TransUnion’s new partnership with Blockgraph supports precision ad targeting while protecting viewer privacy
This month, global information company TransUnion entered a partnership with a data and insights platform, Blockgraph, which is owned and operated by Comcast NBCUniversal, Charter Communications, Inc. and ViacomCBS, Inc. The TV publishers (aka broadcasters) gain the use of privacy-focused identity, data modeling and audience creation through TransUnion’s Tru Optik, an OTT and streaming data ecosystem that TransUnion acquired last year.
The collaboration meets a growing demand for more video advertising and cross-screen opportunities for marketers, especially within streaming services. But the many moving parts require robust data solutions around identity to deliver the precision that marketers, as well as consumers, expect.
Data-savvy adtech collaborations that meet rising demand in streaming
Because Blockgraph is an open-platform identity infrastructure that is privacy-focused, it provides aggregated and anonymized insights, as well as measurement and addressability. An advertiser who enters into this ecosystem will now have an expanded reach among various linear and streaming properties, while maintaining the privacy for consumers that is expected.
“The core technology software platform [in Blockgraph] enables secure data collaboration,” said Matt Spiegel, EVP marketing solutions and media vertical, TransUnion. “This clean room platform is a safe haven for data, and represents the notion of ‘marketer A’ collaborating with ‘media property B,’ but no one wants to touch the data. Neither marketer nor media needs to put data in their hands. This allows matching in the media and provides the tools to make that possible.”
Collaborations like this one leverage the data from each of these parties, but also include the technological capability of using it in such a way that privacy is maintained for consumers. Streaming audiences can be served relevant ads without personally identifiable information going into the hands of advertisers.
“Marketers have learned the value of precision targeting and messaging and are increasingly turning to tech and media partners that enable that precision,” Spiegel said. “As a result, we are seeing media companies of all types increase their investments in the data and identity intelligence necessary to fulfill these expectations.”
Not only does this data-enabled precision improve the experience for advertisers and consumers within linear and streaming channels, but it also gives this ecosystem a leg up in the cookie-less future, because it developed its targetability without the cookie.
“The premium video ecosystem is increasingly well positioned to meet evolving marketer demands,” Spiegel explained. “The good news for this part of the industry is that cookies were never relevant. The challenge is that many are still building the capabilities required to operate in a people- and household-driven world. However, the amount of investment happening, both from companies like Blockgraph, as well as directly from the distributors and content creators, is significant, and many companies are ready to meet the demand today.”
Larger audiences watch video on devices and desktops and are served ads through aggregators
Marketers at all stages of the supply chain are aware of the prize that awaits if they can deliver more personalized messages at the scale of streaming audiences. As traditional linear TV retains a good chunk of its audience and ad revenue, there have been some changes, especially over the last year, that signal a more substantial and complicated transition underway.
Streaming video is continuing to grow its audiences, and tech companies are developing new ways to reach them. Expanded services and award-winning content provide all kinds of options that attract viewers. The resulting fragmentation, however, creates challenges that call for increasingly innovative tech solutions to serve relevant, actionable ads to consumers.
TV and video creative asset management company Extreme Reach provides a wide ranging view of the industry’s shifts with its quarterly and annual Benchmarks reports. Recently, we noted from the Q4 2020 report how more impressions now occur on video ads that have been placed through media aggregators, as opposed to directly through premium publishers. This was the first time media aggregators had surpassed premium publishers, indicating a significant shift in the video landscape.
The growing range of viewing options consumers are using is evident in Extreme Reach’s quarterly reports over the last year. One might have expected CTV assets to remain at their pre-pandemic levels or grow over the last year, and for mobile device impressions to drop, as more people worked from home and commuted less. Instead, CTV decreased, and mobile impressions gained steam. CTV dropped from 47% of impressions in 2019, down to 37% at the beginning of 2020. By the end of the year CTV held steady at 35%. During pandemic shutdowns in Q2 and Q3 of 2020, mobile app impressions were at 26%, and mobile web impressions were at 12-13%. Desktop grew from 16% in 2019, up to 20-23% throughout 2020.
The growth of streaming services can be attributed, in part, to the number of mobile impressions, as these services and apps provide premium content on mobile devices, including tablets. The availability of this content through streaming across TVs and devices lifts all ships, it would seem.
“With entertainment companies solidly including streaming services in their distribution strategies for original content and content unveilings, we expect to see continued escalation in streaming adoption,” said Melinda McLaughlin, CMO of Extreme Reach.
This hybrid world with so many streaming options will also continue to turn out both ad-supported and ad-free subscription content.
“Ad-supported and ad-free streaming both have value for consumers in the streaming landscape,” McLaughlin explained. “Where this lands will really depend on how much consumers are willing to spend on platforms and entertainment, as well as the amount of time they anticipate spending with each service and what type of experience they seek.”
McLaughlin applauds the amount of options for media consumers. She added, “We all have more content and more ways to watch it than ever before. We may be struggling with weeding through all the ways to find it, and there definitely needs to be innovation in search and discover interfaces, but I wouldn’t say that consumers are fed up with the explosion of content.”
Streaming video paving the way for data collaborations
These kinds of collaborations see no signs of letting up. Marketing specialist firm Winterberry Group flagged both data collaborations in linear and connected TV as areas of growth in their 2021 outlook.
“Data collaboration is going to be as important in the CTV/linear ad markets, since we expect more private gardens to exist by cable providers, broadcast/streaming networks and device manufacturers,” said senior managing partner Bruce Biegel. “Brands and their agencies want to collaborate to enable insights, activation with reach and frequency capping and, as importantly, measurement.”
For those who expect subscription streaming services to keep down ad revenue from supposedly less-popular ad-supported programming, Biegel’s findings say otherwise.
“At the same time we are seeing subscription streaming growth, we are also seeing an increase in ad-supported streaming — which we expect to accelerate as households and individuals cap the number of channels that they subscribe to,” Biegel explained.
He added, “This will open new ad opportunities and also allow for increased targeting options across linear and digital/CTV. We do expect that spending becomes more fluid across the channels as advertisers seek audiences across their TVs and digital devices.”
More channels and devices simply indicate that more data and collaborations are required to reach the relevant, targeted audience in a privacy-safe way.
As the streaming audience grows, the gains to be made by marketers and publishers who reach them effectively will also increase. So far, data collaborations appear to be rising to the challenge.
Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.