The world of asset identification can be a bit confusing. What exactly is asset identification? What are the different types? Why is it so important? These questions and more were answered at the Digital Management Association conference where I moderated a panel titled: Asset Identification – If You Can’t Identify It, You Can’t Measure It. If You Can’t Measure It You Can’t Monetize It. The panelists - Jane Clarke of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement ( CIMM), MAGNA’s Janice Finkel-Greene, Ad-ID’s Harold Geller and NBCU’s Steven Hernandez - engaged in a lively discussion of asset identification from both the programming and advertising perspective.
To some, asset identification is an arcane part of content tracking but as these panelists emphasized, ignore it at your peril. Janice Finkel-Greene likens asset identification to plumbing in a house. “Before you can paint the walls and add furniture, you need the plumbing to make the house habitable. Asset identification is like plumbing. You need it to install it before you can do all of those other things.”
The benefits of asset identification are numerous and valuable. Jane Clarke explains, “There are a host of benefits including helping companies determine the impact of each separate creative/media, measuring synergistic impact of cross-media combinations and effect of entire campaigns, and identifying best practices and innovating new methods for ROI and ROMO analysis such as dynamic ad insertion.”
According to Harold Geller, “Asset Identification is two things, a unique identifier and standardized ‘domain specific’ descriptive information (metadata). In order for an identifier to be unique, it must be assigned by a central authority, also known as a registration authority and in the case of our industry, that would be Ad-ID for Ads, and EIDR for long form content. These sorts of central authorities exist in other domains, such as UPC that identifies trade items like packaged goods, and ISBN that identifies books.” In the case of EIDR, there is one more component to asset identification: an enterprise level Web service that allows EIDRs to be looked up in real time as part of an advertising work flow.
There are 3 stages related to the asset identification processaccording to Geller:
Step 1: Register all video assets with Ad-ID and EIDR registries.
Step 2: Operationalize asset and ID flow-through using a “digital slate”. This is the ID flow-through within supply chain infrastructures (Agencies, vendors, media outlets).
Step 3: Embed Ad-ID and EIDR in all media measurement and reporting.
There are many forms of asset identification including watermarking and fingerprinting. Many embedded codes are proprietary to a particular company. Is it possible to agree on a standard way to register and identify assets? Geller says “Yes, the 4A's and ANA advocate the use of Ad-ID, 900 advertisers are already using it, CIMM has articulated the value of unique identification with its TAXI initiative, and now with the SAG-AFTRA mandate for Ad-ID (between 70 & 90% of Video ads, and 1/3 or Audio Ads use union talent) there is no reason why every advertiser wouldn't use Ad-ID. About 1/3 of all major program producers now use EIDR - Entertainment ID Registry – (including all six major studios and all of their broadcast and cable network properties), so the critical mass is building for that as well. The costs associated with this registration are insignificant compared to the innovation, and improvements they enable.”
However, Clarke believes that asset identification actually has “a slower roll-out since it requires a lot of infrastructure changes at media companies, who already have in-house methods of identifying and keeping track of their assets.” But she advocates standardization, “Both the buy and sell sides need to embrace open-standard asset registries within their content and advertising supply-chains. This has already been determined to be feasible, now it needs to be adopted. For our part, the next phase of the TAXI initiative is underway with CIMM and SMPTE (The Society for Motion Pictures and Television Engineers) having launched a Study Group to identify an open binding technology standard for persistent content identification in audio video essence. Achieving this will be a critical step for industry-wide adoption of a UPC for all professional video content and advertising.”
There are challenges to implementing a standardized form of asset identification and part of the challenge is based on how we code programs and sell television today. Finkel-Greene explains, “In general, asset identification is seen as a method to collect information about commercial placements after the ads have run. This is only half the issue for agencies. In addition to the ‘look back’ scenario we also need a ‘look forward’ solution. Often, as happens during the network Upfronts, commercials are scheduled in programs BEFORE those programs have any standard names, much less codes, NTI, EIDR or otherwise. There is nothing to link the expected show, Two and ½ Men to actual content labeled Two and a Half Men, 2 ½ Men or 2.5 Men.” It all needs to be reconciled after the fact which is not only time consuming but also has the potential for error.
Some believe that it may not be as difficult as we anticipate; Although EIDRs are generally created before scheduling data is sent out for program guides, there’s a well-defined hierarchy for Series-Season- Episode, so episode number can be added and associated to a season/series at a later time. But for others, it is not automatic enough. “My job is not impacted by asset identification; it’s impacted by the lack of it” says Finkel-Greene, “The depth and diversity of new measurement methods and sources is rivaled only by the breadth and diversity of the naming conventions that come with it. Each new data stream requires human intervention for integration into existing reports, throwing a manual monkey wrench into the automated machinery.”
How intricate is the actual identification code? Geller says, “The standardized ‘domain specific’ descriptive information (metadata) for an Ad is the Slate, agency name, advertiser name, product name, brand name, Ad title, Ad size / Length , which today is a visual (analog) object at the start of an ad, and must become ‘digital’ information embedded in the file, thus a ‘digital slate’.
So what are the next steps? “The adoption rate is slow because we’ve not made a compelling case for asset identification,” explains Finkel-Greene, “We need to clearly articulate the benefits of detection not only for measurement and reporting but the financial advantages associated with monetization of assets and modernization legacy process.”