Advanced Ads: Making the Move from Experimental to Mainstream

Matt Sweeney

GroupM chief investment officer Matt Sweeney

Advanced advertising technology is beginning to climb out of the experimental phase, GroupM chief investment officer Matt Sweeney said at the virtual B+C/Multichannel News Advanced Advertising Summit Tuesday, but there is still a way to go before the tech becomes mainstream.

“Many of the tools in the advanced TV space have matured to a point where we're comfortable going beyond just testing and leaning in,” Sweeney said. “...We're still evolving on the advanced TV side.”

Part of the difficulty is navigating the number of advanced ad platforms and providers, he said. 

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“We're trying to figure out how we navigate this holistically, versus buying addressable TV from one platform partner and data driven linear from a second platform partner and digital video from a large media company that also has their own platform,” Sweeney said. “That's the challenge right now and it's about the proliferation of platforms, the proliferation of data sets, and then some of the challenges around measurement. We need all this stuff to come together, like it has on the digital side with programmatic.”

Another challenge is being able to activate the technology in both linear and advanced TV environments simultaneously. That requires more effective measurement. 

“You’ve got to be able to measure the effectiveness, not just of traditional linear -- and those systems are fairly well known and well established -- but doing that along with some of the advanced TV investments that we're making across digital and data driven linear and streaming and connected TV,” Sweeney said. “That's the challenge right now. But we've got many progressive clients who understand that nothing is going to be 100% as the market evolves. But it has matured and we're going to lean more heavily into that in this year's upfront and beyond.”

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While advanced advertising technology is one way for marketers to recapture some of the ad dollars lost as more and more television viewers switch from traditional linear programming to streaming and lower commercial loads, Sweeney said they should also look toward other ways of driving engagement with viewers. 

Sweeney estimated that a typical one hour linear program has about 16 minutes of commercials, which drops to about six minutes for a one-hour ad-supported streaming show. While advanced ad technologies are one way that programmers and marketers can backfill some of that lost commercial time, in reality it forces them to try to broaden their audience reach. 

“...Really what it does is it forces marketers and their media agent to look at expanding the audiences and the ability to find those audiences beyond just traditional TV and digital, streaming and addressable environments. We need to go beyond that,” Sweeney said. “We need to look at audio as a channel, as a way to engage with folks. And then there are a lot of digital platforms that have incredibly high engagement numbers with younger demographics. We're also excited about some of those partnerships and how they're evolving as well.”

Sweeney was optimistic about the upcoming upfronts, adding they will be “a cake walk” compared to last year. But with the economy improving and demand declining, there is the danger of price inflation, of which Sweeney and his clients are well aware. 

“Our clients want to know where the value is,” Sweeney said. “I think there's a point at which the value of a unit or an impression gets beyond an effective and efficient investment vehicle.”

That could be remedied at least in part by expanding the audience reach through audio, digital and other means. Sweeney said GroupM and its clients will still lean heavily into  digital, streaming and addressable inventory across several platforms, “but we also have to have some optionality beyond that because at some point the prices don't make sense potentially.”