Cable operators are in a strong position to provide the rich data that marketers will need to advertise to people, and eventually machines, in an increasingly connected world. The cable industry should be bold and invest in the data capabilities that will make them indispensable partners to advertising agencies. The agencies need them to do this. This was the message from Barry Cupples, Glogal CEO – Investment, at Omnicom Media Group to Cable Congress in Brussels this week. His company, which places $50 billion of client money into media each year, wants cable operators to help it get closer to consumers in an increasingly complex, data-driven world.
Cupples pointed to a future where our broadband lives are complemented by Artificial Intelligence, with personal digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa becoming increasingly important. Sometime next decade these devices (or their successors) will start making purchase decisions on our behalf, like replacing goods that have run out. Eventually these machines will understand so much about us and our changing opinions that they could switch brands without being asked.
Cupples said marketers will have to advertise to machines to persuade them to buy their products. This may sound crazy but a key theme for Cable Congress 2017 was how the cable industry moves beyond super-fast access networks to provide smart pipes – which really means becoming a conduit for smart home services and, increasingly, AI-inspired activities. That mission will require that cable operators become a conduit for lots of data.
Cupples is interested in that data and how it will help his company get closer to consumers. Cable operators are in a trusted position to get all necessary customer opt-ins and provide the transparency that the marketing industry will need. There is a shorter-term opportunity, too, to enable addressable TV advertising, and also to help the advertising industry move from what Cupples called a ‘Guess Economy’ to an ‘Evidence Economy’.
Although he did not mention it specifically, set-top box data will be a good starting point for this, providing the means to measure second-by-second viewing, and measure advertising exposure at an impression level. Cable operators also have detailed subscription data for all their customers, which can be matched against third-party data from companies like Experian to build up a good picture of the kind of people in a household, their lifestyle and their purchase behaviour.
Cupples told the cable operators in Brussels that they already have the assets needed to help the marketing industry and to build new revenue streams for themselves. He suggested a commitment to enabling advanced data-driven advertising (which would include addressable) could raise at least EUR 40 extra per year from each cable home, based on advertiser service fees [he did not specify what they could charge for but one obvious example is charging channel owners for enabling addressable advertising].
Cupples said a new age has dawned in TV advertising. “It is no longer a small number of advertisers reaching a huge number of consumers. Because of ‘addressable’ there is a large number of advertisers reaching highly targeted, defined [smaller] audiences. That is a massive opportunity that can be leveraged.” He talked about a new age of pre-emptive marketing as Artificial Intelligence develops.
He added: “There is a massive opportunity to drive forward the rich data environment and we are only going to do this hand-in-hand. We need to help you, and you need to help us to help you.”
He did not provide any detail on what the cable operators had to do, but said they will be right in the middle of an addressable communications platform. And he alluded to a role for a data-driven relationship management system. Given the context of his vision for AI, it sounds like some kind of human-data-machine-marketer interface is on the horizon for next decade.
Cupples pointed out that AI is already a reality. On his future roadmap he showed how personal assistants will edit our world for us and will understand every ingredient that could go into food, and will know prices for everything and be able to book services, cancel or amend them. “They will recommend products and experiences. By 2023 they will make purchase decisions on our behalf and change brand when they realise that our preferences have changed.”
He declared: “The future is already here; it is just not widely distributed yet.” He then inferred that we are about to see a battle for who has the relationships and the data that marketers are going to care about in future. He urged the industry not to hedge its bets and to commit itself wholeheartedly to a data-enabling role, and he cautioned everyone: “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight”, suggesting that only a complete and scalable effort is going to suffice in a world inhabited by data giants like Google and Amazon.