New Year, Same Problems?

CES may have been lightly attended, but there’s no shortage of news to share coming out of the event. With connected TV’s looming ID problem, and the ongoing privacy ‘cluster.’ 2022 is here!

Let’s get into it.

CTV Ad Tech Identity Crisis

Streaming is surging. Connected TV advertising is booming. What’s there to worry about? Well, beneath the surface, a lot potentially. And unfortunately, ad tech may be overpromising and under-delivering – if not adding to the problem. At least that was the conclusion of a 2022 CTV overview in Adweek. Despite all the hype about cross-platform identifiers and device graphs, advertisers are facing a growing number of walled gardens in CTV, and are struggling to target audiences across platforms with any sort of consistent identity or measurement- which is leading toward wasted dollars and consumers getting bombarded with the same ads over and over again. For now, everyone is enjoying the spoils of a growth market, but these problems aren’t going away any time soon.

NBC U Later

The hope is that maybe some of the incumbent metrics firms can save the day – despite recent history to the contrary. And right on cue, both Nielsen and Comscore were out with announcements (timed to a very sparse CES) promising new products that would better track people and ads across screens. The problem is that these products appear far from being ready for prime time (Nielsen’s is in alpha’ mode).

Timing is really of the essence here, because TV sellers aren’t waiting around. In fact, it was hard not to be taken by the symbolism as NBCUniversal – which has been extremely vocal about Nielsen’s shortcoming and the need for new metrics – announced its own digital ID platform, promising brands the ability to match its data with up to 200 million unique IDs by year’s end. You have to wonder whether by the time the incumbent metrics firms get their act together whether brands will have moved on to employing these kinds of media-company-run platforms (Disney has already moved into this realm). Of course, here’s yet another example of a media seller grading its own homework to some degree.

I’m Only Human

Here’s hoping that however Nielsen, comScore or NBCU measure digital consumers going forward, they are able to suss out which ones are… actual people. Because ad fraud is showing few signs of abating. In fact, despite a decade of attention and numerous acquisitions and partnerships, non-human traffic is still a serious enough problem that Human (formerly White Ops) just raised $100 million in new funding. You might think that the overarching shift toward privacy and first-party data would make the web less hospitable to bots and scammers, but investors don’t see it that way.

National Privacy Nightmare Over?

Remember all the talk not so long ago about a potential national privacy law in the U.S.? Well, don’t hold your breath. That’s at least according to Axios’ Sarah Fischer, who made an appearance this week on the Rebooting Show podcast. Fischer all but called the potential piece of legislation dead, “We were threatened by this idea for so long…it’s completely stalled for the next few years,” she said, adding that CCPA had sort of become the de facto law of the land. That doesn’t mean that ad companies aren’t being wary of how they use customer data — it’s just that Google and Facebook, under their own regulatory pressures, are setting many of the rules.

“There is a shift in collection from individual data to cohort data….in a sense that requires more data…yet it protects individuals,” Fischer said.

Sounds good. So does the industry have it sorted out? “It’s still a bit of a cluster,” Fischer said.

On that note, Happy New Year!

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