Cookies may be going away, mobile identifiers may have new controls – but one ad industry veteran says alternative targeting signals are available in the emerging TV and video world.

With digital advertising’s traditional signals being reduced in usefulness, many in the industry have looked toward contextual targeting as an alternative.

But, in this video interview with Beet.TV, Rob Norman, director at the media platform Piano, describes a three-pronged way forward.


“I’m not sure how much of a signal context really is,” Norman says. “But one of the reasons why I look a lot towards YouTube on TV and Fire TV on Amazon is, when I think about the most powerful signals that we came to associate with online advertising, we think about identity as one powerful signature. But we think about intent as an incredibly powerful signal.

“We think about purchasing and transactions as a valuable signal as well. You really don’t have to look much further than Google’s trove of intent data, which drives the YouTube TV advertising system and Amazon’s trove and transaction data, which drives the Fire TV system.

“If you look at this troika of intent on YouTube, of transactions on Amazon and of cross-device graphs that exist in the Roku ecosystem, particularly after their purchase of dataxu and their more recent purchase of assets from Nielsen, I think you see in those three groups, a shape of connected TV and targeting and attribution, which has moved beyond the straight identifier cookie-based world of the online advertising market. I think there’s terrific opportunity in that.”

CTV outlook

US Connected TV Ad Spending, 2019-2024 (billions, % change, and % of total media ad spending)

In November, eMarketer forecast US connected TV ad spending would reach $11.36 billion in 2021 – 4.2% of total US media ad spending.

The medium is going through a tipping point at which the majority of ad dollars will be automatically traded.

Today, YouTube, Hulu, and Roku take half of all CTV ad revenue.

But, for all the eyeballs they control, the hardware OEMs will want a bigger slice of the pie.

Identifying the future

“In connected TV, we have a persistent identifier, still, called the IP address, and we also have device IDs,” Norman says. “Some combination of IP addresses and device IDs is going to remain important at least for a time.

“But some people will be looking ahead beyond that and making some assumptions that maybe even those areas will start to deprecate. Who knows what’s going to happen as an even bigger range of walled gardens starts to emerge?

“We’ve become familiar with the Amazon walled gardens and the Facebook walled gardens, but we’re about to become familiar with device-led walled gardens, operated by people like LG, Samsung, and Vizio. The use of identifiers in the TV market is evolving at really quite a space. What I’m hoping people are going to do is to stand back and look at other forms of signal other than identifiers.”

Shifting sands

Norman is referring to how the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the TV space are becoming powerful by running in-house ad data organizations.

They are the primary class of company that, using ACR (automatic content recognition), is able to gain “glass-level” understanding of consumers’ actual viewing behaviour.

As they do that, however, there is a growing concern that the OEMs may start to withhold that data from an industry that was getting used to using it.

In October, Vizio reorganized to integrate Inscape, its ACR business, into its main advertising and content business. Inscape, which has supplied its ACR data to other ad-tech companies, is now no longer independent.

You are watching “Driving Reach and Results on Connected TV,” a Beet.TV leadership series presented by Pixability. For more videos, please visit this page.