March 09, 2017

Mobile World Congress - Mobile Video, Machine Learning Dominate Discussion

By Phil Leggiere
Brands and media content companies are accelerating the shift of resources to mobile video, which could spur new spending to over-the-top (OTT) video platforms, including Google's YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and, possibly, Snapchat.

Amid the hundreds of thousands of participants and hundreds of events of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) held a smaller event in conjunction with the Digital Marketing Exposition & Conference (Dmexco) called “Surviving in a Mobile-Only Marketplace.” The invitation-only event was dedicated to exploring the implications of the ongoing shift to a mobile-centric media universe for brands and advertising; 150 brand managers, advertising executives, CMOs, video technology executives and creative directors participated.

At the gathering and in one-on-one interviews by OTR Global before and after the event, two themes dominated discussion: the creative and branding challenges of the massive shift of consumer video usage to mobile and the challenges of applying artificial intelligence in the form of machine learning to cut through the clutter and confusion of current approaches to media buying.

Mobile Video First
Several speakers at the IAB event emphasized that brands are quickly entering a world that is not only “mobile first” but “mobile video first.” Andreas Gall, CTO of Red Bull Media House GmbH, a featured presenter, said in his talk that “six seconds of attention, not 20, is the new normal in consumer attention spans, the best brands can hope for.” Sophie Blum, vice president of marketing at Procter & Gamble Co., agreed, saying 15 or 20 seconds of time is now a luxury and that brands now need to be able to convey a compelling video statement in three to six seconds, radically raising the bar on creativity.

Blum said mobile must now be considered the hub of all media experience because the mobile device is becoming the epicenter of people's interaction with the world, be it shopping, communicating, being entertained or navigating physical environments. Elaborating on these points, other speakers discussed how connecting with mobilized consumers requires radically different approaches to both advertising creative and media.

Rob Newlan, EMEA regional director of Facebook Inc.'s Creative Shop division, a 130-person team devoted to advertising format innovation, observed that in what he called the “video-first” future, in which 75% of all mobile usage is expected to be video by 2020, brands must recreate branding. Instead of spending eight and nine figures on a small handful of creative assets to deliver to a mass audience on TV, Newlan suggested brands may spend five and six figures on a wider variety of different campaigns. “Brands need to become more like artists, constantly sketching, experimenting, and building new things,” he said, adding that “brands will be less reliant on media to deliver a perfectly scripted rehearsed message than on environments in which they can constantly play and experiment.” Not surprisingly, Newlan touted Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Facebook video as rich environments to do just that.

Somewhat more surprisingly, two executives at Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Broadcasting not only agreed with Newlan but said their organizations were already re-conceptualizing their content brands along such lines. From a content development standpoint, Christina Miller, president of Turner’s Cartoon Network said, “It’s not nearly enough to just create traditional TV content, cut it up and deploy in a bunch of other places. It really has to be organic; you need a connective tissue between platforms.” This made-for-mobile content could include branded apps, such as The Cartoon networks’ own mobile app, or Adult swim, another Turner mobile TV app, but it also includes mobile content customized for large video-streaming platforms, such as Google  Inc.’s YouTube and Snap Inc.'s Snapchat, Miller added.

Donna Speciale, head of advertising sales at Turner Broadcasting, amplified that sentiment in her talk, explaining that this cross-platform, media-agnostic approach requires content broadcasters to move decisively beyond conventional ways of measuring media and audiences. “I’m just so happy that increasingly, we're now able to really know who our fans are for different channels,” she said. “We used to have to rely on Nielsen [Holdings PLC] adults-18-to-49-type data. Maybe we knew it was a woman who had one or two kids and that was about it. Now with what we have after building our own data management platform, gathering first-party data ourselves from both linear TV and mostly from the apps we're now building like CNN Go and others, we’re now able to match all that data and bring it to the advertiser."

She also said, “Creating and managing internal data management systems, something we never thought about five years ago, is now a critical broadcast skill set.” What's most interesting, she added, was that Turner’s advertising clients, who used to jealously guard their data, now increasingly want to port their own data into Turner’s data management platform in order to better reach their customers.

Broadcasters, Brands Looking to AI
Despite the promise of the type of cross-channel, cross-platform data Turner executives and others cited, one continuing friction point, according to the head of a digital analytics firm, is that “there's a growing disconnect between how brand managers, CMOs and creative directors are thinking about branding and how most media buying and planning is still being done. Consumer habits and brand strategies are changing far faster than media allocation mechanics,” he said.

“Content companies are heavily investing in machine-learning-driven data management platforms looking beyond Nielsen-dominated media measurement to cross-platform, total audience metrics,” a video platform director told OTR Global.

The strongly held sentiment of many attendees was that a big part of breaking through this logjam was the wider application of new machine-learning systems from Alphabet Inc.'s Google or other marketing cloud technology platforms such as Oracle Corp., Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. to media, the subject of a presentation by Paul-Henri Ferrand, Google’s vice president of U.S. sales and operations. Ferrand said brands have been struggling for 15 years with navigating the maze of metrics that make up all the hundreds of dimensions of audience usage and behavior that are involved in brand interaction. “Completely inundated with this impossible task of understanding the meaning of all this data,” Ferrand observed, “they've been fixated on secondary need final key performance indicators, CPAs CBCs CTRs, all that alphabet soup of metrics, and middle of the funnel key performance indicators [KPIs]. It's made them forget about the two things that really matter most: their core business objectives and creatively connecting with the highest value customers.”

This goes beyond conventional understanding of ROI, Ferrand argued. “We're not talking about cost per acquisition of customer; that's not really the key enterprise metric. It's profitability and long- and short-term customer value.” Machine learning, according to Ferrand, is critical for marketers to assimilate amounts of data they're currently buried in and focus on the fundamentals of knowing their audience and acting to maximize their core business goals. Ferrand predicted that in the next three years, machine learning would be ubiquitous in allocating budgets and executing media spending.

This message resonated with many at the conference. “To me, the Holy Grail is to be able to take all available information from all the different platforms internally, third-party, and through advertising clients and bring them all together,” a content publisher told OTR Global. “It’s about total audience and total consumption across all platforms. We’re not there yet but that is where we need to go, quickly.”


OTR Global has also published the following notes from Mobile World Congress:

Mobile World Congress - Semiconductor Update (March 3)

Mobile World Congress - Handsets (March 6)

Mobile World Congress - China Smartphone Subsidy Update (March 7)

Mobile World Congress - Inc. Smartphones (March 8)

Mobile World Congress - China 5G Network Trends (March 8)