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EGTA report about United Media’s platform VIDA

29th October, 2020

New EGTA (Association of TV and Radio Sales Houses) report published this month includes an overview of business strategies around addressable TV solutions. The publication dives into the evolving technology and business cases of addressable TV across various markets. EGTA reports about VIDA – United Media’s latest innovation in the field of addressable advertising.

The platform was officially launched in Serbia in June 2020. VIDA leverages the scale and quality of linear TV and it combines it with the targeting and measurement of digital. EGTA spoke to Marija Matić, Head of VIDA, to explore how TV companies can successfully develop addressable solutions by strategic technological investments.

Why did United Media decide to develop VIDA?

Advances in the field of addressable advertising are a direct response to the evolution of the viewers’ media consumption habits. VIDA, being one of our flagship products, allowed us to successfully enter the crowded video and ad tech space. Through this addressable proposition, United Media can both serve new categories of clients and offer additional opportunities to brands, who already invest their ad budgets on our media outlets. VIDA is the latest piece completing our overall business strategy when it comes to embracing the Total Video world.

Could you please tell us more about VIDA’s technical base?

VIDA uses technology, data and premium inventory to enable advertisers and agencies to precisely target and reach specific audience segments regardless of what (which channel/show), when (which part of the day), where (on EON STBs/apps) or how (on which devices) they are watching.

Our product is based on award-winning end-to-end TV platform EON. VIDA works across all VIDA-enabled devices and delivery platforms – this includes EON set-top-boxes as well as apps (for personal mobile devices, desktops and connected TVs).

The product was brought to life using almost exclusively in-house ad tech resources. Most entities involved in the development of this solution are parts of the United Group’s ecosystem. This includes: United Media (for content networks and production), United Cloud (for technology and integration), United Group’s telco providers (for data analytics over its own customer base), EON (for distribution), VIDA addressable advertising (for project coordination and advertising sales). Our sole external partner in this venture is Freewheel, a Comcast company – we use Freewheel’s Monetization and Revenue Management (MRM) as a part of the ad-serving and ad decisioning engine.

What sets you apart from addressable solutions proposed by other TV companies in Europe and beyond?

Due to the specificity of the Adriatic TV market, we were forced to come up with a number of unique solutions – both in terms of commercial integration and technology.

One of the challenges that we had to face was that our addressable solution needed to allow for serving addressable commercial blocks even if we do not know their exact start times. This proves very useful in the case of sports events: no matter when the natural break occurs, we can replace the linear ad block with an addressable one. Additionally,  on our market, there is no standard spot length on TV so commercials have a variable duration. Since our addressable solution mostly uses the same creatives that are utilised for “classic” linear campaigns (of course, VIDA offers different targeting options compared to linear TV), we needed to be able to accommodate our clients’ existing ad formats to be used on VIDA, which proved to be a decisive advantage.

Therefore, our solution employs various mechanisms to improve the flexibility in terms of ad duration and ad block start times while at the same time customer experience remains seamless.

What media outlets are served through VIDA? What types of addressable ad formats do you offer?

In its present form, VIDA delivers addressability on our live TV channels available across different delivery platforms and devices. Our product is purely based on video ad replacement – at this moment we do not offer any types of display ads (eg. L-shape overlays, etc.).

What data sets are used in VIDA? What kind of targeting opportunities does your solution offer?

Currently, VIDA entirely relies on first-party data collected through United  Group members.

That said, we believe that the data project has always been (and will be) a key element of our addressable offer. A dedicated data science team combine information from different units of the United Group. In the future, we hope to be able to connect all these data sets (to grow our own data lake) and feed them into our addressable product.

Hypothetically, our solution could also accommodate additional data sets – for instance, our clients’ data retrieved from other data sources. However, the main challenge here lies in data matching with consumers’ information coming from our clients’ CRMs.

What types of targeting does  VIDA offer?

Our tool takes into account the specific attributes characterising each type of devices. Since  VIDA works across both STBs and apps, we offer both household-based targeting (one-to-many, who meet certain criteria) with user-based targeting (one-to-one). This is reflected in our commercial offer. Clients can choose to target their campaigns towards individual personal devices or households.

We offer several targeting options, including geolocation, age, gender, income, type of device ownership (private/company), content consumption, etc.

We are also planning to expand further the portfolio of available attributes by including additional behavioural targets.

How did VIDA influence your internal workflows? What impact does it have on your  booking process?

At this stage, our platform operates as an internal solution. The tool is not directly accessible for our clients. Marketeers can book their campaigns by providing us with their budgets, number of views and other criteria they would like to achieve regarding the specific audience segments. At this stage, the platform operates based on direct deals and it is not linked to any programmatic environment.

When it comes to organisational structure, our addressable offers are managed by dedicated VIDA unit – specialized United Media’s team responsible to develop and adjust all types of offers our partners would like to have. All activities related to our VIDA proposition are managed by this section. This includes media planning, ad sales, B2B promotion, marketing, etc. In fact, we act as a one-stop-shop by providing our clients with a wide portfolio of services specific to our addressable product. With this regard, some of our activities are typical for a sales house, other – are more characteristic for a media agency.

How did you integrate VIDA within your pricing and sales strategy?

Companies, who have addressable TV products in their portfolio, often face the risk of cannibalisation between different parts of their commercial offer.  For this reason, we decided to position VIDA as a completely new product and new business environment that is separate from our “classic” linear TV offer. This is also why we decided to create a dedicated unit to run all VIDA’s operations. In our negotiations with clients, we position VIDA as a premium ad-driven solution (with the highest level of sophistication) that serves a completely new market segment.

How does the ad replacement work on VIDA? What is your commercial strategy around this process?

We replace the entire ad blocks (not single commercials). For instance, if a linear block on live TV is six minutes long, on VIDA-enabled devices, we can replace this entire break with addressable ads (that are served automatically according to the targeting criteria chosen by our clients). If we are not able to “fill in” the addressable block with a sufficient number of commercials, we supplement it with our auto-promotional material.

How do you position VIDA within your offer?

We often get a question: “Is VIDA TV or digital?” While our addressable product is the combination of these two worlds, our answer is always: “VIDA is something else”. In our negotiations with clients, we position this solution as a completely new marketplace. This new proposition allows them to access new households, new audience segments and new users, who they would not be able to reach (and “purchase”) through our “traditional” linear offer.

Currently, we have a pool of 20+ clients using VIDA and each of them uses (and defines) this product in a different way. It is reflected in the way they allocate their ad budgets. Depending on the type of client and the campaign format, clients may decide to make VIDA either part of their TV or digital budgets. That said, we always position our addressable solution as a new communication channel (which requires a new budget layer).

What pricing system do you use for your addressable campaigns on VIDA?

Campaigns on VIDA are priced based on CPTV, which stands for Cost per Thousand Views. Clients are only invoiced for views with the completion rate of 50% or higher.

VIDA campaigns are five to six times more expensive than our “classic” linear campaigns. That said, such estimate is not fully representative. While talking to our clients, we position VIDA as an innovative and premium solution that allows for higher ROI on specific targets, which could not be reached in other ways. Our clients understand the relationship between the price of addressable campaigns and the profits that such targeted solutions bring.

With this regard, it is worth noting that the Adriatic advertising market is very TV-centric (TV has over 50% market share) and the prices of linear campaigns are relatively low compared to those offered by some online platforms (eg. YouTube). That said, VIDA cannot be compared to video ad products offered by these platforms. That is because our offer focuses on high quality premium content.

What about reporting?

For each campaign, our clients receive information on the total number of impressions and views. We also provide a breakdown of how many views reached 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% completion rates. Moreover, our reporting system includes information on number of users and views generated per each VIDA enabled device and TV channel. As a part of a tailor – made service, we can also produce customised reports for individual clients, based on their individual requirements.

What is the roadmap for this project? What are the next steps?

Our addressable solution is currently commercially available in Serbia. Gradually, we will expand it to other markets where United Media operates – this includes Slovenia (our product is currently in a test phase; it will be officially launched in January 2021), then in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Montenegro. We also plan to include third-party TV channels within this part of our offer.

At this stage, VIDA allows for the replacement of linear ad blocks by addressable commercials on live TV channels (independently of the delivery method: STB or apps). In the next phase of the project, we will extend its capacities to time-shifted viewing, catch-up, VOD and additional ad formats (eg. online banners).