OL may well be stripping back its products with the shuttering of AOL Music, as well as recently offloading About.me 2 years after its initial acquisition, but the online media behemoth made a handful of announcements today that suggests it’s gearing up for a pretty big year.
AOL chases TV-media buyers
At AOL’s Digital Content NewFront in New York this afternoon, AOL, FreeWheel and Mediaocean announced a partnership which AOL says will better enable it to engage with marketers to “reach target audiences at scale across premium digital video inventory.”
Just to recap, FreeWheel manages content economics for enterprises working in the entertainment industry, offering technical infrastructure for revenue rights management and business operations. Mediaocean, on the other hand, develops and provides advertising software and related services to ad agencies, media owners and other similar organizations.
The partnership will be enabled by FreeWheel’s new FourFronts product, which is powered by both FreeWheel and Mediaocean, making it easier for publishers to sell to TV media-buying agencies.
In a nutshell, this lets AOL target advertisers more directly – ones who may otherwise have been putting their money into traditional broadcast TV.
Today’s news is based around AOL’s on-demand video content, and it says it’s looking to “bridge the gap between premium digital video and TV,” by making this content available to media-buyers looking to target viewers already consuming content on smartphones, tablets, consoles, and other over-the-top devices. Basically, on any digital platform.
AOL launched its On Network way back in April last year, providing a shot in the arm for its online content business. In a nutshell, ‘On’ brings all the company’s premium video content together, under one digital roof.
In August last year, the AOL On Network launched version 2.0 of its connected TV app, which was formerly known as AOL HD. The app was updated to feature ad-serving capabilities to help the company monetize its videos – 380,000 short-form videos at the time of writing. They later announced native mobile apps, to encourage advertisers across multiple platforms. So today’s news is entirely in-line with its drive to monetize this content.
Tying in with this announcement, AOL unveiled a new slate of premium original content that will premiere on the AOL On Network, as well as its 1,700 ‘syndicated’ partner sites.
The new slate includes programming across entertainment, sports, food, style, health, technology, autos, parenting and business.
“Consumers are watching web video everywhere and all the time – on their plasma screens in their living rooms, on their mobile phones, and on their tablets,” says Karen Cahn, General Manager, AOL On Original Video. “With our premium quality original programming, AOL is bridging the gap between what people see on broadcast TV and what they see online.”
“We’ve focused on creating a common thread through all of our series on this slate, namely authentic voices, sharing remarkable stories,” added Gabriel Lewis, Head of AOL Studios. “Whether the voices are lighthearted, insightful, or inspirational, all of them are genuine and unique.”
Off the back of the FreeWheel/Mediaocean tie-up, marketers will be able to see this inventory in their existing TV planning and buying interfaces (powered by Mediaocean), meaning that AOL’s content can be better accessed by those looking to see where their ads might be better placed.
“The device on which consumers view video no longer defines the type of content they’re watching; it’s purely a screen,” said Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO, AOL.
“But until now, buyers have not had an apples-to-apples comparison when it comes to buying video on the Web and TV,” he continues. “The industry needs to adopt standards between traditional broadcasting and video streams on the Web to create more opportunities in the buying market.”
The third main announcement to emerge from AOL’s event today was a new solution aimed squarely at advertisers and agencies.
Available globally, Be On seeks to connect branded video content with consumers through the production of premium content, distribution to third-party sites across the Web in addition to the AOL On Network.
In real terms, Be On will cover production, whereby marketers can access AOL’s two HD studios, which are creative services teams that help produce online videos; distribution via the AOL On Network, which notches more than 724M video-views each month; measurement analytics via the AOL On Network’s advertiser dashboard.
“Branded content has become an increasingly important part of the marketing mix for advertisers and agencies,” explains Ran Harnevo, SVP, AOL On.
“We know that content drives engagement and conversation online, and brands want to be a part of those conversations but often struggle to find authentic ways to do so at scale,” he continues. “With the launch of the Be On, plus our powerful syndication platform, we are providing marketers the opportunity to produce more high-quality content and get it in front of millions of consumers.”
Tying in with this was the announcement earlier today from Nielsen, which announced a new pilot program to measure online TV audiences. Nielsen Digital Program Ratings kicks off at the start of May with big-name brands such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and, of course, AOL on-board as launch partners. The program is setting out to measure digital audiences around online programming.
For AOL, these deals are significant as it looks to cement its position as an online content company. Not only is it continuing to roll out original content, but its pushing this content hard across the Web and build a compelling proposition for advertisers and marketers looking to tap AOL’s massive online reach.
At the start of the year, we’d like to highlight one event from 2013 that speaks well to one of the big issues we’re focusing on: enabling agencies to think through—and succeed at—the cross-channel future.
In November, Mediaocean’s UK group partnered with research agency Econsultancy to launch its Managing Media Convergence report. We also hosted an exclusive event—attended by over 150 media agencies, brands and consultancies—to present key findings from the report and to host a panel to discuss the possible impact of those findings for those present.
Hosted by Mediaocean’s SVP Product, Manu Warikoo, the panel discussed how convergence was affecting brands’ and media owners approach to communications, tackling channel management; people and processes; data and technology.
Digital strategy and revenue controller at Sky Media, Hitesh Bhatt, claimed that linear TV is very strong at about 70% of his market, but he also said that video on demand (VOD) and time-shifting were making an impact. Online and mobile also make a strong contribution to targeting segments, and he cited the use of Sky’s football package aimed at the connected football fan: “As a media owner, we need to understand how our customers consume our products to help brands deliver their objectives off the back of it.”
Data is rapidly becoming the fundamental enabler of any useful customer interaction in a convergent world. James Whatley, Head of Social at Ogilvy, stated quite succinctly: “We used to talk about data monkeys in the corner. Now it’s the data experts leading the process.”
The sheer volumes of data and the speed of change were major challenges that the group addressed. One approach the panellists discussed was breaking big data sets into smaller problems. “One of the points from the study covered testing and learning, and the ultimate result was focusing on ROI,” said Sky Media’s Bhatt. “Perhaps the answer is to view smaller pieces of activity and look at that result on sales.”
A question from the floor during the presentation asked what the role of creative was in leading the customer conversation in a data-heavy universe. Ogilvy’s Whatley responded: “Great storytelling comes from creative, great creative comes from good planning and briefing. These come from amazing insights which themselves come from great data. Data lets us tell better stories across many channels.”
Ogilvy’s Whatley warns that too many companies still view social as a bolt-on. “Larger brands and agencies are realising there are two problems,” Whatley said. “The idea [being executed often] isn’t inherently social; and secondly, the money goes out of the door to the PR agency to manage it. There’s a good reason why social is being brought back into the creative.”
Hotels.com’s chief marketing officer, Nigel Pocklington, demonstrated his commitment by allocating Facebook as his third-biggest ad spend behind TV and Google. While Facebook was initially expected to be a brand building tool, it’s gone in an new direction. Instead, Pocklington says, Facebook is “by far the most effective mobile channel we’ve got [not only] for encouraging downloads, but also for engaging with the 24 million downloads we’ve already had.” That said, he adds, “As a direct response channel, it doesn’t have scale yet.”
Channels are transforming and data is becoming more critical with every passing moment. How will this evolve over 2014? It’s a story we’ll be watching closely, especially as Mediaocean Connect expands to help our clients and partners work across all of it. Meanwhile, we’ve included some great footage of the event.
Here's a quick snapshot on the data showing mobile video on the rise.
A quick update from the world of video convergence over the past week.
As marketers seek ways to plan and integrate campaigns across TV and Digital channels, and the quest for universal processes and standards across those systems continues, new issues continue to arise. Here are just a few of the recent developments in the struggle for Digital/TV convergence.
There’s just no stopping progress. TV is changing, and it’s changing fast. The proliferation of tablets, smart phones, DVR and streaming options, along with the current internet-based (multi-screen and social-media-connected) culture, is ensuring a world in which TV (and TV advertising) becomes ‘smarter’ and a lot more portable. While many in the television industry have expressed concern over the way in which advertising factors into this new “TV Everywhere” future, many are seeing opportunity in the shift, and hailing it as a positive development for both marketers and viewers alike.