Extreme Reach’s James Shears on TV’s Creative Renaissance

James Shears  | 

*This article was originally published in NYC TV Week

NYC TV Week’s Streaming TV panels examining the fate of television – with the foreboding title “Is TV Dead?” – has generated a lot of opinion. Here, James Shears, VP, Advanced Advertising at Extreme Reach, shares a contrarian view; to him, TV is alive and well, just don’t neglect its foundations. Hear all of his comments, along with the rest of this great panel, by registering today for the full NYC Television Week conference!

Pundits have been predicting ‘the death of TV’ for some time. What do you expect the TV landscape will look like in two years? Or five?
The counter question to that is, what is your definition of TV? There is nothing hotter in our industry than connected TV and/or OTT. TV is alive and well. In fact, on the content side, I’d even say we’re in the midst of a creative renaissance. The competition among streaming services is driving a huge amount of original content, and the opportunities for brands to find their audiences is increasing as well on the AVOD front. That incredible content is also forcing traditional players to take more risks with their content to keep up. No matter how you look at it, we are living in a Golden Age of television.

 Your panel is tasked with discussing ‘how to best monetize TV/video’s future form factors.’ How complex an issue is this? Where do you think the solution lies? Specifically, what is ER doing in this regard to help its clients navigate this marketplace?
Monetization within any new endeavor or product is always complex. The industry needs to think through the challenges of new pipes and data sources that are coming online. The most complex issue at present, given the privacy concerns being raised globally, is how best to identify a user and deliver appropriate content.

Separate from that, though, the big issue faced by our industry is ad fatigue. There are often complaints in OTT around ad load and the lack of variety in the ads. The same ad seems to be repeated ad nauseam, and that could continue to alienate viewers. OTT, with its IP-delivered content, provides a great forum to rectify the above. With these newer distribution mechanisms, a whole new world of addressability becomes available. With that, the importance of frequency management and personalization become paramount.

 Extreme Reach is focused on helping storytellers connect with their audience. As a creative asset management platform, we act as a central repository for all creative assets and a single source for final, broadcast-ready assets. We are stewards of the storytelling gems that brands invest in to connect with audiences on every platform. 

What are the biggest challenges in applying programmatic buying to the current marketplace for OTT TV and video?
Programmatic buying requires data as the foundational piece of how the whole engine performs. That data in the past has primarily focused on behavioral information derived from cookies. Though there are certainly other data points, most of it comes from those cookies. Connected TV and OTT create an environment that is ‘cookieless.’ If that’s the case, new pointers need to be developed, which is the biggest driver of things like device graphs. Executionally as well, it is incredibly difficult to run dynamic ad insertion within live environments. Couple that with the fact that premium publishers want greater control of creative being served within their walls, and you also need to factor in the ramifications of third-party ad serving.

What do you expect people will come away from this panel with, in terms of new insights or best practices? If you were an attendee, what hot button issues do you think the panel should be addressing?
First and foremost, it’s important to remember that though this ecosystem is exploding with growth and innovation, it is still in its infancy. What comes with that is an enormous amount of opportunity for business. That said, in terms of best practices, it is crucial to remember both the sexy and non-sexy. Spend time thinking through the new shiny objects in terms of the business model – the tech, the data, etc. And don’t forget execution. Remember that even things like programmatic, which is established, needs to be revamped for this environment.

It’s about building a foundation for success. One thing that often gets overlooked is the creative, or commercial, itself. The most important vehicle to attain and engage an audience needs to be successfully deployed for the campaign to achieve its goal. If you think about it, it’s similar to renovating a house. It’s human nature to prefer to spend money on the things that everyone sees: new kitchen appliances, furniture, paint colors; it’s a lot less exciting to invest in updating the electrical and plumbing. But without those are critical pieces, the house is almost useless.  

When it comes to launching campaigns, we don’t tend to focus much on the way creative assets get from their original source to every screen on the media plan. Like the plumbing and electrical of a house, ad delivery and asset management are foundational for successful campaigns, be they for linear TV, digital or any form of advanced advertising.

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