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Less Secret Every Day: ACR and Logistics at the Secret Society Meeting

May 15th, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler   ||    No Comments

The Secret Society, established in 2015 by Mitch Oscar, an advanced television strategist with USIM, was created to inform industry leaders about the advanced TV landscape, addressability, and data-driven advertising.

Each annual meeting is designed to bring forward pertinent issues within the industry, such as attribution, targeting with data, and other trends and initiatives. Here we dive into two focal trends: automatic content recognition (ACR) and logistics.

What Is Automatic Content Recognition?

ACR is a content labeling protocol that enables the tracking of a piece of content across all platforms. Alan Wolk, co-founder, editor, and lead analyst at TV[R]EV, stated that while automatic content recognition “functions off smart TVs,” it’s also present in smartphones and other mobile devices.

There are two types of automatic content recognition: video and audio. Video captures pixels from a screen and then matches those pixels to others off-screen or on other content platforms. Audio runs off apps, listening to what’s on the TV and then performing the same comparison across other platforms.

While this technology is a boon to content providers and marketers and offers great consumer services such as recommendation engines, Wolk averred that “security and privacy are two issues” that still need to be addressed. “Vizio got dinged by the FCC for requiring consumers to opt out rather than opt in,” he noted, adding, “Most people don’t care if others know what they watch on TV, but it is still weird.”

In the programmatic world, ACR enables better targeting, retargeting, and attribution. As Wolk explained, the protocol measures whatever is on the glass and is more reliable than set-top box data (often the STB is still on even though the set is off, and there’s no over-the-top data) or panels (which have smaller samples). ACR also enables second-by-second measurement in real time with the best data pool for cross-screen attribution.

Yet more education is needed, and privacy and consent remain an issue. Adoption of a standard protocol is slow because of legacy deals, along with the perceptions that smart TV users are not representative of the full TV universe, and that ACR measures TV sets rather than individuals. There’s also often only one smart TV per household, missing out on other household sets.

Thinking Logistically

In a highly competitive industry that’s transforming at an accelerated rate, legacy systems and processes, silos, and walled gardens have constructed a business obstacle course to completing deals. Brad Smith, senior vice president of revenue and operations at Videa, noted the industry is at a critical point, saying we “need to build processes to dovetail, empower, and move the business from how it has been done for forty years to the future.”

J.W. Linkenauger, vice president of advanced advertising support operations at Sinclair (making him responsible for infrastructure), explained how there’s often friction between the buyer and seller desks caused by different systems in the back office that don’t always connect to each other. The answer is to be flexible and explore all options. As Smith recommended: “We need to take a step forward as an industry” by testing “two or three systems at a time to see which one moves us forward.”

As we enter upfront season, Smith noted that “the viewable commercial load is putting pressure on the upfront. It’s live premium versus on-demand programming.” Prasad Joglekar, vice president of data strategy and solutions at Viacom, bemoaned the “dearth of fast and cheap measurement in the business,” predicting that while there’s more and more data available for buyers and sellers, “ACR will become an offer portion of the data pool.”

With all the various meetings and conferences going on in our industry, it’s easy to assume we’re all able to keep ahead of all the changes happening—that everyone knows what automatic content recognition is, for instance. But as Oscar noted, “We tackle issues that may not be addressed at all or are not as clear to people who have many other things to do in their day-to-day jobs. As the last democratic institution left in the U.S., the Secret Society is a way to level-set for the industry.”

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