Tag Archive: streaming

  1. How can vehicles like YouTube be made safe?

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    YouTube is embroiled in yet another brand safety scandal

    YouTube was recently beleaguered by yet another scandal involving brand safety. A Wired investigation revealed that many major advertisers, including Alfa Romeo, Grammerly and L’Oreal were featuring alongside videos that had widespread activity by paedophiles in the comments section. In response, brands such as AT&T, Disney, Nestle and Epic Games pulled their YouTube spend. This isn’t the first time that they’ve had to do this following a brand safety scandal: in early 2017, UK newspaper the Times revealed that brands were unwittingly funding terrorism by appearing next to extremist videos. Indeed, AT&T had only recently resumed its spend before pulling it again after this latest issue.

    It appears that media vendors continue to sell very poor-quality content, and buyers continue to purchase it – will anything change? How?

    Why is this happening?

    With their ads appearing alongside some of the most unsavoury content imaginable, you’d be forgiven for assuming that brands would turn their backs on YouTube permanently, or at least until they could be assured that it wouldn’t happen again. You could also be forgiven for thinking that tackling this matter would be top of vendors’ list of priorities, given that their business model is so dependent on advertising. So what’s going on?

    It’s all about the money

    The answer is, as it so often is, money. For vendors, the temptation to sell huge bundles of automated or semi-automated impressions can be too strong to pass up, while the sheer reach of those impressions is hard for advertisers to resist. The issue here is a lack of motivation on both sides to police content: brands could be doing more to monitor their campaigns, while vendors certainly have work to do around the content that appears on their platforms, and what advertising appears next to that content. The algorithm always goes where eyeballs go, which can lead to errors: for example, children’s videos often have high viewing figures, and children don’t tend to skip ads. The algorithm thinks this is fertile ground for an advertiser and promptly serves… an alcohol ad. This is especially likely if the child is looking at mum’s iPad and the brand is using demographic targeting. To be fair, Google has gone to significant effort to build tech that can track consumers across all devices, but that hasn’t stopped its targeting capabilities falling short, as the example above illustrates.

    In short, these scandals are happening because of an industry that continues to reward quantity rather than quality.

    So what can be done to improve brand safety?

    This is a difficult battle but it’s certainly one worth fighting as digital advertising becomes ever more prevalent and important. Responsibility lies with the platforms, of course – they must try much harder to make their content safer (not just for advertisers), and to prevent ads being served alongside potentially damaging content. But brands have work to do as well.

    Advertisers must be more careful about where their ads are being served, and what bundles they buy. There will always be a conflict between reach and relevance: while vendors and tech firms sell a dream of the automated purchasing of millions of hyper relevant, this is completely unrealistic, particularly in the short and medium terms.

    Using premium marketplaces

    One avenue that some savvy brands are pursuing in order to mitigate the risk of ads being served alongside ‘unsafe’ content is premium marketplaces, such as Google’s Preferred programme, private marketplaces and programmatic direct deals. These platforms give brands access to – at a premium price – inventory that is higher quality, brand safe and more relevant, in theory at least. However, these platforms are becoming increasingly crowded by concerned advertisers, and the packages often leave out high quality content. Alarmingly, there have even been instances where the packages have included content that has caused the brand safety scandals that brands are desperately seeking to avoid.

    Other formats are an option

    Of course, there are other options to the ‘traditional’ video ad: native advertising is not only safer, but also easier to target at the right audiences, so you get relevance and reach.

    Vendors must act too

    Of course, it goes without saying that the platforms themselves must really focus on weeding out inappropriate content, and on being stricter about which content can be monetised through ads. This might be controversial amongst content producers who rely on ad dollars for their income, but it will be critical to the success of the video platforms and avoidance of the scandals that have beset them in recent years.

    There’s no easy answer

    This is a complex issue which will take a lot of work from both brands and vendors to overcome; there’s no silver bullet. Google’s EMEA president even admitted that the tech giant may well never be able to guarantee 100% safety for brands. Advertisers will need to accept that they can’t have both huge reach and hyper relevance: greater relevance will come at a cost through programmes such as Google Preferred or private programmatic exchanges. Meanwhile, vendors must of course invest in tools and technology to make their content safe – for advertisers and viewers.

    Image: Shutterstock

  2. The reincarnation of audio

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    The last decade has seen a huge focus on digital and visual innovation in the advertising industry; but marketers and practitioners have always known the value of non-intrusive, highly accessible and limit-free advertising, which is why we are seeing a recent re-incarnation of audio for this generation.

    Divergence and evolution

    The audio marketplace has seen a divergence and then evolution from the standard radio format towards the podcast and music platforms, although radio still remains crucial. The beauty of these mediums for the advertiser is the ad: no blocking and no ‘peak-time’ engagement driving up prices.

    Demand for on-demand audio driven by commutes and smart speakers

    On-demand audio streams surpassed 400bn in 2017, compared to 252bn in 2016. Commuting times are rising as people seek more peaceful lives outside of cities, and rail commutes are on average 2 hours and 11 minutes: it’s no wonder that the demand for podcasts and other on-demand audio has risen so dramatically. Furthermore, smart speaker streaming helped to drive an 8% increase in the number of hours spent listening to digital broadcasts in 2018 versus 2017. The resurgence of audio should not go unnoticed.

    Is the marketplace ready for digital audio?

    Whilst the marketplace re-aligns with its audio roots, it is inevitable that there will be challenges for media planners, advertisers and auditors alike. The proliferation of streaming, smart devices and wifi has given consumers greater autonomy over their time and their method of consumption. Whilst this provides excellent opportunities for reach and brand awareness for advertisers, it begs the question: does the marketplace have the tools and devices ready to provide accountable and accurate tracking and analytics? Until these tools are standardised and harnessed across the market, it is likely the adoption of digital audio into media planning will remain consistent, but slow. Investment into this medium will be a lower priority until it can be demonstrated that digital audio outputs add strong, measurable value.

    Alongside this tracking and analytics issue, the industry will need to work out how to harness the increased quantity of data in order to drive further engagement with consumers. While digital audio attracts investment with an environment that is free of ad-blocking, it does create a transparency issue for the consumer-agency-platform owner relationship.

    An exciting future for audio

    The future of digital audio is an exciting one. The integration of programmatic audio is set to   propel audio back onto the main stage of advertising channels. Programmatic advances will increase campaign ROI, augment automation and decrease audio costs. The combination of these factors, alongside the accessibility and increase in the number of platforms will see marketers, advertisers and auditors being forced to become more innovative and dynamic in a format once seen to be traditional and static.

    All hail the return of audio: finally, our eyes will be given a rest from mobile screens!

    Image: Shutterstock

  3. Does mobile pose a threat to TV?

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    Audiences appear to be increasingly consuming video on their mobile devices. What does that mean for TV?

    A few weeks ago, we posted a blog asking if video streaming spelled the end of the TV industry as we know it. We concluded that TV would survive – even thrive – as long as it adapts and innovates. But the medium is not just fighting a battle on one front: mobile is another contender for the throne.

    The mobile decade

    Arguably, nothing has changed the face of media consumption – and therefore advertising – over the last decade as much as mobile. The statistics are familiar: in many developed countries, smartphone penetration is at around 70%, and mobile connection statistics tell a similar story: in 2008, there were 4.02 billion mobile connections globally, while in 2018 this had more than doubled to 8.53 billion – and in 2020 the figure is projected to be 9.02 billion. Human beings are duly becoming more reliant on their phones: in the UK for example, people spend around 24 hours a week on them, on average, and check them every 12 minutes, and this trend is reflected around the world. The mobile phone has replaced the television as the media device that we most miss; in 2007, 52% most missed the TV, while 13% missed their phone the most. 11 years later, the figures were 28% and 46% respectively.

    A bleak future for TV?

    Indeed, you could be forgiven for believing that the growth of mobile means a bleak future for linear TV. The young, mobile generation are increasingly tending to stream video content instead of watching traditional linear TV, and often do so on a mobile device. Many tech companies have noted this and are acting upon it: in June, CBS announced that it will be streaming NFL games on mobile devices from this autumn, while, shortly after closing their acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T announced the launch of their new mobile streaming service, Watch TV. These services will no doubt be popular, thanks in part to the smaller ad load for content streamed on a mobile.

    TV is still the most popular medium for video consumption

    However, Nielsen data released this week suggests that mobile is not denting TV’s success as much as it seems. Of 5.57 hours a day that US adults spent watching video in quarter one of this year, 4.46 of those were on live or time-shifted TV, while only 15 minutes were on a smartphone or tablet. Young people aged 18-34 were the only demographic who spent longer on a tablet or smartphone consuming general content (not just video) than on a TV. What’s more, even those households that don’t have a traditional TV don’t rely on their mobile devices to watch TV programming: 27% use a computer and 30% go elsewhere (to a friend’s or public place), compared to 16% using a mobile device.

    TV versus mobile in the future

    Will this change as the young, mobile generation grow older and take their mobile habits with them, replacing the more stagnant habits of older people? Or will they change their habits as they age to reflect those of their parents? Will increasing concern around mobile addiction and interest in digital detoxes encourage people to put their phones down and switch their attention to television? Time will answer all these questions, but we believe that TV is here to stay. One commentator said that ‘mobile is a wart on the ass of TV’: while we think that mobile is more significant in the video space than that, we can’t imagine that consumers will transform viewing habits so much that they will choose en masse to watch long-form content on a mobile over their television. TV is safe for now but, as always, needs to innovate and adapt to stay ahead of the game.

    Thumbnail image: Lolostock/Shutterstock.com

  4. Media audits: the big four or specialists?

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    In an increasingly complex media landscape, media audits are becoming ever more important; should advertisers choose one of the ‘big four’ firms or a smaller media specialist to carry out their audits?

    The media audit – understanding efficiency and transparency in media activity

    In an increasingly digital and competitive world, where brands are concerned about transparency and about the effectiveness of every single dollar invested in advertising, the media audit is a very important tool in the CMO’s toolbox. Not only does it help advertisers to ensure that their agency partner(s) are delivering on their marketing and business objectives in the most efficient and transparent way possible, but it also enables them to identify errors and troubleshoot effectively: particularly crucial in an age of automated buying.

    Choosing a media auditor

    Once an advertiser has decided that they are going to carry out a media audit with their media agency partner or partners and established the KPIs of the audit, the next step is to select the auditor themselves. The options here are not myriad – this is not a huge industry – but they can be more or less divided into two camps – big generalists, or smaller specialists. The former, comprising the ‘big four’ audit firms – KPMG, EY, PwC and Deloitte – carry out audits across many industries for blue chip clients across the world, and are often chosen by clients for their undoubted auditing and accountancy experience, or because they have successfully audited another part of the company. The other camp comprises the smaller specialists, among whom we at ECI count ourselves. While these specialists do not boast the vast scale of the Big Four, there is huge value in having media specialists audit media activity.

    The big four versus the specialists

    In 2016, Sir Martin Sorrell urged advertisers to choose one of the Big Four to carry out their media audit, largely because they are chartered accountancy firms and are therefore subject to regulation. Sorrell said that he was concerned about giving specialist media auditors access to his group’s privileged information, given that they ‘lack professional rules and regulations’. This is a view

    commonly held by media agencies, an unkind interpretation of which is that they are nervous of having their activity audited by media specialists – some of whom may have even worked agency-side and know which stones to turn. In any case, we are convinced that, in an industry renowned for complexity that increases by the day, it can only be to an advertiser’s advantage to have experienced media practitioners examining and analysing agency practices – because they do indeed know what they are looking for.

    Impartiality issues

    In the wider business world, the big four are having to answer big questions about their work, having been involved in the auditing of failing or failed businesses such as Carillion in the UK, which went into liquidation earlier this year. Their impartiality has also on many occasions been called into question; PwC and Deloitte’s creative offerings (PwC Digital Services and Deloitte Digital respectively) are among the largest creative agencies in the world, putting them directly into competition with the holding companies that own the very agencies they are being hired to audit. Meanwhile, Accenture – not one of the Big Four but similar in offering and scale – has recently launched its programmatic offering, negating, in our view, impartiality for its audit function: this is indicative of a wider industry trend.

    In the end, the choice is of course up to the advertiser themselves, who should make their decision based on their specific needs and preferences. The key is to ensure you study the media agency contract carefully and agree on the scope of the audit with both the agency and the chosen auditor. Ultimately, it is about ensuring that every media dollar is used as effectively and efficiently as possible in order to drive higher media value.

    Thumbnail image: chase4concept/Shutterstock.com

  5. The Digital World Cup

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    There are few events that unite audiences like the FIFA World Cup. The passion, excitement and anguish evoked by the beautiful game crescendos for one month every four years, and this year fans from Poland to Peru and Saudi Arabia to Senegal have turned their attention to Russia, pinning their hopes on their national team and praying that this will be their year: the fans of all but one country will have those dreams dashed. Even Americans, whose national team failed to qualify and who are traditionally less interested in soccer, are still gripped by the drama that unfolds daily.

    Sports audiences are turning their attention towards digital channels

    Of course, such focus and emotion makes the World Cup fertile ground for brands who are looking to coherently engage a global audience. Once, TV was the obvious choice of channel for these brands, who would plough millions upon millions of dollars into sponsorship, premium TV spots and experiential activity. However, the increased adoption of digital and social media in recent years has forced advertisers to take a step back and consider how to best to reach those who have migrated away from TV: while 62% of the 3.2bn-strong audience still plan to watch the games on TV, 30% will stream them online – a figure that increases in developing countries and likely in countries with a dramatic time difference to Russia. Over half of the TV viewers will use social media while they are watching. Some had feared that the all-important millennials were drifting away from sport in general but, as this McKinsey study found, they are in fact simply fragmenting their viewing habits, streaming games and using social media to check highlights, scores and news. This is backed up by a Google study which shows that there has been a 90% increase in searches for highlights videos in the last year. This is compounded by the fact that many social platforms are becoming increasingly video-heavy – see Instagram’s recent announcement that it will allow users to post videos of up to 60 minutes.

    TV is losing broadcasting rights as well as audiences to tech giants

    All this is happening against a backdrop of an equally seismic shift in the live sports landscape: the buying up of broadcast rights for sporting events by non-traditional entities such as telco companies and even tech giants such as Amazon, is having a profound effect on traditional broadcasters and, by extension, on advertisers. Not only do the broadcasters lose viewership during the sporting events, but also afterwards as they lose the opportunity to market for future programming to the large sporting audience: smaller viewership means fewer eyeballs on ads. At the same time, the new players like Amazon finance the purchase of their rights through means other than ads, for example subscription fees, thereby removing a huge message distribution opportunity for advertisers. This means that the pricing of what remains increases, particularly around high-value programming.

     

    So, what does this all mean for marketers who might previously have relied on international sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympic Games to reach the often elusive younger male audience, as well as the others who only engage with sport every few years?

    Advertisers must respond by adapting and innovating

    The answer is, as so often, to follow the consumer and to innovate. It goes without saying that advertisers need to look at allocating a large proportion of their budget to digital channels; however, they should also be looking for ways to enhance the enjoyment of the event for consumers and give them what they want by creating exciting new products for added value. We know that millennials have short attention spans thanks to the huge range of options available to them, so products such as fun contests, easily shareable gossip and opinions and ‘whip-around’ highlights could be great ways to engage with them and hold their attention.

    Sporting influencers are a huge opportunity

    Sport by its very nature creates influencers with huge followings: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo drove 570m social engagements between January and May this year, while Neymar drove nearly 300m (both figures from Nielsen). Savvy brands are capitalising on these figures: McDonald’s in Brazil incorporated Neymar and his Twitter activity into their #prepara World Cup campaign, while Vodafone has not only featured Egyptian Mohamed Salah in their World Cup activity, but harnessed his social following as well. Visa’s global campaign features six influencers, most notably Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimović and makes the most of his innate charm and popularity.

    TV is still important – but it no longer monopolises audiences

    TV is by no means dead and still commands the lion’s share of audiences for live sporting events, including for major ones such as the World Cup and the Olympics. However, advertisers need to be mindful that the trend of audience migration to more digital viewing behaviour shows no sign of abating, and should respond accordingly.

    Thumbnail image: Pasko Maksim/Shutterstock.com