The Rapid Acceleration of Media Trends Offers Opportunities, Not Threats

4 lessons from Xandr’s 2020 Connect event

From the Covid-19 pandemic to the impending deprecation of third-party cookies, 2020 saw an acceleration of media trends that could have long-term implications for brands, publishers and consumers.

To get a handle on the future of advertising and examine these trends more closely, media experts from around the world gathered virtually for the annual Xandr Connect conference. The week-long event covered topics spanning the consumer habit changes that are altering the premium video landscape, emerging identity solutions, the rise of marketplace curation, and the road to convergence of linear TV and digital advertising.

Here are some of the key takeaways from Xandr Connect 2020:

1. Without third-party cookies, privacy and innovation are at the forefront  

Kicking off with a conversation about the future of identity, participants looked at what will happen when there are no more third-party cookies. While noting that impending browser changes actually promote consumer privacy and align with recent laws and regulatory guidance, speakers acknowledged the challenge of a cookie-less world. However, they also realized an opportunity to champion privacy while finding innovative ways to provide marketers and consumers with relevant, targeted ad experiences.

Conversations made it clear that players are shifting their focus to developing strategic identity solutions that provide both buyers and sellers with the foundational elements they need to succeed in this new environment. One of those solutions is contextual targeting. As Xandr’s director of solutions engineering Harvin Gupta pointed out, “Context is a much more powerful tool than it used to be. It doesn’t require consent, and with new measurement tools we can find out a lot more about how the campaign is targeting users without relying on cookie measurements.”

The economic, social and political uncertainty partially expedited by the pandemic drove consumers to better connect with brands that display a clear social purpose. As a result, brands are striving to highlight the value they provide and will need to develop new ways to target relevantly without third-party cookies.

This sentiment was echoed by Jeff Neinaber, Microsoft’s global senior director audience ads. “The most important shift is really that recollection that we haven’t put the human at the center,” he said. “We can start tailoring our solutions on the buy-side and the sell-side to really reflect that, and to reflect where consumer trends are globally, and how we can use this opportunity to innovate for human beings.”

2. Premium video presents a real-time opportunity for buyers and sellers

Programmatic video ad spend for connected TV (CTV) is expected to increase by over 50% next year, and advertisers and media owners are taking notice.

Cynthia Hudson, SVP and managing director at CNN pointed out that this is a time of opportunity. “I think this is the time for those of us in the content creation side of things to be proactive and build new business models that include ways to take advantage of each layer and think of hybrid models to create premium and streaming content and player moments,” she said.

I think this is the time for those of us in the content creation side of things to be  proactive … and think of hybrid models to create premium and streaming content and player moments

Cynthia Hudson, CNN

The introduction of CTV and OTT platforms has enriched consumers lives and pushed content into a new dimension. On the back end, these emerging formats have introduced both volatility and opportunity for broadcasters and content creators. Driven by the surging demand for premium content, buyers are following consumers to OTT platforms and services. As OTT continues to gain popularity, expect to see new ways for buyers and sellers to capitalize on the growing opportunities it presents while, at the same time, creating positive experiences for a burgeoning segment of TV consumers.

3. Curated marketplaces simplify programmatic and drive outcomes

This year, for the first time, programmatic ad spend on private marketplaces surpassed that on open exchanges. Xandr also has seen ad spend via curated marketplaces increase on its platform this year, introducing these marketplaces globally with both Omnicom Media Group and Dentsu.

The value of such curation was noted by Ben Kneen, Xandr’s senior director of product management. “The curated platform provides an elegant solution to many different problem-sets for both traditional sellers and traditional buyers as well as intermediaries such as a data owners,” he said.

The rise of curated marketplaces is expected to continue as they make it easy to build programmatic supply solutions with a broad array of features that combine proprietary assets, high-quality inventory and new levels of transparency at scale.

4. Traditional TV must transform to stay relevant

Providing relevant advertising to interested consumers in a premium content environment is always top priority. As viewing habits shift and digital video grows, the focus on a converged platform—or one that can reach and engage consumers across channels, formats and screens with a consistent message—is critically important.

This means that how advertising is transacted needs to change, according to Xandr’s VP of business development Mark Mitchell: “The techniques that made TV effective for so many years have to be updated and have to be applicable for a digital era.”

The demand for advanced data insights and technology in TV is only growing, and programmers benefit from the ability to facilitate a direct connection to buyers. To meet the moment, technology platforms will need to offer simple and streamlined tools that accomplish this.

Xandr has made progress on this front. Its Invest TV platform, which gives buyers access to programming from Disney, AMC, WarnerMedia, and most recently A+E Networks and Crown Media Family Networks, offers new ways for buyers to plan and activate audiences more consistently across TV programmers through a self-serve user interface. On the platform, buyers have the ability to achieve unified reach across today’s largest TV media. Roseann Montenes of A+E Networks shared her experience with the platform: “Standardization is so hard to find these days, and that is why we turned to Invest TV because, not only does it help standardize what we are trying to do in the space, it gives me the confidence to know that I am able to give that back to my clients.”

What’s next?

While rapid change can bring uncertainty, this year’s Xandr Connect event proved that industry participants are excited, not threatened, by the opportunities that lie ahead. Discussions made it clear that the industry is prepared to work together to overcome challenges, and come out the other side with more comprehensive, data-enabled technology that well positions the industry as a whole for the next evolution of advertising.