The DVB is investigating whether it should try to create standards for addressable advertising that would harmonize the way targeted ads are delivered and inserted and some of the backend processes needed to support this concept. If the standards body does push ahead, it is likely that a DVB standard for targeted advertising would be available by the summer of 2019, based on a best-case scenario and timescales for previous DVB initiatives.
The free-to-air market in Europe is a driving force behind the DVB’s Targeted Advertising Study Mission Group, but European Pay TV service providers are also showing an interest. The idea would be that any eventual standard could also go global. Any specification, and ultimately standard, will seek to harmonize targeted advertising technologies and processes for all distribution mechanisms, so free-to-air broadcast platforms, Pay TV broadcast platforms and streaming video, and it could be used by pure-play OTT providers.
The DVB has noted how the advertising market is shifting towards digital, programmatic and addressable models, and how this is now being actively considered by ‘classical’ TV broadcasters including for DTT delivery and live adaptive streaming (online). “It would appear sensible to work towards a consistent set of mechanisms across different technology and reception platforms to deliver targeted or addressable advertising,” the organisation says.
If the study group confirms that the market needs and wants a DVB standard, a DVB Commercial Module will be established next month to determine the objectives. A Technical Module would follow a year later and would look to leverage as many existing standards as possible.
Although the technical requirements have not been defined, we understand that for the free-to-air broadcast market, HbbTV 2.x could become a core technology for ad insertion, so this is likely to appear as an option in any technical specification. HbbTV 2.x can support the delivery of advertising over IP so it can be inserted into broadcast streams. Achieving frame accurate insertion will be one of the chief technical challenges but there is confidence this will be possible.
The Targeted Advertising Study Mission Group is co-chaired by Thierry Fautier of Harmonic and Vincent Grivet of TDF Group. Fautier says broadcasters do not want to miss out on the monetisation opportunities from addressable advertising but the Pay TV industry, which is pioneering addressable advertising today, could also benefit from standardisation or at least frameworks that would make it easier to deploy commercially. He also points to the advantages from harmonizing back office requirements for OTT, broadcast and service provider platforms.
The DVB is keen for vendors, including, of course, existing vendors of targeting technologies, to get involved. Non-DVB members as well as DVB members were invited to give their views about the study mission.
Speaking about the background to the study group, the DVB says: “As initial solutions for addressable TV advertising are being introduced, it is noted that the underlying technologies are predominantly proprietary. This creates a risk of technology fragmentation and could act in adverse ways for the existing TV ecosystem – for instance, difficulties for advertisers and broadcasters to source and market advertising slots across different reception platforms, and high transaction costs for advertising players needing to convert between multiple standards and platforms.”
Fautier acknowledges that on this occasion a DVB standard will not be a market-enabler, as addressable advertising (on broadcast systems) and targeting (with streaming video) are already deployed and growing. But he does think a standard, if requested by the market, will help ad-targeting really take-off.
“The market is already enabled, but it is not perfect. I am convinced DVB can help accelerate and scale addressable advertising.”
Why should existing vendors of addressable ad technology want to be involved, when they are already in-market and selling? “The benefit for them is that a standard would enable them to scale,” Fautier emphasises.
Although the decision has not been made whether to create the Commercial Module and so start work on a targeted advertising specification, it sounds like this is going to happen. We are told that there will be various demonstrations at IBC this year that would be relevant to a standards initiative.
Despite the pioneering work of Sky in the UK and to a lesser extent Liberty Global, addressable advertising on broadcast infrastructure is still nascent. Advertisers are keen on addressability but they want scale – the ability to reach large chunks of the population with targeted ads and not just limited Pay TV operator footprints. Even if every Pay TV operator in some of the major European markets was fully deployed, on every set-top box, this would still leave the hugely important free-to-air population untouched (except perhaps with targeted ads online from broadcast player services).
For this reason there is still plenty of scope for new advertising solutions to emerge, including cheaper alternatives, and it is definitely not too late to be thinking about how we build out this marketplace. On the contrary, with the fast-followers (including some of Europe’s biggest Pay TV operators) busy working out their advanced advertising roadmaps, now is the perfect time for any initiative to harmonize solutions, where harmonization is needed.
The television industry knows it must provide advanced advertising solutions or ultimately lose ad revenues to non-broadcast digital rivals like Google and Facebook. Major buyers, and notably Group M (the world’s biggest media buyer) are keen for this to happen. As we reported earlier this year, GroupM has been increasing the pressure on the television industry to make addressable happen at scale and make it an easy buy.
At Future TV Advertising Forum this December (the world’s leading ad-tech and ad-strategy thought-leadership event) we will be taking a close look at how the free-to-air market is going to implement addressability, and how the Pay TV industry is going to scale addressability and make it an easy buy for brands and agencies. If the DVB confirms its standards initiative, we will explore the implications of that development, too.