We will laugh when we tell our kids we had to watch Ads!

ImageWe will laugh at the idea of having to sit through an Ad we didn’t want to watch in years to come. The likes of CBS, who recently downgraded an award to DISH for their Hopper product (a product that allows the viewer to skip Ads) by influencing the CNET panel, will need to change their views and fast.

 Perhaps people have not noticed but the beginning of the end for being forced to sit through Ads is already underway. Google is building a business on the back of skippable Ads. It is a mere skip and a jump before that model is rolled out to TV. It’s not just Google though. We have all got used to fast forwarding through Ads on our PVR’s. There are companies like DISH, with their Hopper product, making it a central offering.  Even online Apps usually have a premium or Ad subsidised version. Other companies, for example SpotXchange, have rolled out account based solutions where users can pay to skip ads. The concept of not watching Ads you do not want to watch is entering our ecosystem like water pouring through a leaking dam. No matter how you try and plug the leak, the tide is turning and before we know it the idea of forced Ad viewing will be a thing of the past.

 Consumer opinion eventually is paramount. This is not about not watching ads, it is about watching ads that are relevant and entertaining. As viewers get used to skipping ads and companies offer that as an option in a new medium, like TV, consumers will turn there first. The DISH example in the US will be an interesting one to follow. When PVR’s were first launched, the whole industry was very nervous about them and the implications. But we coped. Google’s skippable Ads is a fantastic model for them with incredible CPM’s on ads that are watched through to the end. It works for them. Advertisers also like the idea of paying for real user viewership. The challenge therefore is for advertising to improve (please no more perfume Ads following the same old, superficial format) and for the delivery mechanism to improve.

 This is all fine for online, but TV? No way! Well in case anyone had missed it, TV is changing. The mechanisms through which we watch TV are changing and the way content is being consumed and distributed is changing. Addressable advertising across multiple devices is already under way in Alpha and Beta tests. Ads will become adserved which will allow better targeting and if targeting improves, the response will be better and consumers will appreciate the relevance. If we can do this well then who is to say that the Google business model will not suddenly look attractive to broadcasters?

 Importantly we will question this idea of ‘extra value’ in TV, which is code for wastage as opposed to actually buying the audience we want. An Audience On Demand offering could quickly be applicable in TV. So if we can combine adserving technology, with proper targeting and importantly measurement (let’s not get in to that today!) and sprinkle some consumer boredom with relevant advertising, we are well underway to a world where we tell our Children that; ‘yes they made us sit through five pre-roll ads before we were allowed to see the programme we wanted to watch’ – ‘and at a time dictated by them’! A crazy notion.

Blog also ran on Digiday – http://www.digiday.com/agencies/skippable-ads-are-a-good-thing/

CES My overview: Content and technology at odds when it comes to mobility

CES never ceases to astound, not least because the sheer scale is incredible. Over 150,000 people gathered this year to see the onslaught of new gadgets and software, with over 20,000 new products being launched. However this year I was less surprised by the products being launched.

Yes there were bigger TVs, thinner TVs, TVs with the most incredible picture quality, more tablets, more phones, more games and even fridges that talk to you. Loads of great stuff. But not loads of surprises. The focus as far as I could see was in making all of these things talk, connect and share with each other.

It struck me at CES just how much technology enables a seamless, frictionless ecosystem for us and our consumption of content. There were some fascinating examples on the show floor that all point to the consumer being able to do exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it. I can guarantee that our children will be demanding a completely open proposition when it comes to media consumption. They will want and expect it in a non- linear fashion as well.

A prime example of this was DISH, who is trying everything to help us do that. First they allow the recording of every primetime network channel automatically on to your set top box and then they have enabled the transfer of this content to your iPad for later viewing on the go. A brilliant idea which fully utilises the tablet / PC and TV.


Intel and Comcast are working to make sure that the average home can have a number of different devices wired up so individuals can watch and do whatever they like in whatever room of the house they are in. This allows the consumer a seamless movement of viewing / playing around the house.

And with Intel’s Microsoft Windows 8 laptop come tablet devices users can play with based on their mood – laptop for work, tablet for play. There is no one device that has come to the fore here and I am sure the best route will take a while to play out, but it will.

Samsung’s interactive TV’s continue to delight with the ability to talk with friends via Twitter, Skype etc… and indeed there are now competitors challenging the idea that adding these interactive services does not need to push up the price tag so considerably. Hisense is democratising these services and has entered the market with an affordable Smart TV for everyone.

Interestingly, the superstores in the US are also trying to push this out of the preserve of the lucky few. Both Walmart and Bestbuy will now only sell Smart TV’s, trying to drive further adoption of these ever connected devices. Intrinsic to growth in the connected TV area (there are 35 million connected TV devices in the US) is just that, getting them connected.

The Wi-fi revolution has meant that it is now so easy to connect a new device and adoption rates are high in the Smart TV market. All of this means we are very quickly going to arrive at a world where the lines between your TV and mobile devices are seamless.

This is being accelerated by a need to can the wires, a greater desire for social TV and a realisation that the TV can be a great central hub for all content wherever it comes from, and indeed can be the starting point for finding content and sending it outwards. In addition, on demand services and social apps also mean that people will be looking for Smart TV’s as a matter of course. Driving further adoption.

The key issue, however, is that the devices are seamless but the content is not. Broadcasters in particular are trying to manage a market that is shifting rapidly around them. In my home where I don’t have an aerial and the digital aerial does not work I turn to Apple TV. Apple TV is great for streaming to the TV, but who are the people that won’t let you do it – C4, ITV, Sky etc. How limited and short sighted are they? What are the alternatives? I don’t watch their programmes, or I do?

My Samsung TV has no 4oD, the result is I don’t watch this channel as much as I would. Comcast in the US is not letting people stream programming from the likes of HBO Go, it is being artificially restricted. This strangulation by these broadcasters needs to adjust and fast as viewers will not put up with it for much longer.

One huge irritation I have is the fact that Sky won’t let me have unlimited devices to watch SkyGo on – we live in a world where people often have an iPad, an iPhone, an iPod and perhaps even a Nexus 7 – I want to watch SkyGo anywhere I want,  at any time – that drives loyalty.

How technology will impact advertising

So, we have a seamless technology ecosystem developing, let’s look on the bright side and suggest that broadcasters do give up their old school methods and let us all do what we want. There will be two implications for the advertising business. The first is that measurement of viewership will become an impossible task without some improvement in the technology tracking it – a big ask. And that leads neatly to the second – addressable TV advertising.

DISH is currently piloting zipcode targeting – basically they download ads to the set top box and then fire them to the appropriate household and hopefully in time, person. How can they do that? Well, if a household is governed by a central console like a Comcast box, then we could be in a position to more easily identify who is watching what content and serve them relevant advertising.

Simulmedia recently released numbers that suggest that as much as 75% of TV ad impressions are reaching just 20% of their target audiences. If this data becomes verified, advertisers will be looking to alternatives and addressability will be paramount.

So, after a few days in Vegas we did not see a great deal of change, more a rapid progression of technology that was present last year – more tablets, more Smart TV’s, interchangeable laptops and tablets, sharing technology, social technology. As a result our industry also needs to rapidly progress. The consequences for the media will be far reaching and affect all of us.

Marco Bertozzi is executive managing director of Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi