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Identifying a Target Audience in the Age of Walled Gardens

August 20th, 2019   ||    by Callie Wheeler

If you think identifying a target audience is tough due to today’s complex television landscape, just think of your elderly relatives. What’s a Roku? What channel is Netflix on? Why does my TV have apps all of a sudden? This is a confusing time for many.

But it’s also a glorious time, having been dubbed the Golden Age of Television by many, with the variety of choices and increased competition creating an environment for cinema-quality programming.

This double-edged sword is no truer for any group than advertisers. With viewers’ increase in available mediums for viewing—from tablet to TV to smartphone to laptop and more—comes the dismemberment of data. The whole of the viewer’s TV habits is scattered across mediums, making it more difficult for advertisers to identify their audiences. And yet, if that data is obtained, the opportunity for targeted, relevant advertising is greater than ever before.

Moving on From Walled Gardens

A primary challenge for advertisers is the persistence of walled gardens. Rather than the issue going away, some media companies are simply creating new instances, as TV(R)ev reported regarding Roku’s Roku Channel app. The app allows viewers to purchase subscriptions, such as Showtime or Starz within the Roku app. However, unlike Amazon’s model, subscribers can only access these channels through the Roku app and not the services’ respective apps. As the article pointed out, this is an extreme walled garden, ensuring Roku always has access to the data its customers are creating.

And yet, almost unanimously, the television industry seems to understand walled gardens are an issue. An AdExchanger editorial compared today’s efforts to silo to early internet providers’ walled gardens. Those that created fortresses failed, allowing imperfect, but open, providers like AOL to succeed. There are similar examples that prove open ecosystems drive value for both consumers and sellers. Even some creators of siloed systems, like AT&T, admitted they’re not sure how to integrate the data and are having difficulty selling disparate inventory.

Cultivating a Data Garden

Instead of investing ad dollars with media companies who provide limited visibility into audience behavior, often limited by content or medium, advertisers should consider identifying a target audience with companies that have cultivated data gardens. Ad Age cited Amazon as one such option, as its Prime ID links customers’ TV viewing, online shopping data, Whole Foods data, and voice services together. Coupled with the brand’s recent acquisition of Sizmek, advertisers can extend their reach from TV to digital advertising in one place, as well as gather important viewer data that extends well beyond one program or medium.

When media companies enable integration of data, advertisers can identify patterns, such as which programs are viewed on which devices, whether time of day influences device type, and whether certain purchases tend to occur after television viewing. In a complex ecosystem, an understanding of these kinds of data points is no longer optional or excessive; it’s imperative to intelligently advertise to viewers.

Leveraging the Data

Once access to this data is established, advertisers cannot only construct a more holistic picture of the viewer, but they can also measure ad effectiveness more accurately by linking purchases, voice searches, and more to viewing history.

The creation of industry standards s (such as the TIP Initiative) , the elimination of silos, and the switch to data gardens will equip both buyers and sellers of ad inventory to more effectively produce ROI.

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