With so many ways to watch video content these days, it’s a great time for the consumer, but it has also become an increasingly difficult time for the local media buyer. On this episode of Brandstorm, Michael Beach, CEO at Cross Screen Media, talks about his video advertising platform, which helps media buyers take some of the challenges out of buying broadcast, cable, connected TV, desktop mobile and social video content.
About Cross Screen Media
Cross Screen Media is a spinoff of a political agency called Target to Victory that Michael worked at in Washington, D.C. Frustrated by their own efforts to do audience targeting with video content, Michael and his team began investing in set top boxes from cable and satellite TV providers and other data sources, including media consumption habits from MRI and Scarborough, and even more recently, Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) from the data that is captured from Smart TVs. It was now possible to buy video content based on audience attributions and impressions, which is the same way advertisers currently buy digital advertising. By putting television and digital in the same audience-based currency, it was easier to compare and buy video content. Focusing only on video content, they launched their first television advertising platform in 2013. By 2016, they knew they had a platform that catered to media buyers’ needs and could be sold in local television markets. They closed the agency’s doors and created Cross Screen Media in 2017.
The Challenges for Local Advertisers Buying TV
Most TV stations sell their inventory based on ratings points. In smaller markets, however, about 70 percent of the video content doesn’t have a big enough audience sample to get a rating point. The ratings are so low for some programs, the ratings look like no one is watching.
Buying on impressions, however, allows advertisers to buy against digital and do some audience targeting. Michael believes the future for the ad seller will be to make impressions more valuable by tailoring them to the audience. Advertisers who know their target audience will be more willing buy programming that can deliver the audience they want. That’s good news for TV providers. They will be able to, at least in the short term, sell more inventory. Television will be more affordable for the advertiser who wants to by those programs with lower viewership because they deliver the right audience target.
Another challenge is that the way things are trending, there will be fewer impressions on average to sell. Video content has grown by more than 300 percent over the last 10 years. Back then, there were about 200 scripted shows on television. This past year, there were more than 600 shows and this trend isn’t expected to change. There will be more programming in 2020 than 2019. In fact, while social media and digital has seen substantial growth the past 10 years, Michael says video content is about to explode.
Right now, TV has low targeting, but high attention. Digital is the opposite, high targeting, low attention. Connected TV is really exciting to Michael because it has the potential to be both.
All this will change over the next 5 years, according to Michael, and it will happen in three phases. In Phase 1, which is where we are now, about 50 percent of the video content is bought using age and gender demos. along with some audience targeting. In about three years, in Phase 2, there will be more audience targeting and audience attributions will grow in importance. By Phase 3, in 5 years, audience attribution will be the key component of the video spend and will be driven by how much foot traffic is generated or how many transactions are made.
How Cross Screen Media Makes Media Buying Easier
Michael says pricing for the Cross Screen platform varies and is primarily based on the number of markets bought. Onboarding is pretty quick for ad agencies, and usually takes less than two weeks. Cross Screen takes an advertiser’s customer data or information from a CRM and uses its national consumer file with more than 1500 attributes. The attributes can be used to build out a strategic audience. The platform provides different buying options and allows for cross-screen comparisons in broadcast, cable, connected TV, desktop mobile and social video content.
Buyers can then target consumer content and figure how to balance it across the various screens. With one place to bring everything together buyers can figure out who the target is, how that target consumes video content, what it will cost and then tweak the buy from there.
It will take some time for buyers to become screen-agnostic, where they won’t care about what content they are watching and only buy content that delivers their audience.
Mike believes eventually impression-based selling will make it easier for TV media buyers to buy more digital and vice versa, but it will also come in phases. Right now, the ad agency may still have a TV media buying team and a digital buying team planning and buying separately. Eventually, those two teams will work together, and ultimately the same team will understand both video and digital content.
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