Digital Placed Based Media Makes Its Big Move

As if the current television environment isn't challenging enough with flat expected revenue, expanding linear viewing choices, audience fragmentation, cross platform viewing, VOD, DVR, and commercial ratings, there is apparently a new set of challenges eroding potential ad dollars according to the DPAA at its recent conference.

This challenge to media ad dollars may be coming from the most unlikely places - a taxi, an elevator or even a gas pump.  In this ever expanding and developing area of digital placed based media, any place where the consumer journey takes place is an opportunity to reach them via a screen. And digital placed based media is already recognized by brands and advertisers as valuable opportunities to reach their target consumer.  As Jack Haberman at Colgate Palmolive says, "Video is the new day part". That means that viewers are no longer tethered to the home screen… or any one based device... or by any time of day. Prime time can be any time and any place; morning at the gym, lunchtime at your desk, commutation in a cab or train.

Consumers Rule
The proliferation of screens into all aspects of everyday life, both inside and outside the home, presents both opportunities and challenges for media companies, advertisers, brands and data companies. According to Francois De Gaspe Beaubien, chairman of the DPAA, "Consumers are spending most of their time out of the home. People are interacting with screens outside of their homes." That means that there is more competition for attention and more of a consumer driven environment for placing content. And with prescient content owners like HBO deciding to go OTT, it looks more and more like the content delivery chain, like everything else in media today, is fragmenting and morphing. More native advertising, more binging, more multi-tasking is coupled with less reliable measurement, less concentrated viewer attention and less control of the chain by the old television guard.

Who is to Blame?
There is certainly enough blame to go around. Technology certainly plays a large role in this disruption. Jack Myers gave an inspiring talk about how technology is forever changing media habits. He says, “The fundamental culture of our business is changing. Every minute of every day, consumers’ media habits are radically different than they were last year, two years ago, ten years ago and certainly dramatically different than they were 20 years ago.”

But in addition to technology, traditional media’s way of doing business also contributes to the viewers’ changing habits. Ad time within a TV program can be more than 25% of the program run time. Commercial pods are getting longer, encouraging viewers to find ways to avoid ads. BTIG’s Rich Greenfield noted that “Binge viewing drives more binge viewing. We are learning to watch in a certain way. We are training consumers to avoid ads.”

Challenges – Measurement, Privacy and Fraud
However, digital placed media has a few challenges as well. For one, there is no standard accredited measurement across all OOH platforms. The current Nielsen measurement consists of audience studies that are conducted as proprietary research with each study funded by the measured network. Nielsen then takes these studies across all measured nets and compiles into one report that is issued quarterly to the marketplace. According to MediaVest’s David Shiffman “A few years back, the DPAA issued specific guidelines for their members to follow for audience measurement with the goal to help ensure some standardization in what gets measured and how it is measured.”

There is also the privacy concern. Deutsch’s Anush Prabhu noted that “there is a lot more data available today. We can tell your geo location from your phone which is cool but also creepy.” Microsoft’s Natasha Hritzuk added, “Consumers are aware that their data is being collected. It is the lack of transparency as to how we are using the data that is the problem. We need simple conditions that we can opt into and a clear value exchange.”

Fraud is another concern. As Barry Frey, President and CEO of the DPAA remarked, “Kraft has said that 75-85% of their data is fraudulent and they will not use it.” Companies are responding to this challenge. According to MEC’s Shenan Reed, “We are going to 100% viewable which is higher than the industry standard. We will only pay for something that is 100% viewable.”

Ultimately, the DPAA conference was a high note for digital placed based media. As Frey concluded, "We received terrific feedback on this year's Video Everywhere Summit from many of the record 700+ people in attendance. The sessions covered not only issues specific to the rapidly growing digital place based media sector, but those of importance to the overall media and advertising ecosystem as well. It's always rewarding and exhilarating when so many months of planning coalesce into a worthwhile day for so many people." See a video of some of the highlights of the DPAA conference here. (insert link or embed)


The End of Traditional Cable Television. Q&A with Peter Redford

For those who cling to the traditional ways of doing business, a discussion with ILOOK’s CEO Peter Redford will send shivers down your spine. 

Redford has a long history in media improvement and disruption. He was there in the beginning with the development of the mouse, the laser printer, GUI and the Ethernet while working for PARC right out of graduate school. “The public would not see these technologies for several more years. The PARC experience changed my life — it reinforced in me the notion that ANYTHING is possible. It also got me hooked on electronic media.”

From there, Redford got his hands into micro-processing, sound cards, flash and developing the first steps towards touch technology. Eventually he started his own company ILOOK which is focused on changing the face of traditional cable television.

I sat down with Peter and asked him the following questions:

CW: What is your background - how did you get to where you are today?

PR: I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1977 with a master’s degree in integrated circuit (chip) design, which was the hottest field at the time (like Big Data is today). Then I was hired out of school by Xerox PARC to be on their research staff to develop a methodology for the design of VLSI (very large scale integration) chips. We also worked on the graphical user interface (GUI), the Ethernet, the mouse, the laser printer and electronic media.

Eventually I was recruited by Zilog to help them design the Z80 microprocessor. It turned out to be the most popular microprocessor ever designed. Zilog was acquired by EXXON and I received a small windfall from my stock options. Shortly after that, with this small windfall and a Zilog engineer named Jim Miller, I started my first company, Redford-Miller Productions (RMP). Inspired by Star Wars, our mission was to develop advanced electronic media technology and to use it to produce science fiction movies. The first advanced technology was going to be a 16-bit digital mixer, modeled after a room-sized digital mixer that Jim used while studying at Stanford. We finished our version in 1982 and it fit into two ganged IBM PCs. In late 1982, Yamaha purchased our digital mixer technology and integrated it into a chip-set that became known as the Sound Blaster sound card. We never did produce a movie.

I took this second small windfall and in January of 1983 started my second company, Trillian Computer. My mission was to develop the first ever animation engine that would run on the IBM PC. We called it Action.  By 1984, Action was used by virtually all PC software companies to create product demos and tutorials. In 1986 the technology was acquired by Macromedia and, when Adobe acquired Macromedia, became known as Flash.

I took this third small windfall and in January 1990 started a company called TV Interactive (TVI). My mission was to create a technology that merged the personal computer with the television set and was useable even by small children. By 1993 we had a “touch-&-view” technology called AirPlay. When a child touched a picture of a horse on a printed page (2nd screen), the page signaled a computer (1st screen) which played a short video about horses. The video was stored on a CD. We quickly realized, however, that an adult was needed to start the CD because the process required many keystrokes and mouse clicks (and the reading of an entire page of instructions). So, we developed another technology which we called AutoPlay. Now the child simply inserted the CD into the drive and the correct program started automatically. After we filed fourteen patents for both technologies we showed them to Microsoft, hoping that they would include AutoPlay in the forthcoming Windows 95. Just a few months after our meeting, Microsoft did include AutoPlay in Windows 95 — without a license from TVI. When all the AutoPlay patents were granted in 2004, I sued Microsoft (along with all PC, DVD and Blu-ray player manufacturers) for infringement — and won! 

In 2009 I took this not-so-small windfall and started a company called ILOOK. My mission was to develop a television platform that would be a successor to traditional cable.

CW: Tell me about your company and your role in it.

PR: I am the CEO of ILOOK Corporation, located in San Jose, CA.  ILOOK is a cloud-powered OTT television platform, modeled after traditional cable, that instantly converts YouTube channels into branded mobile "channel apps" enabling: “Amazon of TV networks” and “GoogleAds of TV commercials”; video plays on mobile or connected TV; zero-cost broadcasting; e-commerce enabled commercials; and a user-customizable, “touch & view” program guide on the user’s mobile device.

“Amazon of TV networks” implies an infinite “shelf space” for TV networks — so, anyone can create and operate a TV network on ILOOK. “GoogleAds of TV commercials” means that ILOOK inserts TV commercials into TV networks just like Google inserts text ads into websites. The end result is an Ebay-like marketplace that crowd sources an infinite number of ads (TV commercials) and add-space (TV networks). ILOOK keeps 10% of TV commercial revenue, 90% goes to channel app owners. 

TV viewers download only the channels they want from app stores to their mobile device screens. Starting a “channel app” displays the program guide. Touching a program listing plays the program on the mobile screen or on any connected TV screen.  

CW: How would a specific channel break through the clutter?

PR: To discover Channel Apps of interest, a TV viewer typically performs a simple keyword search. Channel Apps in the search result can be listed according to different sort orders such as most popular or newest on top. Although there may be millions of available Channel Apps, the viewer only downloads a small handful that will be watched repeatedly. Just like with print magazines -- there are over 18,000 of them in the US but most people only subscribe to 2 or 3. 

CW: Wouldn’t this fragment the network market and create tiny networks?

PR: Yes, there will be thousands or even millions of affinity networks. The US print magazine industry has  18,000 magazines that represent 265 interests (affinities). The lower barrier to entry when creating a TV network on ILOOK compared to printing a magazine will make it cost-effective to cover even narrower areas of interest via a huge number of special interest networks. 

CW: What measurement would you use – what are some of the metrics you would report?

PR: Which videos were watched, when, how much of each video was watched. Did the viewer "Like" the video or share it. How much of each commercial was watched. How often did the advertised product generate a viewer response. 

CW: Would you use a form of programmatic buying?

PR: Yes. A video playing on the mobile or TV screen can trigger the display of a Buy Now Button on the mobile screen. Also, a video's information pane can include a Buy Now button. 

CW: How would this work on connected TVs?

PR: The connected TV is just a "slave" display for the mobile device. All the user activities, such as buying or searching are always performed by the mobile device. 

However, when a mobile device commands a connected TV to play a video, the video streams from the cloud directly to the TV -- not through  the mobile device. This saves battery power and allows the phone to be used for other tasks (such as making a call). 

CW: Is this multi-platform?

PR: Yes. iOS now, Android in Q4. 

CW: Where do you see the media landscape in the next 3-5 years. Give me some predictions.

PR: Let’s see…

1.  The Internet will become the preferred “pipe” for TV providers, replacing cable/satellite/telco pipes. This will be mostly because of Internet's lower cost compared to proprietary cable/sat/telco networks and because it will enable new services such as e-commerce enabled commercials.

2.  All TV commercials will become e-commerce enabled. For example, a TV commercial playing on a TV screen will trigger the display of a Buy Now button on the viewer’s mobile device. This will have profound implications on the effectiveness of advertising by reducing the “impulse-to-purchase” time to zero.

3.  The 2nd screen (mobile device) will become a de-facto, “touch & view" electronic program guide (EPG). Video will play on the 1st screen (TV) or on the 2nd screen (mobile) but the EPG will always be displayed only on the 2nd screen. This will ensure a consistent UI independent of which screen the video is playing on, and will make it simple to switch screens. All TV “brains” will be in the mobile device. The TV will be just a dumb display device.

4.  Media players such as Roku, AppleTV and Amazon Fire will disappear to be replaced by “thin clients” like Chromecast that will be embedded in dongles like the current Chromecast and directly in TVs. The media player approach is a dead-end because it does not allow touch & view (a dedicated remote must be used), does not allow screen switching (because the “brain” is in the box that is physically connected to a TV)  and is more expensive (since it needs lots of memory to store channel apps and to display the program guide). Thin clients rely the mobile device to store the channel apps and to display the program guide.

First published, in abbreviated form, on


Q&A with eXelate's Jim Hackett

Jim Hackett, VP of Tech Operations for eXelate, started in the backend / web development area of the financial industry before moving into the advertising sector in a range of tech start-ups. At eXelate, he is responsible for technology implementation, including the creation of segments that power programmatic buying platforms using disparate data sets. One could say that eXelate is the data power behind programmatic decision-making and that Hackett is the great mind behind that power. I might add that he is a graduate of my alma mater, SUNY Binghamton.

In this fascinating interview, Hackett talks about eXelate and the role it plays in the media industry, the data ecosystem, how segmentation works and how the media landscape is evolving over the next few years. 

There are four videos in the interview:

Subject                                                 Length (in minutes)
Background                                                       (4:18)
What is eXelate?                                              (6:23)
Segments                                                           (5:33)
Predictions                                                         (6:38)

Charlene Weisler interviews Jim Hackett, VP of Tech Operations for eXelate who talks about his background in this 4:18 minute video:

CW: Tell me about eXelate.

JH: eXelate is the leading independent data platform and we provide marketers with the insights and massive reach needed to more effectively engage consumers.  Our data management platform, maX DMP, which is fueled by our eXchange, gives marketers the ability to manage, model, mobilize and measure their first-party data across video, mobile, and display channels.  The eXchange, which is the largest pool of directly measured consumer data that I’ll be talking more about, reaches two billion active consumers worldwide and includes key online and offline purchasing touch points.

eXelate’s data exchange for online advertising works with hundreds of online publishers to gather behavioral information about users. We package this information into segments and our larger ones are around travel, auto purchase, and shopping information. We also have demographic segments.

We also have a very mature modeling system where, if we are given a signal around any type of event that we are getting from data providers, we can take that signal and map it across our entire data universe to come up with a model that would say that people with these other attributes are very like this attribute. So, we are able to model out panel audiences that are provided to us by other data providers and still maintain data privacy.

CW: How do you fit into Programmatic?

JH: We are a bit unique in the industry because we don’t actually run any media. We don’t manage campaigns. We don’t drive campaigns or conversion metrics. We provide data that allows those campaigns to run more effectively. 

"What is eXelate?" Jim Hackett explains this to Charlene Weisler in the 6:23 minute video:

CW: Do you have standard segments? Do you create custom segments? How does the process work?

JH: We have both. We have a standard taxonomy that is broken out into three major categories – demographic, interest and intent. If you think of it from a visual perspective, it is like a funnel – everyone has a demographic, generally people have interests and then certain people have intent to do something. In the demographic area, we have things like age, gender, income level, career, job types – that sort of thing. In interests, we have things like auto owners like “I own a Nissan”. In intent, we have things like “in market to purchase a Nissan”. It is a similar concept for things like CPG products, where there are products that you might be more interested in or you are a general consumer of those types of products, as compared to something like “Today, I want to buy an iPhone”. That is where it parses out with intent. All of this is on the syndicated side – the eXelate exchange side. The taxonomy changes but not that frequently. There might be a few updates here and there on a monthly basis. But, we like to keep it consistent because it makes it easier for people who are targeting the segments to understand what they look like. If we make too many changes, it will be hard for them to track over time.

We also allow branded partners to create their own categories for whatever purpose they want. Examples of that might be for Nielsen or Mastercard, where those segments are defined directly by them. They know who their advertising audience is and how they are looking to buy. They have very specific naming conventions and they know what their segments look like.  Outside of all of this, we have the ability to create any custom segment that an advertiser would like. What people have the ability to do is the ability to combine our segments inside the advertising platform that they are integrated with. On the branded side, one thing we have seen over the past year or so is that those brands have the ability to create very customized segments for some very specific advertisers and push those to specific platforms only for that advertiser. So, we have the ability to do all of that but definitely on the custom side we are seeing more on the branded side than on the exchange side.

Charlene Weisler interviews Jim Hackett, of eXelate who talks about segmentations in this 5:33 minute video:

CW: The word “platform” has different meanings depending on where we are. What is your definition of platform?

JH: For us a platform is anywhere where we push data and the data can be analyzed for a media buy. So the platforms that we push our data into are advertising exchanges such as Google Adx but we are also integrated with essentially all of the DSPs or the SSPs.

CW: How do you think connected TVs will impact your business?

JH: We are currently integrating with mobile and the way we define our integration there is cross platform. So we are not focused on mobile, per sey. We are building out a cross platform capability and mobile happens to be the first. Things are become more and more digital and it is already happening in TV. A few months ago I met with Visible World. What they are doing with the RTB of TV is very interesting.    

In this final video, Jim Hackett talks about how the media industry will trend over the next few years and offers some predictions to Charlene Weisler. The video is 6:38 minutes: