Reports of TV’s Death Greatly Exaggerated, Part 2

In part one of this series on key strategies for leveraging the power of digital TV we discussed interactivity. Today, let’s look in detail at a second strategy: increasing the relevance of your message.

We’ve used advanced targeting techniques on the Web for years, and many advertisers have benefited from innovations in contextual and behavioral targeting. One of the more powerful targeting strategies is leveraging Atlas targeting capabilities to serve an extremely relevant ad based on what we know about an individual’s relationship with the client. We might serve one ad to someone who’s never been to a retail site, for example, and a different ad to someone who made a purchase, and yet another ad to a user who made multiple purchases. The process gets really interesting when you start layering dynamically generated creative assets, which can pull in the latest prices, react to such things as current weather conditions, and more.

The result? Hyper-relevant creative and no need to produce a ton of creative assets. Many of our clients currently employ these approaches for online banner ads. But what if you could apply the same basic thinking to video?

It’s only a matter of time. Direct response marketers and marketers with widespread local franchises/distributors/retail locations and variable pricing will be among the first to leverage this. But as with interactivity, the implications for pure brand marketers are perhaps even greater. Brands build connections with relevance, great storytelling, and great ideas. It used to be that you built a single key story designed to strike a chord with the most important target segment and hoped it would resonate with and have an impact on other audiences.

But what if you could tell one central brand story in ways more likely to resonate with a number of key segments at once, instead of aiming for the middle of the target and hoping to hit the rest? This is the idea behind nonlinear storytelling, and dynamic content generation is poised to make it real. Talk to your core consumer one way about the brand while talking to ancillary consumer segments about the brand in a way that subtly addresses their own unique attributes and interests.

The opportunity is to have a big, relevant impact on several key segments at once, with a unified (but customized) brand message that maintains consistency at the top but delivers context and personalization at the bottom. It begins to bring together several key things that have been building in momentum over the last 18-24 moths: behavioral targeting, nonlinear storytelling, and digital video.

Good news: it’s starting to happen. Companies like Visible World offer technology that supports dynamic assembly of video advertising from a preestablished suite of creative assets. The advertiser develops a spot with multiple variations that can be driven by business rules such as what designated market area (DMA) the ad’s delivered to, average demographics for a cable zone, which products are on sale at airtime, and the like. The result is a linear spot with branches selected on the basis of those business rules — decisions all made at broadcast time. And that spot can be delivered either via TV or on broadband video. Nothing is quite robust enough yet to get scale at an individual household or cookie level, but geographically targeted and other similar mass-targeting campaigns have achieved great success. Pilot programs at more granular targeting levels have either recently run or are currently in planning stages.

Examples of how this technology might be used:

  • Automobile manufacturers could version creative by model (sedan vs. SUV vs. minivan), sales offer (lease vs. financing vs. cash back), and more, all at a regional level. They could also close the spot with the name and address of the nearest local dealer; several auto companies are already using Visible World to do exactly this.
  • A retailer could vary featured products (and corresponding prices) by region, changing products frequently without having to redevelop and redeploy the spot from scratch.
  • A packaged goods company or fast-food chain could change the items featured based on current weather conditions: ice cream cones or smoothies when it’s hot, soup and chili when it’s cold.
  • A travel company could change the spot’s focus based on the type of program the spot airs on. This might be a business-travel focus during financial programming and a leisure-travel focus during more general programs. Or, the focus could change to spotlight destinations based on what’s featured in the programming: deals on travel to Seattle during “Grey’s Anatomy,” to Chicago during ” ER,” and to Miami during “CSI: Miami.”
  • Creating multiple spot versions may seem expensive. While it will impact a production budget, it needn’t mean an exponential increase. It requires rethinking the production process away from a big-budget single spot toward a digital, flexible, modular suite of spots.

    Even simple tweaks to elements such as text overlays and music or voiceover changes can have a powerful impact on overall relevance. Think about the :30 spot carved up into :05 or :10 chunks, for example. The first :05 may be the same across all versions. The next :05 could be one of several lifestyle shots depicting types of people using the product. The middle :10 may again be the same across all versions, showing product detail. Following that, :05 of an offer that varies based on cable zone (geotargeting), time of day, day of week, or other variables. The last :05 presents more localized info, showing viewers the closest retail locations based on their Zip Codes. This process creates a simple matrix of assets needed during your shoot, and for a small premium on top of your existing production budgets, you wind up with what might be 200 or more possible combinations, maximizing your chances to make a connection with your audience.

    To date, companies that have tested this approach generally report strong results. We know from our experience with online targeting and dynamic ad assembly that it can be an extremely powerful — and personal — campaign enhancement.

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    Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.