devices and systems together holistically. But getting all these different groups to work together in concert isn’t very realistic so we need to think about the right connective tissue that allows them to come and go as they please. 

This begets the advent of a simple connective layer—a data highway of sorts—designed to facilitate and ease the flow of data and information across platforms and from one party to another. All of this can also be done while preserving first-party data control, built first and foremost with a commitment to privacy. The data and insights can, in turn, be used in a manner that is consistent with each companies’ privacy, confidentiality, and security policies. 

With this connective layer, the viable future of data-driven, advanced advertising is finally visible.

But for this to happen, like our nation, we need to think “industry first,” understand where we came from, learn from our challenges, and build a new infrastructure that serves as the backbone of this new economy. When we do that, this rising tide will lift all of our boats.

Blockgraph is a privacy-first infrastructure for TV data that ensures that the highest levels of control, quality and security for data owners. It is owned by three of the largest media and video distribution companies in the world—Comcast NBCUniversal, Charter Communications, Inc. and ViacomCBS Inc.