Multicurrency Debate Takes Main Stage At The ‘Nerdy Upfront To The Upfronts’

Multicurrency Debate Takes Main Stage At The ‘Nerdy Upfront To The Upfronts’

by , Featured Contributor, February 9, 2023

The video ad currency gauntlet has been thrown.

I spent a good portion of (February 13, 2023) at NBCUniversal Advertising’s third annual technology conference, One23 — what TransUnion’s strategy vice president, Frans Vermeulen, aptly described to me as “a nerdy upfront to the upfronts.”

That nerdy description was perfectly on target, given that the opening fireside chat was none other than Apple founder Steve Wozniak riffing on everything from the future of AI, to why the Apple II was a success and the Lisa a failure, his lifelong friendship with co-founder Steve Jobs, and the most important element in building great things.

Session topics ranged from the future of streaming video, data and privacy, to platform-based ad buying — and, most critically, the future of measurement currency in video advertising. It was the final topic on that list that garnered the most attention from the crowd, and the biggest panel of speakers.

NBCU Advertising’s chair Linda Yaccarino has long advocated for change in the TV ad measurement world, publicly pressing incumbent Nielsen for years, and was a key driver in the recently announced creation of a joint industry committee (JIC) to certify video ad measurement currencies going forward for linear and streaming video ad campaigns in the U.S. For sure, the JIC was the much-anticipated hot topic and panel of the day.

Here is some of what I saw and heard:

The JIC panel was big. Moderated by NBC News’ Stephanie Ruhle, the JIC panel had NBCU Advertising Sales’ president Krishan Bhatia, Paramount Advertising president John Halley, TelevisaUnivision executive vice president Sarah Squiers, and OpenAP CEO David Levy. They were joined by a number of agency chief investment officers:  Horizon Media’s David Campanelli, Geoffrey Calabrese of Omnicom, Dentsu’s Cara Lewis, and Amy Ginsberg of Havas. In unison, all voiced support for a future with multiple currencies for streaming and linear video ad ratings, noting that everyone has to be on board to make this work.

Cooperation and compromise now can ensure a level playing field for the future. Paramount’s Halley emphasized the importance of having industry transaction systems on board (dominant supplier Mediaocean’s support was announced earlier in the day), noting that cooperation and compromise among companies that otherwise compete was essential at this stage, since currencies won’t work if they create competitive advantages for one company over another. TelevisaUnivision’s Squiers called out the importance of inclusiveness when it comes to minority and underrepresented audiences and their massive and fast-growing consumer spend.

What if the numbers are bad? One of the funniest moments was when journalist moderator Stephanie Ruhle, ruminating that publishers tend to like audience numbers when they’re up and not so much when they’re down, asked panelists, “What if you don’t like the numbers?” To which one of the buyers on the panel responded, “That’s their problem,” gesturing to the ad sellers at the other end of the panel.

Pooled first-party data up next. NBCU’s Bhatia offered up a bit of a roadmap for the future, announcing that the second objective for the JIC after certifying measurement suppliers was to jointly build out a pool of first-party data, aggregating and harmonizing the massive sets of audience and subscriber data possessed by participating media owners for use in ad targeting and measurement efforts.

The most precious human trait for success. My favorite line of the day was when CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla pressed Steve Wozniak for his perspective on the most important human trait in creating success, noting that Wozniak and Steve Jobs had largely created the personal computer industry with its enormous global impacts. Wozniak’s answer was simple and clear: “Motivation. Motivation is more important than talent or skills.” Having the motivation to solve a really difficult and complex problem is how it gets solved — not by having special talents or skills, he added.

Quite a day. There’s no question that the multicurrency debate is just getting started. What do you think?

A panel at NBCU Advertising’s One23 conference voiced support for a future with multiple currencies for streaming and linear video ad ratings.