Advertising is the lifeblood of much of the video watched today, and it works best when the wants and needs of all three parties involved—programmer, advertiser, and viewer—are effectively realized, which is more challenging given the rapidly expanding platforms used to watch television programming.
Two recent announcements from Adobe; one integrating Primetime into Adobe Marketing Cloud, the other integrating Adobe Primetime with Nielsen’s audience measurement products, show how technology can make advertising more profitable for the publisher, more effective for the advertiser, and more palatable for the viewer. They also show how Adobe is adding significant chunks of functionality to Primetime, making it an extremely attractive alternative to HTML5-based delivery platforms and technologies.
A System of Changing Needs
Let’s start with a brief review of the types of data that programmers and advertisers need for effective operation. Programmers who actually create the shows need accurate viewer data to understand how successful a show is, and the prices they can charge for advertising. Beyond the raw numbers, the more effectively viewers can be segmented, the more programmers can sell higher value ad spots to advertisers. In addition to video views, programmers have significant visitor-specific data from website traffic, and have no simple way to integrate that data with video-related analytics. There’s also been no simple way to use customer segmentation to drive advertising decisions, or to personalize content for specific segments.
Advertisers want assurance that the viewer numbers they’re paying for are actually being delivered. Many also want the ability to target specific demographics and are willing to pay more to reach these buyers. Finally, the viewer wants advertising that’s relevant to them; otherwise it’s intrusive and potentially offensive.
Traditionally, viewership numbers and demographics were supplied by Nielsen using a variety of techniques, but, in general, only TV viewing in the living room is counted. As more and more viewers watch on alternative platforms, the Nielsen numbers become less and less useful.
Enter Adobe Primetime and the Adobe Marketing Cloud
The Adobe Marketing Cloud is a suite of eight modules (including Primetime) that delivers a broad range of website and video-related analytics and functionality. For example, Adobe Analytics collects data from website traffic and buying patterns to create segments that you can use in other modules, like creating a personalized web experience in Adobe Target. Prior to the integration of Primetime and the Marketing Cloud, the customer-related data from the website was maintained separately from Primetime analytics regarding video watching habits. This made it difficult for video marketers to use Marketing Cloud tools like Adobe Audience Manager to create and target segments for video advertising.
After the Primetime integration, customer data gleaned from Primetime flows directly into Adobe Analytics, where it can be accessed by tools like Audience Manager. Significantly, within Audience Manager, the data can be profile-based, rather than based upon cookies. In a TV Everywhere setting, registration data, or first-party data, can be used to create specific customer segments, which you can further refine with second- and third-party data from other sources. These segments can be targeted by Audience Manager, with ads served by Adobe Auditude, the video advertising platform that’s a core component of Primetime.
This segmenting lets programmers charge more for advertisements targeted towards more desirable segments, like the 18-34 demographic. Ads can be dynamically inserted, allowing the programmer to target different ads towards different demographics, and to prevent viewers from seeing a particular ad too often.
From an advertiser’s perspective, the ability to target demographics is a definite plus. What’s missing, however, is the assuredness provided by Nielsen’s blessing of these numbers. That’s where the integration of Adobe Analytics with Nielsen’s measurement system comes in.
Adobe Numbers, Nielsen Verification
The Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, Powered by Adobe, integrates Nielsen’s digital audience measurement products with Adobe Marketing Cloud. Though these ratings will ultimately incorporate playback data from desktops, smartphones, tablets, game consoles and OTT boxes, the current release only inputs data from desktop, iOS and Android platforms. This information is collected and processed within Adobe Marketing Cloud, and the Nielsen certified data is accessible from within Adobe Marketing Cloud. At a high level, the service extends Nielsen’s living room-based metrics, providing publishers and advertisers with certified numbers over all relevant player platforms.
Making it Work
Implementing Primetime involves multiple steps, some more complicated than others. From a playback perspective, publishers will have to add support for Primetime in their various players and apps using software development kits (SDKs) supplied by Adobe. Adobe primarily uses HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) encoded video to deliver to the various Primetime clients, so publishers may have to conform their content to this standard. If coming from a different analytics package, the publisher will have to convert from one data store and format to another while maintaining the data necessary for planning and reporting throughout.
This sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But few major publishers are in a position where they can sit still right now; most are in the process of transitioning to some new technology. Publishers who previously used Silverlight are having to switch to a new delivery technology now that Chrome no longer supports Silverlight. Even those using Flash on the desktop are increasingly using HTML5 to support new platforms, and must be planning for Flash’s ultimate demise, however far away that might be.
By integrating Primetime and Nielsen ratings with Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe has raised the bar on features that a video delivery system needs to provide to be competitive.
Primetime provides universal support for a single codec; a single digital rights management (DRM) system; closed caption support; SDKs for all supported platforms; turnkey integration with analytics, segmenting, and targeting packages in Adobe Marketing Cloud; an integrated ad delivery system with dynamic ad insertion; and access to traditional and digital Nielsen ratings.
Producers attempting to implement similar functionality via HTML5 may have to support multiple codecs and DRMs within environments with different implementation time schedules and a dizzying mix of compatibility matrices. Internet Explorer supports the latest HTML5 video playback standards but only on Windows 8.1, and then only supports a single DRM, PlayReady. Safari does the same, but only on Macs running the latest OS X update, Yosemite, and also supports only a single DRM, FairPlay, which it hasn’t agreed to license to publishers not named Netflix or Hulu.
Mozilla Firefox, sadly on its way to irrelevancy, is perpetually one release away from full HTML5 support, and then only with a third DRM, Adobe Access, now called Adobe Primetime DRM. Apple doesn’t support the latest HTML5 standards at all on iOS, while Android does, but only on the latest versions. The HTML5 playback environment isn’t merely complicated—it’s totally fractured and borderline incomprehensible.
Beyond playback, HTML5 doesn’t natively provide server-side advertising insertion, a critical technology for defeating ad-blockers, and not all advertising networks currently support HTML5. Choosing and integrating the backend analytics package is up to the publisher, and the Nielsen Digital Ratings are only available via the Adobe Marketing Cloud. Overall, while HTML5 will work well for many smaller video publishers, larger publishers—particularly those supporting TV Everywhere—will find Adobe Marketing Cloud an alluring comprehensive solution.