Insights from day 1 of CES 2020

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Las Vegas, early January: it must be time for CES, time for 180,000 delegates to discover, quite literally, what the future holds. Alongside the famous show floor, where delegates can enjoy futuristic product demos from brands as diverse as Samsung, Nikon and Impossible Foods, there is a dazzling array of talks and discussions on a wide range of topics, from smart cities to health and fitness.

We spent our first day on the ‘Future of TV’ tract, a series of panel discussions and talks featuring brands, agencies and TV experts discussing what the future holds for TV, and what that means for advertisers.

A mantra for the new decade: progress before perfection

The day started with a session on ‘The New Frontier of Television’, with the Editor of Forbes’ CMO Network, Jenny Rooney, interviewing Deborah Wahl, Global CMO of General Motors, about what developments in TV mean for her brand. Deborah talked about how GM has reaped huge benefits from the rapidly changing TV landscape – their effectiveness has increased by 10% over just three month – and how they are embracing the change by getting their teams comfortable with learning and failing. She noted – as have many over the week – that failure is inevitable, but that’s ok. If everything you do is working all the time, then you’re not doing enough, because there’s so much out there to play with. Deborah’s mantra epitomises this mindset: progress before perfection.

Deborah also discussed how excited she is about the future of TV and how the huge amount of data available to advertisers now is helping creativity to become scientific. It’s delivering faster, better, more measurable results so that creative can be customised in almost real-time, creating content that is better for consumers – and therefore better for brands.

When CTV effectiveness is fully measurable and provable, ad dollars will shift quickly

Next up was a panel featuring Lynn Blashford of White Castle, Gustavo Alvarado of Activision and PepsiCo’s Kate Brady, facilitated by Innovid’s Stephanie Geno. The group discussed scaling success in connected TV (CTV), and started out by discussing what is holding brands back from CTV: it receives just 3% of media investment in the US, despite accounting for 30% of media consumption. The key reasons given were measurement, high CPMs, a lack of inventory and proven models from linear TV: investment in tradition TV has always led to an increase in sales, and it’s difficult to take money away from something that is proven to work. Brands are still looking for ways to illustrate success as clearly and quickly for digital devices and CTV so they can start shifting significant ad dollars to these platforms.

Kate Brady mentioned how her ultimate goal is to harness data from CTV to optimise activity on a weekly basis – and ideally even more frequently – ‘the more data we can have, and the better we can optimise, the more it will help us’. She emphasised the importance of using data to work out what resonates with one customer versus another, so that personalisation can drive brand love as well as ROI. Meanwhile, Gustavo Alvarado discussed how direct response hasn’t been a focus on how we buy TV, but the opportunity to ‘add to cart’ direct from a CTV ad would be a really exciting development for advertisers. However – he said that whatever the future holds, it must be measurable. Measurement is key.

What do the streaming wars mean for CMOs?

With the launch or imminent launch of streaming platforms from Disney, Apple, NBC and Warner, we were particularly excited about the next session, about what the streaming wars mean for CMOs. Innovid’s Tal Chalozin interviewed Rich Greenfield from LightShed Partners about how CMOs can best navigate this new landscape. Rich noted how numbers for live TV are down by double digit percentages, and even when we do watch live TV we are not as engaged as we used to be, particularly during ad breaks. That’s true even for live sport, the saving grace of linear TV. This is partly because the ad experience on traditional TV is not nearly as engaging for viewers as it is on, say, Instagram. TV advertising has not kept up with the internet and isn’t customisable or shareable. He went on to discuss how expensive channel bundles are and how they force consumers to pay for channels they are not interested in. This, combined with a frequently heavy ad load, sends consumers straight into the embrace of the streaming platforms which are cheaper, offer content that they actually want to watch, and allow them to watch it seamlessly across devices.

An interesting point that Rob raised was the fact that wealthier consumers are now effectively able to buy themselves out of advertising – so how do we reach them? The obvious answer is live sport, but there simply isn’t enough to satisfy the demand of the many brands for whom wealthier demographics are their target audience. It’s a question that has yet to be answered, but integration may be part of the solution.

Moving from creating ads to curating experiences

Next to take to the stage was the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Mastercard, Raja Rajamannar, in discussion with Innovid’s Beth-Ann Eason about Mastercard’s new approach to marketing. Raja started by emphasising that Mastercard now looks at consumers as people, for whom consumption is just a small part of their lives. What happens outside of that consumption – how they live their lives, their values, their passions – informs how and what they consume. People are bored of ads and care more about experiences than things, so Mastercard’s marketing strategy focuses on ‘nothing but curating experiences’, targeted in a highly effective way. Raja’s team divided people’s lives into 10 different passion points, such as music and food, and curated multi-sensory experiences at scale, with seamless and non-intrusive integration of the Mastercard brand. These experiences engage people completely and make them want to tell and spread the story of that experience – word of mouth for the 21st century. This strategy and razor focus on experience has helped Mastercard to move from number 87 to number 12 in Kantar’s ranking of the top 100 most valuable brands, and to be named Interbrand’s fastest growing brand across all categories.

The future of linear TV in the US relies on NFL

Innovid’s ‘Future of TV’ tract was wrapped up by Luma’s inimitable Terry Kawaja, who took us on a rip-roaring ride through the stream wars and the future of TV. He pointed out that the streaming wars have created Nirvana for customers, who have more choice at less cost, and that the future for linear television in the US essentially rests in the hands of NFL. NFL contracts are up in the next few years, and the big tech companies such as Amazon are getting ready to swoop – Jeff Bezos himself has said that Amazon wants to use live sports to drive value for prime customers. The big problem for the linear TV companies? Those big tech companies have a lot more money, and global reach. In order to defend themselves, the broadcast networks are turning to scale consolidation, direct OTT distribution and CTV tech acquisition – but they need to do it quickly.

There are few losers in the future of TV

One of our favourite slides of the day was one that we shared on our LinkedIn page here. In it, Terry showed his audience the winners and losers of the streaming wars. For agencies, tech intermediaries, big tech, content creators and consumers the streaming wars are undoubtedly great news, while for media distributors it is less positive. Terry believed that for brands it could go either way, but in a subsequent panel discussion that he hosted with brand CMOs and TV experts, he revised his opinion and decreed that the age of streaming was in fact a great opportunity for brands!

An opportunity to bundle streaming service packages

Another key takeaway from Terry’s talk was his prediction that the myriad options available to consumers would in time open up an opportunity for an independent third party to re-aggregate the streaming platforms, bundling up their services in order to make them more manageable – and more affordable – for consumers. His prediction for who that third party could be? Apple – who could well want to position themselves at the top of the TV ‘waterfall’ in the same way that Amazon is for shopping and Google is for search.

More insights from #CES2020 tomorrow

Day one at CES was an incredible opportunity to hear from experts about their vision and predictions for the future of TV: if you would like to discuss anything you have read here in more depth with our experts then please ">get in touch. In tomorrow’s blog we’ll be covering the keynote from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman on their new mobile entertainment platform, Quibi, and bringing insights and innovation from the CES show floor.

Image: Alex Matthews

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