Facing the Fragmented Future at Advertising Week New York

Advertising Week New York, once fragmented across half a dozen or more venues in Manhattan, is now much easier to navigate since it was consolidated under one roof at the 13-screen AMC Loews Lincoln Square theater. Navigating video media fragmentation, though, remains a challenge. That’s why it was such a hot topic at this year’s event, with multiple panel discussions focused on the challenges that content producers, distributors, and advertisers face in dealing with the proliferation of video consumption platforms, devices, and content choices.

Leveraging data for targeting, measurement, attribution, and personalization were key themes of Advertising Week, which featured sessions from a4 Media on “Hitting the Target: Connecting with Everyone, Everywhere,” “Taking Back Control: How Brands and Agencies are Changing the Game,” and “Smart, Empowered Customers and the Personalization Paradox.” Attendees learned how today’s leading marketing and media executives are responding to the paradox of greater data and greater complexity.

“Video is now such a vast experience,” said Adina Smith, senior vice president, integrated marketing, brand, and PR, at hip hop culture–themed cable network REVOLT, explaining that, with so many ways to consume content, it’s getting more difficult for advertisers to target their desired audiences.

Advanced data solutions promise a path to navigating fragmentation, but with so many more content sources to measure, and new sophisticated digital measurement tools, the overabundance of data is becoming an issue. “There’s so much data out there now with the ACR content from OEM TV devices, set-top-box data, [and] data that’s being gathered by Roku and Netflix, you worry we’ll repeat the cycle of being over-addicted to secondary KPIs and lose sight of why we started this to begin with,” said John Povey, chief operating officer of a4 Media.

Sarah Baehr, executive vice president, co-chief investment officer, at Horizon Media, echoed that sentiment. “As we talk about data, I also feel like we talk too much about data,” she said. “There is not one single vendor that I meet with that doesn’t say that they have unique data and that they reach hundreds of millions of people. If I actually did all the math, there’s no way that there are that many people in the world to target. It’s really about finding data that’s truly meaningful.”

Baehr also stressed the increasing complexities caused by fragmentation, saying, “When I started out, media was like a medieval piece of art: flat, one dimensional. You knew what was on the page. Now, I feel like media is like a Damien Hirst installation times 20. You don’t know when the art begins, or when it ends, or if it’s even art.”

One immersive experiential installation at Advertising Week, which aimed to bookend the beginning and end of media fragmentation, was a4 Media’s “Time Tunnel.” It took participants on a virtual journey through the history of increased video media fragmentation — from 1950 to the present — wrapping with an overview of the company’s newest product, Athena. The tool leverages parent company Altice’s rich data resources to simplify the media buying process across a variety of cross-screen touchpoints, said Wael Sabra, senior vice president, product development, at a4 Media.

“Looking at the social networks [and] the search engines of the world, the reason they conquered advertising is they made the experience simple; they made it extremely easy for anybody, big or small, to purchase advertising,” Sabra explained. He noted that how household-level data is a key differentiator for a4: Facebook’s and Google’s “data is at the individual level and rolling up that individual-level data to household-level targeting is very relevant to a lot of advertisers.”

Despite the fragmentation today, the future is full of promise. “I’m actually very optimistic about 2020 and that may come as a surprise. I think that it is such a mess right now and, whenever things are this messy, it’s the mess before the bloom of the flowers,” said Jon Steinberg, president, Altice USA News. “Ultimately, clients and agencies don’t want to be buying only Facebook and Google. The mess that the media owners, the agencies, and the clients have collectively caused has resulted in this Facebook and Google problem. And I think everybody recognized it. I think that, hopefully, 2020 is a year where bringing diversity of media offerings to clients is a bigger way to serve those clients.”

The continued growth in the fragmentation of video media channels is the new reality. Povey emphasized that achieving the right channel mix is essential to reaching viewers across screens. “You’re not going to solve everything in Roku or [in] traditional linear TV,” he said. “It’s just finding that right mix to grow that reach across your target audience. Finding that right mix is that is always going to be a test-and-learn process.”

Sabra concluded: “We’re always going to have that next media platform to conquer. But the single constant around all of this is the audience. Once we put that at center stage, then the rest is easier.”

As originally published on Media Village on 10/1/2019 on Media Village

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