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How Identity Will Shape the Future of Advanced TV

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The media ecosystem is changing rapidly.

That is clearly restating the obvious, but it’s also undeniably true. The streaming revolution brought about seismic changes in the ways Americans consume media — and how marketers reach them.

In the late 2010s and early 2020s, much of this growth was driven by SVOD — with subscription-based services proliferating wildly. New streaming services were launching left and right, creating a glut of content (not to mention a whole new landscape of walled gardens). It looked like SVOD was here to stay. 

But remember what I said about change?  

By the end of 2022, rising prices and an expanding array of options saw the SVOD star begin to fade, and AVOD and FAST step into the limelight with Netflix, Disney+ and Max (before it lost the “HBO”) all launching some form of ad-supported tier. And consumers were ready to jump at the chance to lessen the sticker shock of keeping up with multiple SVOD services. In fact, ad-supported video is on pace to gain triple the viewers of subscription video in 2023

There’s no question this new ad-supported era has promise. However, one could argue that by adding more options to an already congested streaming marketplace, AVOD’s success has made the fragmentation problems in the advanced TV landscape worse. With more options, consumers are tuned in to more streaming services than ever, and inventory is split across dozens of different distributors, platforms and devices.

That begs the question: If 2023 was the year AVOD really came into its own (with everything that implies), what is 2024 poised to bring to the connected TV landscape, and how will the industry begin to move past its persistent fragmentation issues? 

In a word, it all comes down to identity. 

An identity evolution

At the most fundamental level, the purpose of an advanced TV identity solution is to facilitate the connection of disparate identifiers across multiple devices to a single ID, giving advertisers the ability to zero in on specific individuals or households when building their campaigns. This acknowledges the reality that in today’s streaming landscape, premium content isn’t just the domain of the TV screen anymore.

In fact, better advanced TV measurement actually requires identity to translate exposure data from those myriad activation points to meaningful metrics like campaign reach, frequency and return on ad spend. Without it, at best, advertisers are going to sacrifice scale by focusing on a single platform or device. At worst, all that data just becomes noise.

With the deprecation of the third-party cookie in Chrome and scale-loss related to other identifiers, such as the identifier for advertisers (IDFA) and IP addresses, probabilistic identity solutions are very close to no longer being viable. Instead, 2024 is going to see increased prominence of identity graphs built off physical-world, persistent identifiers as the industry looks to future-proof its advanced TV strategies.

Another focus area of identity moving into 2024 will be interoperability. As legacy identifiers go the way of the dodo, new sources of identity are entering the marketplace to fill the gap. But with so many new solutions, fragmentation is only worsening. Universal IDs could be a potential fix, but adoption numbers in the larger ecosystem remain low.

The solution here isn’t just a continued proliferation of crosswalks either: Truly interoperable identity to enable addressable targeting and measurement will rely on a partner that can translate the separate identity spines of both buy and sell sides across ID spaces. When coupled with data collaboration technologies like clean rooms (where participant data doesn’t actually move), involved parties can help ensure they stay in compliance with privacy regulations — something increasingly important with nationwide privacy legislation potentially on the horizon.

This kind of broad interoperability has additional benefits beyond just helping advertisers and publishers strengthen their views of consumer identity. When implemented with speed, identity partners can gain more rapid insights into their data, delivering more personalized experiences for known and unknown identity, ultimately improving the overall consumer experience — which leads to more time on site.

Garbage in, garbage out

So, any off-the-shelf, deterministic identity graph should solve for advanced TV’s fragmentation woes, right? Not quite. 

It’s not just about what kind of data you’re using, but also about the data quality.

Conversations have been swirling recently about data accuracy in streaming video — and for good reason. According to a study from Truthset published in October, nearly half of email and postal address match data used for CTV ad target is faulty. 

While this is certainly an eye-popping statistic, it’s important to keep in mind accuracy isn’t the be-all and end-all of CTV advertising. Inaccurate data is less of an issue with campaigns built to maximize scale. The problem comes when identity solutions are built to exclusively focus on scale over delivering targeting accuracy. The solution is configurable identity, side-stepping the “one-size-fits-all” problems of many current identity solutions with the ability to fine-tune an identity graph to reach the ideal balance of increasing scale and providing accuracy based on use case. 

This also comes back to interoperability. The long and winding road facing any ATV media buyer has been well documented, especially when it comes to layering on audiences beyond just demos. That’s a shame considering addressability and precision targeting are the main selling points of streaming video in the first place. Every additional data layer and handoff means another opportunity for data degradation. 

If the industry can coalesce around a single dataset (powered perhaps by one or more robust identity graphs with broad reach across most people, households and devices), this volume of handoffs will decline and silos will break down. 

Looking ahead

The advanced TV campaigns of tomorrow will require a scaled, accurate and interoperable identity graph populated with the right signals to give advertisers an unobstructed, people-based view that cuts across publishers, distributors and devices.

That’s not exactly the simplest of asks, but with the right partnerships, advertisers and publishers alike can fulfill the promise of ATV in 2024 and beyond.

Do you have questions? Our team is ready to help.