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by Mike Welch, head of Xandr

What a year. We all expected radical change in the premium advertising industry — but none of us could have predicted this much, this fast. New technologies and emerging channels are giving advertisers prime access to their audiences, bringing more relevant messages at the right moments at scale. All this at a time when consumer behavior has arguably changed faster than ever before.

Connected TV is exploding with year-on-year growth, not just in the U.S. but around the world. Global users of over-the-top (OTT) TV services are forecast to increase from 1.8 billion in 2017 to 2.9 billion in 2025. For our part, Xandr is seeing the growth of CTV in the mid-triple digits, and come next year, video will likely surpass display in terms of spend share in our marketplace. Any platform that hasn’t already adopted a serious video-first mindset won’t keep up with market demands.

Alongside the rise of CTV, the introduction of data and automation to linear TV is helping to drive performance. Emerging technology enables TV ad buyers to negotiate with multiple broadcasters with speed, flexibility and holistic insight into reach and frequency.

Still, a completely audience-based approach is not yet widely accepted. According to the 2020 Relevance Report, slightly less than half of the U.S. buyers responsible for both TV and digital video say they are currently turning to data beyond traditional age and gender demos to create more relevant advertising.

This matters especially because one of the most significant opportunities for the industry in the next six months is the convergence of CTV and data-driven linear TV. The benefit to advertisers from the converged buying and selling of premium video is enormous: Think of bringing a single target audience to a DSP, uploading a single budget and executing a single buy that provides de-duplicated reach and campaign reporting across both connected TV and data-driven linear TV.

While these are exciting times, they’re also tinged with the anxiety and loss of the pandemic. The events of 2020 necessitated quick adjustments to rapidly changing consumer behavior — some of which represent short-term shifts, but others that will likely remain established practices. More audiences stayed home, of course, and that happened just as CTV streaming services were already driving growth in viewership away from traditional TV. This has led to double-digit declines in ad revenues for traditional TV, and programmers have had to innovate around their data-driven linear solutions.

It’s said that necessity is the mother of innovation, and collaboration is key to this. And when it comes to collaborative innovation, a rising tide lifts all boats, so this is not just about one company but the industry at-large.

We’re better together.

One area in which working together is particularly critical is bringing identity solutions to bear outside the walled gardens worldwide. Advertisers across international markets, with varying sets of data privacy regulations, are marrying first- and third-party data sets to reach the right audience. They need partners that can help them integrate data effectively and compliantly across content and media types.

Working with an open, end-to-end platform is a highly effective way to achieve these integrations. Such a platform is uniquely positioned to work, internally and with partners, on a diverse array of global identity efforts, from common industry data solutions to support for clients’ proprietary data strategies, to differentiated partnerships with scaled first-party data owners. It’s all on the table.

This mindset is also why Xandr collaborated to bring Prebid as an open standard header bidding solution for display inventory several years ago and why the work continues on a similar open standard for OTT. Open, transparent and interoperable solutions ultimately benefit all parties in the ecosystem, fostering innovation rather than fragmentation and driving more spend to premium video.

Looking forward, the industry can build on the extraordinary resilience it has shown this year. Technology partners can help by delivering marketplaces that give advertisers a better way to connect with the audiences they want and need. It will be extremely exciting to see what the industry can accomplish together in the coming year.

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