Jun 25, 2022

Spectrum’s Big Move to Comscore Measurment

Local advertisers have historically faced measurement challenges especially in smaller markets where the data was often unstable and volatile. Spectrum has taken a pro-active approach to solving this vexing issue by partnering with Comscore for their local television advertising measurement.  

For Beth Plummer, Senior Vice President, Chief Revenue Officer, Spectrum Reach, the inclusion of Comscore data is a much needed advancement. “Comscore has a richer massive and passive methodology inclusive of our data in measuring local audiences,” she explained. “Their data is based on real viewing behavior - set top box return path data - and it's anonymized versus panel or other methods that other audience measurement companies utilize.” Overall she felt that the full data set would be more stable, more reliable and able to include Spectrum’s first party data, in a privacy compliant manner. All of these considerationsled to the decision to make the transition to primarily using Comscore for their television sales business.

Prior to this move, Spectrum and the industry in general had posting and measurement issues. “We would tell advertisers that we're going to deliver this many impressions or a certain amount of gross rating points. We were seeing wild fluctuations in delivery after the campaign because the data we used to build the campaign was not stable,” she noted.  Once the switch was made to Comscore, “We are seeing more reliable posts. Our campaigns are delivering based on estimates much more consistently.” Spectrum has also done analyses outside of advertiser campaigns that show that the data is now considerably more stable with less fluctuation day to day and week to week compared to previous data sets. And, Spectrum’s use of Comscore for their television data measurement is used in tandem with Spectrum’s own first party data to complete a cross-platform buy.

According to Plummer, the response from advertisers has been enthusiastic. “The reactions been really very strong. We started our big transition in our southeast region last year which is Alabama and Florida.  (Now) the majority are transacting using Comscore,” she asserted. Her efforts specifically focused on Spectrum’s local sales channels that have suffered the brunt of small sampling and volatile, unstable data. “Our local advertisers are receptive to using Comscore. Many of them were familiar with Comscore and already purchasing that data,” she stated. In addition to agencies and advertisers, Plummer has seen good adoption from clients as well. Her next efforts will include larger markets and more regional advertisers. Right now, “it's predominantly smaller agencies where we've made more traction but we're continuing to chip away at the larger ones,” she said.

One of the challenges Spectrum had to overcome was the legacy buying systems at the agencies that may not be able to accommodate Comscore data for stewardship and posting. While some are fairly entrenched systems, others, she explained, “Are capable of working off additional data sets. Some of them, I believe might be an either-or; You're either a Nielsen shop or you're a Comscore shop. But a lot of the agencies buy Comscore data that they're using for pre campaign planning and other purposes,” she noted. “This isn't just a Comscore problem. This is an issue for any of the new measurement companies that are all trying to figure out how to work with the agency’s buying systems. And, agencies too want to transact using different data sets.”

Frankly, “Agencies really don't like the data instability either,” she confided. “They want us to deliver the campaign's audience that we sold them. It's a lot of work on the agency's backend to deal with makegoods and under delivery. So I think it's better for the agencies and I hope a year from now, more of them will have adapted to using Comscore.”

Plummer hopes for greater industry change. “I would like to see a lot more agencies transacting off Comscore. It's better for the agencies and the advertisers,” she explained. For her, the legacy way of doing things no longer works for the industry and it’s up to the media companies, agencies and measurement companies fix it. “Consumers have changed how they watch TV. They'll say ‘I'm watching TV,’ but they're streaming or watching it on their phone. Our industry has not moved as quickly as consumers have. It's that shift in consumer behavior that has accelerated the need for us to embrace alternate measurements of measurement companies such as Comscore,” she concluded.

This article first appeared in www.MediaVillage.com

Artwork by Charlene Weisler


Jun 24, 2022

NBCUniversal Reveals Unified Measurement Currency Results with iSpot

If anyone knows media measurement, it is Kelly Abcarian, previously with Nielsen and now Executive Vice President, Measurement & Impact, Advertising & Partnerships, NBCUniversal. Along with NBCU’s Laura Molen, President, Ad Sales & Partnerships and Sean Muller, CEO iSpot, Abcarian presented the results of a pilot study that demonstrates how iSpot data can be accurately used as currency for OTT.

This year-long study is, “a major milestone to transform media measurement to reach consumers where they are,” according to Molen that helps to address the demand of advertisers for the ultimate cross platform measurement standard. Partnering with iSpot has enabled NBCU to contribute a new solution to the multi-currency future of the media ecosystem. “Some are stuck on legacy. Some are grading their own homework or measuring themselves,” noted Molen. But others are adopting new measurement currencies as evidenced by the large percentage of business that is now conducted on alternative measurements. “Already 40% of our upfront deals have been outside the traditional age and gender guarantees,” using a range of other data suppliers such as Adsmart, iSpot and OpenAP.

But the industry need at this point is to unify and codify a new currency using these alternative services and that is where the partnership with iSpot is pivotal to NBCU’s measurement goals. “They are our first certified partner and a trusted partner of the industry for over a decade,” she stated who has also received the seal of approval from many of NBCU’s advertisers. In fact, over 30% of the advertisers showcased in NBCU’s pilot study were already iSpot customers.

The ability to, as Molen said, “bridge the gaps between platforms and even across the buy and sell side,” to combine all of NBCU’s platforms with one unified method that delivers daily impressions within 48 hours is a major step in media measurement.

For Abcarian, this effort is all part of the bigger plan to, “move our industry forward with better measurement solutions and trying to keep up with the changing, ever growing consumer behaviors.” NBCU’s nine month journey to find the right measurement partner started with an RFP that attracted over 120 measurement providers across six measurement categories. This was followed by a test of 16 advertisers over the Summer Olympics across six cross platform currency partners. This was followed by a range of industry initiatives and announcements, the certification of nine NBCU partners further studies using the Winter Olympics and SuperBowl and finally, a 67 advertiser pilot test examining 158 brands.

“The key takeaway from our last nine months is that cross platform currency is here and it is ready to act and transact,” Abcarian concluded. A notable advancement was the mitigation of friction by using, “Direct server to server integration with iSpot so brands could measure all ads across all platforms and all ads fast.” After hours of training 800 users and testing across a three month period for the 12 brands, NBCU saw an average 546 million impressions per brand, an average mix of 9% on OTT and 91% on linear.

Advertisers were categorized by their mix of linear and OTT and fell into the following categories: Beginners with 10% OTT in their media mix, Experimenters at 10-20% OTT, Adventurers at 20-30% and Pioneers at 30%+. The results of the test were that brands with a rich mix of OTT did better with overall greater reach and acceptable levels of frequency.

NBCU’s goal of true scale integration cross platform measurement for brands’ unique campaigns was demonstrated by Muller who revealed the results of the pilot study which looked at a large retail brand. “Probably the overarching learning here is that linear and streaming can no longer be planned, measured and transacted in silos,” he explained. The retail brand began its campaign with a very low mix of OTT and over the span of the campaign, increased its OTT weight. The result was a significant increase in reach using more OTT, “as linear was saturated and more frequency was building up. And as they layered in streaming, there was pure incremental reach,” he revealed.

What did NBCU learn? All brands are underleveraged on NBCU OTT in driving reach. The pilot study proved that a careful mixture of OTT and linear, depending on the target consumer goal, can result in optimizing reach and frequency that can be smoothed out by moving media weight from linear to OTT.  “The power of premium (content) is both critically important across our linear and OTT platforms to drive reach and results for our advertisers. The ability to measure all viewing in a unified way,” enables advertisers to value and optimize all of their inventory across all platforms with an optimal mix in a frictionless and seamless way with de-duped reach and frequency, Abcarian concluded.

This article first appeared in www.MediaVillage.com

Artwork by Charlene Weisler




Jun 9, 2022

A Deep Dive into AVOD. An Interview with Penthera’s Brian Kline

Technology is improving the quality and ability of viewers to customize their media usage in both online and offline environments. In this ecosystem, ad tech is advancing especially in AVOD, according to Brian Kline, President of Penthera.

Charlene Weisler: What are the greatest opportunities for advertisers in AVOD today?

Brian Kline: Streaming can offer similar or greater reach than traditional TV distribution while at the same time offer much more granular targeting and data availability. As large segments of the population migrate to be “streaming 1st”, AVOD publishers can offer advertisers a mechanism to reach these audiences that are difficult to find on traditional TV platforms. Beyond this, there are a number of innovations coming that will enable advertisers to have a broader spectrum of creative delivery options/audience ownership. While the initial iteration of CTV/OTT has relied on a traditional TV advertising model, this is changing and evolving to bring innovative approaches that will deliver more flexibility and customization for advertisers, at scale, with the ability to micro-target audiences.

Weisler: What are the greatest challenges to advertisers in AVOD today?

Kline: Fragmentation across inventory sources and technology platforms and budget control / management. As streaming becomes a more important part of the media mix, the decision on where to manage budgets is becoming critical. What we’ve seen in the market to this point is friction between an advertiser’s TV and digital agencies. TV agencies view AVOD/Streaming as “digital” and aren’t generally used to buying media in the way that AVOD is sold (data driven, not measured by Nielsen, using programmatic systems, etc). Digital agencies are generally very comfortable with these points but find themselves fighting for access to “TV quality” ad assets and budget. Much of this could be resolved at the advertisers direction, but the decision on how to handle this new channel, from an agency standpoint needs to be made.

Beyond this, technical and platform fragmentation presents a challenge for advertisers. Each platform can have their own creative technical specifications, publishers tend to use multiple programmatic selling platforms (SSPs) and advertisers often use more than one buying platform (DSP) which opens the potential for an advertiser to bid against themselves for the same piece of inventory. There are paths for solving this problem, but it’s important for advertisers to be aware that it exists and to find mechanisms for measuring the occurrence of self-competitive bidding.

Weisler: You have a new product called 2nd Look. What does it do?

Kline: In VOD with SSAI, all of the ad decisions are made in between the time that the user presses “play” on their device and the first frame of the video showing up. This is because the ads must be “stitched” into the stream (technically the stream’s Manifest) before playback begins since the player will only request the stream’s Manifest once at the beginning of the process. Offering the stream’s entire inventory simultaneously and well ahead of when the ads are going to run has a number of negative effects including  1. Forcing a large volume of decisions to be made in a compressed timeline which increases the chance of timeouts and failure to fill inventory, 2. Placing ads in the stream that will exceed their timeouts (e.g. ads in the second hour of a movie that required a <10 minute time-to-live) causing publishers to go unpaid, 3. Forcing ad systems to evaluate all of the inventory at once instead of on a pod by pod basis, leading to uneven or reduced advertiser participation through the stream. 4. The net result of these issues to an AVOD publisher is lower fill, lower CPMs on ads that are filled and missed revenue opportunities.

2nd Look is a cloud service designed to address these issues. We accomplish this by eliminating the requirement to make decisions upfront, and enabling decisions to be made immediately before each pod. In doing so, we enable the publisher’s ad server and programmatic systems to operate more efficiently. It does not replace any part of the publisher’s ad stack and is interoperable with any VOD stream, from any type of device (CTV, mobile, PC, etc.) that uses SSAI.

2nd Look also addresses low render rates which measures the % of ads presented to the viewer relative to those that were decisioned by the ad server. As mentioned, with SSAI, all of the ads are decided for the stream up front. If the viewer leaves after seeing half of the ads, the render rate would be 50%. Render rate is important for two reasons. The most obvious is that the publisher may be paying serving/stitching fees on all ads, but only being paid by advertisers for half in our example. The more concerning issue is that render rate is used by DSPs and other programmatic systems to model the attractiveness of inventory. Low render rates cause less bidding volume, and lower CPM bids because the bidder is less confident the ad will be seen. AVODs using SSAI are disadvantaged in these algorithms.

2nd Look, positively impacts all of these challenges. In offering each pod independently, we enable the publishers’ ad decisioning systems to operate more efficiently resulting in higher fill rates and more advertiser participation across the stream. This drives up CPM, fill rate and overall yield. 2nd Look integrates with a publisher's player via simple HTTP interface and the publisher’s ad stitcher (via their standard APIs).

Weisler: Do you collect any data and if so, what and how is it used?

Kline: We will be collecting session level data to include; session ID, # of pods in the stream, # of pods requested, duration of ads requested, duration of ads filled, % of pods filled based on time duration (e.g. 2 min requested, 1:30 min returned = 75% fill based on time). Depending on the ad stitcher, we can also report on # of ads filled. The data we are collecting is more publisher performance oriented. There are 2 key data points that we use/impact that advertisers will leverage are the session ID and the render rate as described above.

Weisler: Where do you see AVOD in the next 3 years?

Kline: We expect AVOD to continue to grow and account for the majority of viewing hours and expect  more hybrid subscription models that are partially or entirely subsidized by advertising. As SVOD publishers reach market penetration limits, they will be forced to explore new revenue models that can enable their continued revenue growth. The market will influence how much SVODs can charge for a subscription and user’s disposable income will dictate how many subscriptions they can afford. To capture additional users who have allocated $$ elsewhere, SVODs who offer AVOD tiers will lower the bar to entry and see expansion in the number of users interacting with their service.


This article first appeared in www.Mediapost.com

Artwork by Charlene Weisler

May 24, 2022

Hearst Reveals a New VERANDA the Celebrates 35 Years in Print

In a media world where print has seen a pivot to online and a retrenchment from analog, Hearst’s VERANDA magazine is taking a bold step. In celebration of its 35th anniversary, the publication is going bold with a redesign of their May/June 2022 print issue – the title’s largest since 2008. “I am thrilled for the opportunity to make the most of what we do best—lush visual storytelling backed by substance—with this larger format,” announced Steele Marcoux, VERANDA’s Editor in Chief, who added, “With this, we’re delivering more value for our consumers, who continue to love magazines,”

Why redesign? According to Marcoux, “It’s all about delivering more value to our consumers who prefer print. Our aim was to make the magazine an overall more luxurious and immersive experience for our readers, with a product aimed to endure.”

With this bold move, VERANDA is embracing the world of luxury print, reimagining the possibilities by introducing a more immersive product with more content. This and other additions and changes turn the magazine into something more like a cherished coffee book, allowing readers to spend more quality time with each issue. “Our loyal audience provided clear feedback that they wanted to see MORE, particularly when it came to us incorporating larger imagery.  Our goal was to deliver our readers more of what actually loved so much: a mix of immersive visuals backed by substance,” he noted.

The editorial team worked hard to choose themes and ideas that bring VERANDA’s unique brand point of view to life. “The spaces and places we feature are warm, inviting, and full of personality. We are leaning in to that and celebrating personality with our new issue themes and franchises,” Marcoux stated.

Part of the inspiration for this pivot is due to the pandemic which, as Marcoux explained, “Made everyone value ‘home’ in a new way.” That, and a plan to deliver more tactile experiences and time away from screens, formed the redesign action plan.  “One of the things I love most about VERANDA is how consistent it has been over the last 35 years,” he said, “Technology has evolved, of course, and that’s reflected in our photography – but the types of home environments has remained steady. We’ve always sought to feature the very best, we’ve never limited ourselves to a certain style, and we’ve always valued bold, personality-filled design above all else.”  In order to make the magazine more immersive, the re-designed magazine is half an inch wider with at least 40% more pages in each issue and the layout now includes more full-bleed images and spreads.

For David Hamilton, VP Sales of the Hearst Design Collection (ELLE DECOR, House Beautiful and VERANDA), the pay-off among advertisers has been immediate. “The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and the only surprise is how quickly we’ve seen some advertisers jump in with more second-half activity.  As the saying goes, there’s always money for a good idea … and the redesign is clearly being seen as a good idea,” he stated.

The benefits to advertisers were taken into account with the re-design. “We have restored an ideal ad/edit ratio, so the book has a good balance of editorial content and marketing messages that readers love,” he stated. The recovery from the pandemic has fueled a great resurgence in the luxury market with growth in well-established category advertising. “We have had a great response from advertisers and are already seeing second half growth,” he shared.

And advertiser feedback was carefully considered in any decision-making. “Advertisers, like readers, want strong magazines,” Hamilton explained. “We got a comment from a very long-term advertiser who wanted to see more lush images of beautiful homes, and we really took it to heart.  We love story-telling, but we need space for both the visuals and the text. And, of course, advertisers keep an eye on editorial credits, and larger images draw more positive comments.”

For Hamilton, the best advertiser feedback came from a client who had taken a hiatus. “We presented the plans for the redesign, and her reaction was effusive,” he noted, “She had assumed that our big news would be something digital, and she was thrilled to learn that we were bringing change to print.  Innovation doesn’t have to mean digital, and print still defines luxury,” he added.

From a sales perspective, the pivot was seamless – the target consumer and categories covered remain constant, he explained. “The core advertising business for VERANDA comes from a broad swath of the Home Furnishings market. What they have in common is the affluence of the end-user.”

VERANDA has traditionally delivered lifestyle coverage that focused on design, style and gracious living in general and encompassing categories like jewelry and watch as well as travel.  “We know from reader feedback, as well as product sales, the audience responds to these stories, so we wanted to give even more space to these topics without compromising the beautiful home and decorating content that is VERANDA’s calling card.  Of course the redesign required a great deal of strategizing on the business side, but it was really undertaken with the reader in mind,” Hamilton added.

Hamilton stated that this move by VERANDA could become a motivator for other Heart publications. “Hearst is a print-proud company that is always looking for ways to serve the reader and advertiser.  The company will continue to lead the way into the future of print, and VERANDA is a case study in this constant mission,” he concluded.  

This article first appeared in www.MediaVillage.com

Artwork by Charlene Weisler




May 22, 2022

GSTV’s AMPLIFY - Attracting Consumers at the Point of Sale

GSTV, a leader in out-of-home advertising at the gas pumps, has announced the launch of a new media network called, GSTV AMPLIFY which enables advertisers to target engaged consumers undistracted essentially at the point of purchase.

According to GSTV’s Kristal Walton, Vice President CPG Category Leader, AMPLIFY is “A collection of capabilities and opportunities that brands can leverage to complement their omni-channel brand plan and amplify their overall sales and marketing return.” It involves a full compendium of, “sights and sounds motion video network across the largest centralized network of convenience store resellers - That's where the retail network portion comes in - and it delivers over 100 million unique monthly impressions at a very contextually relevant moment.”

Close to the point of sale, “When you're filling up your tank of gas, there is a video screen that activates when you're fueling. It has a three to five minute broadcast which aligns with the average time a consumer needs to fuel up. It includes a collection of entertaining, informative and educational content that resides alongside brand advertisements and constant integrations. It's located in what they call the core of a convenience retailer at the fuel pump’” she stated.

The service includes an array of data partners that offer advertisers, as she noted, “flexible data driven targeting opportunities so you can really track performance with data partners such as IRI and Catalina. We also have a host of other partners, depending on what the specific measurement goal is that supports the overarching brand plan.” It also offers a national footprint of over 28,000 fuel stations in 205 DMAs with multiple screens at each station.

Walton explained that AMPLIFY offers targetability according to the campaign objective such as driving  sales or matching purchase dollars at the retail store to the messaging at a demographic, geographic and even a behavioral level. “We own the back end of the platform and can track performance so, depending on the business objective for that brand, we can look at sales lift, brand awareness, perception of a consumer and, with ecommerce sales, we can look at ecommerce lifts and things like that,” she noted.

AMPLIFY is different from other sales tracking initiatives. “There are a host of digital media and overall media tactics,” she began, “but what differentiates GSTV’s AMPLIFY is that it allows us an opportunity to drive across the marketing funnel tracking awareness and conversion through the consumer journey. We also have an ability to directly influence in-store sales, because we have that unique moment of contextual relevance with someone fueling up.”

GSTV attracts a captive audience at a time when they are waiting for their car to refuel. In this environment, “We overcome that challenge of attentiveness and engagement and also connect directly with the consumer at the last mile of the shopper journey right before they're going to make a purchase,” she explained. “We have a national scale footprint which allows the brand team to focus regionally or on certain states or cities or broadly or at locations that are situated close to another retailer. We can develop an opportunity to engage with consumers very near purchase, no matter where they decide to go next,” she added.

According to Walton, AMPLIFY offers an array of positive results among consumers. “Consumers are x3.7 times more attentive and have higher ad recall than TV and Digital Video and social ads,” she stated. AMPLIFY’s ability to reach consumers with relevant engaging content at a quiet moment with little distraction, within an unskippable environment and close to the point of purchase, benefits both the advertiser and the consumer.

This article first appeared in www.MediaVillage.com

Artwork by Charlene Weisler