TV ACR and cross-platform retargeting – reforging the funnel

Advent of TV ACR

While revered by advertisers for most of its celebrated life, TV hasn’t been all that measurable. Brands have always been willing to pump vast amounts of their advertising budgets into running TV campaigns (undoubtedly the most affecting of media), but being able to clarify exactly who had seen their ads and how they subsequently were influenced has never been easy. Nielsen panels used to be the method of choice – but they relied on people telling you what they did or how they felt. The problem was that they didn’t show you. Hearing how audiences behaved and seeing how they did can, all too often, offer very different outputs. Now, however, more and more TVs are incorporating Automated Content Recognition (ACR) technology, giving them the ability to identify with perfect accuracy what TV content is showing in households – what people are actually watching. In addition, device-mapping techniques have also made it possible to see how users behave online and offline once they’ve viewed certain TV content, such as an ad. This has opened up key opportunities to brands and completely changed advertising forever.

TV-to-Digital: Reconnecting the funnel

One way in which brands can capitalize on this is through cross-platform campaigns that use TV has the springboard. Advertisers can now retarget the mobile devices of customers who have seen their ad or a show that the brand wishes to associate with, for instance, and serve mobile campaigns at just the right time. By going this route, brands can effectively reforge a broken marketing funnel. It used to be the case that, because of the disconnected nature of TV and digital, the former could only do so much in terms of driving conversions from viewers. TV has always been excellent at ‘priming’ viewers for action – such as making a purchase, or charitable donation, or even simply visiting a store or website. This is largely due to the emotive nature of your favourite TV show or an affecting ad. But digital is often where the actual conversion takes place, and in the time between viewing a TV ad or show and visiting an e-Commerce site, for example, many potential customers can fall out of the funnel. By running real-time retargeting campaigns that target ‘primed’ viewers of specific TV content when on their mobiles, however, this leak in brands’ funnels can effectively be closed. For the first time the priming medium of TV can be used with the conversion medium of digital in perfect tandem to drive customers through the entire path-to-purchase.

Analytics

Not only is it possible for brands to reforge their marketing funnel to optimize the speed at which it converts (as well as minimize leaking), the new connectedness of Smart TVs and mobile devices can offer them an analytics feedback-loop never available previously. It’s now within their capacity to fully understand how their TV campaigns have influenced customers’ behaviour by (anonymously and through aggregation) assessing how their online activity changed. In addition, location-based mobile analytics can help brands get a picture of their targets’ offline actions too. All-in-all this has made TV advertising’s effect as measurable as mobile’s has been for years. In an era when advertisers are looking for as much clarity on where TV sits in their plans as possible, this is of revolutionary importance.

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TV ACR – a brief history, state of play and where it’s going

woman watching tv

Beginnings of ACR

The advent of Automated Content Recognition technology (or ACR tech) has fundamentally changed the way in which brands are able to build an understanding of their customers’ TV viewing behaviours and preferences. Specifically, it’s revolutionized how TV viewing can be quantified – making the world’s most valuable advertising medium as data-driven as mobile has been for years now. But where did it all begin?

Shazam (known everywhere as a music identifier) began the shift when, in 2011, it began applying its own recognition software to the task of identifying TV content through audio signals. In 2012, DIRECTV formed a partnership with Viggle to provide interactive, second-screen viewing experiences via content identification. The ACR sea change was underway.

Smart TV ACR quantum leap – hitting the screens

It wasn’t until 2013, however, that things began to really get going for TV ACR – when Smart TV manufacturers began incorporating the technology in their machines. LG partnered with Cognitive Networks to advance its own ACR agenda. The latter was then bought by Vizio and later renamed Inscape. As Vizio’s share of the Smart TV market expanded, its ability to scale its own recognition software did too. And the technology was no longer reliant on audio signals either. ACR chips within the TVs gave the ability to recognize any content showing onscreen, leading to much greater identification accuracy.

What it means

Understanding what a TV is showing as it hits the screen is proving a fundamental game-changer for advertisers looking to understand what their customers are tuning into. Through IP address-mapping techniques it’s now possible to anonymously tie TVs to households and aggregate viewing data, making profiling TV viewing habits much easier. This has led to myriad new cross-platform opportunities. Advertisers can retarget mobile devices connected to households that have seen certain TV content for example. Increased accuracy of audience profiling and segmentation based on TV preferences also presents a hugely valuable option to brands.

Where the market is now

But who are the biggest players in the Smart TV ACR area? Over the past few years three manufacturers have raced ahead of the chasing pack. Samsung, Vizio and LG currently own approximately 80% of the Smart TV market between them, with this figure likely to grow. Certain companies have partnered with a variety of Smart TV manufacturers in order to be able to offer advertisers the opportunity to leverage the mountain of data that TVs are now producing. When choosing an ACR partner, however, savvy brands should look only to those partnered with the Big Three manufacturers in order to be able to tap into the kind of scale and accuracy now available.

What is the future of TV ACR?

Right now, the Big Three appear poised to continue (and expand on) their dominance of the Smart TV market. The market is itself growing rapidly and the yearly number of Smart TVs shipped has already eclipsed so-called ‘dumb’ TVs. This all means that opportunities stemming from TV viewing data will continue to explode, with the value of the TV ACR market poised to reach $5 billion by 2021. However, that data will almost certainly be concentrated among the three largest manufacturers, meaning the go-to guys for audience profiling or cross-platform opportunities will be companies working with these data providers. But the efficiencies possible through a vastly improved understanding of audiences, and how campaigns and content influence them, are turning this into an area of critical importance for brands who want to thrive, or even survive. And the change isn’t coming – it’s already here.

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Who’s glued to the Winter Olympics?

With the Winter Olympics in full swing, we decided to take a look at how people are tuning in across the US and which states are most engaged. On average, approximately 35% of US households have watched the games so far. On the whole it’s (unsurprisingly) been the chilly northern states that have found the games most engaging. Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin have all tuned in at a rate of about 15% higher than the per capita nationwide average for example.

The southern states, however, haven’t shown a huge amount of interest with Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi in particular declaring a collective ‘Meh’. Arizona doesn’t seem bothered much either, with tune-in rates there over 21% less than the nationwide average.

Alaska has provided a bit of a an eyebrow-raiser, barely pushing above 1% higher than the mean. Hawaii, on the other hand, has found the games very gripping so far with tune-ins reaching almost 22% above typical rates. This could be down to several of factors including the closer timezone and large number of Korean-Americans in the state. Or maybe the sun-soaked folks in Honolulu are just fascinated with snow!

Check out the interactive map below for more details.

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