The Marketing Democracy is a consulting firm that helps marketers, marketing services agencies, and the media integrate their various marketing assets into powerful, integrated marketing solutions. We have specific expertise in finding the powerful intersection between creative (content) and media (channel).

“Addressable TV Advertising: The Role of Big Data” Research Paper Nominated for Best Paper at ICORIA 2017

August 18th, 2017

Great things happen when diverse minds collaborate to discover new ways of leveraging data and technology to deliver superior advertising outcomes.  

Professor Ed Malthouse of Northwestern University was working on important research with Ewa Maslowska of the University of Amsterdam on the relationship between a household’s viewing behavior and their propensity to vote in either the Democratic or Republican presidential primary elections.  Malthouse was sitting on a treasure trove of data: household characteristics for the state of Texas, voting behavior in either the Republican or Democratic presidential primaries for the same household universe, and set-top-box television program viewing data for the same. Through various machine learning techniques, Malthouse was able to explore the influence of household demographics and household viewing behavior on voting outcomes.

The results were compelling: but what did they mean for the advertising industry as TV advertising migrates from a mass to a more addressable advertising medium? How could the diverse knowledge and experience of an industry veteran shape the implications of their important findings?  Ed and Ewa invited me into the process to review their findings with a practitioner’s eye.  The results were truly stunning: what you view is more important than who you are!  Or, in terms that we use in the marketing, advertising, and media industries: Content Matters!

For quite some time now, I have been concerned that programmatic buying methods are stripping away the critical relationship between media content and the audiences they serve. Historically,  the only way for an advertiser to gain access to an audience was to purchase an advertising adjacency in media content that attracted the audience.  As explained by professor Philip Napoli in his book “Audience Economics” the content product and the audience product were inextricably linked.  However, with programmatic buying technology in digital display media, this relationship between content and the audience was being challenged by technology that enables advertisers to bid on audiences (cookies) regardless of where they are.  Where does this leave the media companies that invest great sums in their content product if they now have to compete with lower quality content providers in an auction marketplace that rewards cheap audience impressions?

If this mindset moves to television, we are all in trouble.  Television content is expensive to produce and someone has to pay for it. If advertisers do not realize the value of adjacent content, they will simply use programmatic technology to buy access to the right household or individual at the lowest possible price.  Content producers will then be forced to shift the cost burden onto someone else: and that “someone else” could be the audience.  While Ed and Ewa’s research doesn’t solve the entire question for us: it suggests that what you view is an important ingredient in determining who you are and the types of products and services that will appeal to you. Marketers need to pay attention to content.  In the words of a practitioner, “Content matters!”

While the media insight from this collaboration will help to advance knowledge and practice in programmatic buying, another key learning that is, perhaps, equally important came out of this experience.  Great things happen when diverse minds with diverse skills and experiences can collaborate on a tough issue.  As an industry veteran who crossed over into academia, I am amazed by the deep knowledge and perspective that is trapped behind the silos of academia and industry. Ed and Ewa were phenomenal partners who listened to my war stories and considered the implications of their research for an industry that desperately needs a compass.  Further, I was inspired by their quest for knowledge that can stand the test of time.  Academic research requires a literature review: to consider the research and perspectives of those who have grappled with similar questions.  Academic research must survive rigorous scrutiny to ensure that the outcomes are valid and are not at all biased by any agenda or perspective.  In the marketing and advertising industry, we do not share knowledge well.  We consider knowledge our competitive advantage. This narrow-minded view of proprietary insight hurts us all.

We didn’t earn “best paper” at ICORIA 2017, but it was an amazing honor to be nominated among such a distinguished group of research papers.  You can find the nominated papers on page 11 of the ICORIA 2017 conference program (linked here).

The key takeaway from this blog post is up to you.  Some of you may be intrigued by the research findings and the implications for making smarter programmatic advertising decisions.  I hope all of you will reconsider the pathway to new insight by collaborating with people who are different than you.  People who have different skills and experiences.  People who will listen to you.  People who are okay with admitting that others can make their ideas better.  People who are willing to break out of silos and share knowledge for the betterment of us all.

The Marketing Democracy mandates this.




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