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  • Alan Walz

A New Journey for Marketers and the Growing Importance of Aggregation Partners

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Currently, the state of the television and video industry is virtually in uncharted waters, dynamically transforming into new paradigms that are still unclear and far from conclusion. Today’s marketers need to work with new types of partners most qualified for these surroundings, able to help navigate through the rapid changes and emerging challenges, while creating and capitalizing on new opportunities that create value for brands.

For the longest time, when reaching eighty or ninety percent of a target audience within a month took only a few phone calls, it was widely accepted that “content is king”, and the most valuable partners were those with the highest rated, most widely preferred content. With the expansion of cable providing more choices, eroding the mass audiences of broadcast networks and reducing the number of shows “you just have to be on”, the most valued partners became simply those with the “most content”. Thus, media owners consolidated a wide array of channels that together would deliver broad reach. A great recession, combined with out-of-control media inflation suddenly made “cheaper” more important, and ushered in new models sampling remnant inventory and programmatic technologies to drive CPMs downward. More recently, with further attempts to duplicate digital approaches on television, data, instead of content, appeared to be emerging as the new king, and new partnerships were born. However, still in their infancy, these data partnerships are proving to be very challenging, as acquisitions have created walled gardens that serve self-reporting, and weak methodologies and fraud leads to invalid measurements.

So, what’s next? Content is still important; reach is still important; cost efficiency will always be important; advances in technology and better data will grow in importance. The next definition of the most valuable partnerships will be characterized by the most qualified aggregation partners who can combine all these elements with the greatest scale and customization.

There simply isn’t one solution while the whole television and video ecosystem is becoming unbalanced, fragmenting into countless untested media brands and their models, and across consumer devices. As the streaming wars are heating up, marketers are frustrated trying to follow consumers, forced to deal with churn rates, data issues and fraud that have long plagued the digital ecosystem, but never before existed in television. Presently, these frustrations and confusions exist for consumers as well. They too are exploring uncharted waters, cutting cords and trying different sources, with new options being launched every few months. Now consumers have multiple remotes, they have to consider the input device before the show, they find themselves purchasing multiple services to get the content they want, yet find a lot of the content is overlapping. Consumers also have to scrapple with bandwidth and data limits, content that’s available only on certain devices, and changes to their internet providers, who are now able to favor their own content over a competitor’s due to the repeal of net neutrality regulations.

Until recently, marketers buying ads across linear television used standardized metrics and needed to know only the skew of the content, which was available to everyone, at the same time, through the same device, a “television”. But with the growth of connected TVs, an explosion of new content offerings, along with new methods, services and devices able to access that content, marketers need to make distinctions and decisions based not only on the content, but on the consumer experience, how they’re accessing that content, how it’s measured, and how their brands align. Already you’ll find some devices and services are more prevalent in either lower, or upper income homes; others are chosen more by homes with children, or more in rural areas versus urban - which often depends upon how they’re getting the Internet. As cord-cutting accelerates, and the next revolution that is ATSC 3.0 begins rolling-out free, ultra-high-definition broadcast signals with streaming, on-demand and addressable features to any device equipped with an antenna, this journey for both marketers and consumers is really only beginning. The shape of the television and video ecosystem will look very different next year, and the year after, for many years to come.

During these turbulent times, which always include predictions for the death of old models that never seem to materialize, marketers need new types of partners who succeed only when they succeed. Marketers need large, full-service aggregation partners who are best equipped to adapt, expand, and customize according to individual brand needs with scale, quality and efficiency across all video touchpoints and with proven metrics.

The aggregation partners most qualified for these times will be defined by specific characteristics. First, they must have a sustainable, long-term model to access a wide source of quality content through top programmers and distributors. The strongest aggregation partners will be brand-consumer centric, not a walled garden with a specific set of networks or content, or services or devices they must try to sell. Similarly, it’s important for an aggregation partner to not limit marketers to the self-serving data they’ve invested in and is unique only to their inventory. Technology is especially important, as any qualified aggregation partner must prove to be both progressive and entirely self-sufficient, not reliant upon other tech relationships which could suddenly evaporate or eventually become obsolete. Most important, marketers will need aggregation partners who prove to be nimble, flexible and proficient to follow consumers wherever they end up going. That means being innovative, and working towards the next generation, creating new supply chains, exploring new workflows and integrations. Thus, the most qualified aggregation partners will be able to identify developing trends and adjust accordingly to ensure delivery, respond to client needs, identify and Investigate oddities or invalid traffic and shift schedules, and assemble with scale newly emerging and better opportunities for marketers to connect brands with their key consumers.

As marketers are journeying into a new and still very unclear dimension for television and video, none of the foundational research and learnings of the industry are obsolete simply because they’re “old”. Content and contextual environment is still important, and positively or negatively does rub-off onto advertised brands. Unduplicated reach, recency planning, and effective frequency are key elements for marketing success. Ads placed in dayparts nearest to purchase decisions or product use do produce greater ad recall and sales results. Cost efficiencies must continually be cultivated to abate media inflation. Data can play an increasingly valuable role in reducing waste and increasing returns on investment. Throughout the changes that lie ahead, the most valuable aggregation partners will be qualified to help marketers and their agencies sustain these important fundamentals while they rework video-everywhere plans based on commercial audience reach and engagement, evaluating all media assets, compare users’ behaviors, available metrics and currencies before adding or making substitutions. Together, meeting challenges head on and creating new opportunities, aggregation partners will help transform what marketers, agencies and suppliers can accomplish through television and video.

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