Advanced Ads: Pricing, Speed Will Drive Insertable Advertising

New York – Pricing of data and the speed at which that data is available to clients will be the primary drivers for insertable advertising success, a panel of ad experts said during a discussion at the "Advanced Advertising: Profiting from a Targeted Audience" event at the Grand Hyatt Thursday.

Insertable advertising – basically the ability to dynamically place advertising messages directly in on-demand programming during mid-roll breaks – has been a growing but elusive business for many cable operators over the years. While the industry's repeated claims that "this is the year" for insertable ads have become almost a running joke for the past decade, panelists insisted that 2014 and 2015 could see the technology live up to its full potential.

BlackArrow President Nick Troiano said that what is essential to the industry's success is to have a currency and a sense of how insertable ad data is packaged. The technology, he said, is already here.

"All of the operators have enough data to pass on to Nielsen to make a C4-plus strategy work," Troiano said, adding that the next step is to create pricing strategies that make sense.

"2014 or 2015 will be the tipping point," Troiano predicted. "The question is how the industry is going to value that."

Chris Pizzurro, Canoe head of product sales and marketing, said another important factor is ensuring the data being delivered is authentic.

Pizzurro said that all the data that can be received from MSOs is assembled at a central location, where it is then submitted for MRC certification. That, he said, ensures that the household data is valid and can later accurately be carved up by age, sex or other demographic distinction.

John Gee, Placemedia senior VP of sales, said that speed in dissecting that data also is key. In some cases, he said it can take as long as 115 days to get a full report from a network.

"It's never going to get bought if it takes 115 days," Gee said. "We should be able to get a report back in 24 or 48 hours."

Artie Bulgrin, ESPN senior VP of global research and analytics, agreed, adding that a hybrid approach that would involve data on the specific devices being watched and the demographics of the watchers.  

"The technology can handle the device measurement," Bulgrin said. "We have to work on people measurement."

Panel moderator Tim Hanlon, founder and CEO of The Vertere Group, said that one of the problems that has hampered the acceptance of insertable ads is that there is one set of currencies for program-centric ads and another for digital advertising activities.

Hanlon added that there has never been a shortage of interest from advertisers about insertable ads, but that they begin to lose interest when told that it can only be done in a certain number of homes and that the technologies and methodologies being used differ from vendor to vendor.

Billy Farina, Cox Media senior VP of ad sales, said that the market is going to have to play itself out.

"The networks have an opportunity to create better engagement of their content, now are going to want to have control on how they watch and interact with it," Farina said.

Scale will also play an important role, Bulgrin said.

"Advertisers like Coca-Cola, that's what they want," he added. "If they come to premium networks like us, they're looking for reach. They would love to do advanced advertising with us, but they need the scale. They need a common approach that links all these platforms together."