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Australia prepares for a world-first Total TV measurement and shared audience targeting platform

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The Australian TV industry is working towards a mid-year deadline to deliver what will be one of the most ambitious audience measurement and shared planning systems on earth. VOZ, as it is known (Virtual Australia), is being built by Australia’s measurement body OzTAM with Nielsen, and has already been described by senior agency executives as the Holy Grail of measurement and a potential game-changer for ad-supported TV in the region.

VOZ is fully supported by the local broadcasters and TV sales houses, and it seems to have the warm backing of media buyers, albeit with some practical concerns about how a cross-screen trading currency will be applied. What makes VOZ different to any other next-generation measurement solution is that it will be integrated into a shared platform that enables audience-based buying across multi-broadcaster inventory, using what will be commonly agreed audience segments.

A simple way of thinking about VOZ is that it is BARB Dovetail and OpenAP rolled into one, only the OpenAP side is supported by every major commercial broadcaster in the market. As such, it is currently unique. The project confirms how quickly the Australian market has rallied together to confront the dangers of audience fragmentation and growing competition from Google and Facebook. It is further evidence that Australia is now in the Premier League of advanced TV advertising markets.

VOZ featured prominently during discussions at Future TV Advertising Forum Sydney last week. When complete, this world-class toolbox will:

  • Identify linked device usage to enable de-duplication of viewing across screens.
  • Demonstrate incremental reach from connected device viewing.
  • Demonstrate co-viewing of connected living room TV sets, with demographic details, for streaming services from broadcasters. This is in a market where Smart TVs account for half of all television sets and 60% of viewing on broadcaster streaming services – which are called BVOD in Australia – is via a connected TV device and so seen on the big screen, which can often be a shared experience.
  • Enable unified multiplatform campaigns with consistent performance metrics.
  • Provide combined reach/frequency management across TV/BVOD and all screens.
  • Enable agencies and advertisers to create media plans for TV inventory on all screens for metropolitan free-to-air broadcasters and commercial Foxtel channels.
  • Integrate broadcaster, advertiser and third-party data to enable audience targeting against behaviour, interests and needs. This is the component that sets VOZ apart from all other next-generation TV measurement initiatives. Australians talk of ‘advanced audience targeting’, which is what the U.S. and European markets refer to as audience-based buying. This goes beyond targeting based on demographics and builds audience segments based on attributes like intent to purchase a category of goods. Targeting auto-intenders (people who are currently in the market for a certain category of vehicle) is a simple example. The advanced targeting can be applied to both broadcast and streaming services in VOZ. Industry agreement is needed on what datasets to use but that is coming.
  • Provide, in time, a new currency for trading TV in Australia that brings broadcast linear plus live and on-demand streaming – watched via any screen – into one buy.

The VOZ database will consist of 25 million individuals and will be hosted in the cloud. Once tested by the broadcast stakeholders, agencies and brand buyers will be able to interrogate the data and plan and optimise campaigns through the VOZ system. One practical concern that was flagged at the Sydney event is getting everyone’s data systems to plug in.

Doug Peiffer, CEO of OzTAM, used the FTVA Sydney conference to update the industry on progress and address buy-side questions about how they will be able to trade via VOZ and its all-screen currency. But he started by confirming the rationale for the initiative. BVOD (broadcaster streaming) viewing is growing very rapidly – up 64% in 2018 in minutes viewed. There are now an average of 6.6 screens per home in Australia and the trend is upward. Television set ownership is in decline however: down from a 2.2 average per home ten years ago to 1.8 per household today.

Mirroring what is happening in many markets, this represents a perfect storm if you are a broadcaster who is judged only on broadcast linear TV ratings on television sets. The multiscreen era has produced what is thought to be an increase in light TV viewers but as Peiffer made clear, we need to be careful to differentiate between a light TV viewer and a light television set viewer, and someone who is light on broadcast linear but instead watching on BVOD.

“The more devices you have in the home, the more likely you are to spread your viewing across those devices. That makes you a light viewer to the TV set,” he noted. “Today you [meaning media agencies who are expected by clients to achieve certain reach figures] are being measured on the 1.8 screens. You will be able to interrogate the [VOZ] database and ask to exclude television [set] viewing and be shown where you can find the heavy tablet viewers including the types of programmes they are watching. You can say, ‘Show me light viewers to television [broadcast linear] and show me where I can get to them on BVOD’.”

The bottom line is that VOZ stitches all viewing together and it helps media buyers fill gaps in reach that may exist on broadcast TV and television sets. Combined measurement provides the basis for working out incremental reach.

VOZ is the culmination of a long journey. It brings together a number of data sources and places them into a ‘virtual database’. The sources are:

  • OzTAM panel homes, which provide minute-by-minute viewing data on over 12,000 individuals, plus the Regional TAM panels covering regional broadcast TV (a TAM is a television audience measurement system). These panels were increased by 50% in 2017 to ensure robust sampling, counteracting the effects of audience fragmentation and a growing population. Australia has more people meters providing panel data, per capita, than any other country.
  • The VPM (Video Player Measurement) service, which provides minute-by-minute data from streaming devices when displaying BVOD from ABC (no commercials), Seven Network, Nine Network, Network Ten, SBS and Foxtel. VPM coverage, in terms of broadcasters and devices, is close to 100% now. Peiffer said VPM monitors over 12 million devices a month. Demographic information was added to the VPM reports last week, meaning you can match a streaming session against basic details on who is watching. That means broadcasters can give a profile on the type of people watching programmes on their streaming services.
  • Streaming TV meters, which record all viewing within an OzTAM panel household. There are around 1,300 panel homes with a streaming meter. This is how demographics can be applied to the VPM-measured streaming sessions. OzTAM has now completed the process of installing these meters into homes.

Several times during Future TV Advertising Forum Sydney, questions were raised from the buy-side about how the currency will work. As Nicole Turley, Client Consultant at Finecast, pointed out as she interviewed Peiffer onstage, there is one currency today for broadcast TV, another for BVOD and a third for other VOD in Australia. So, after the unified measurement, will agencies have to execute, optimise and report in two different worlds?

Peiffer is confident the media agencies and broadcasters will work this out amongst themselves, and also agree on how guarantees  are provided across TV and BVOD. These are not major problems, but will just take time to resolve, he said. He added: “VOZ is helping TV to evolve.”

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