CES Panel on Transforming Contextual Advertising and Media

A world of opportunities to improve both the audience experience and effectiveness of advertising were the subject of a C-Space panel on the first conference day of CES 2020. All of the panelists from Hulu, WarnerMedia, Accenture, IBM, Nielsen and Twitch focused on the central role of the consumer. Yet even as advertising becomes more addressable based on consumer interest and behavior, making it theoretically possible to serve every viewer a different tailored ad, there will still be some commercials that will remain universal.

The idea of contextual media is to deliver the right message, to the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Enabling technology such as 5G and AI make this Holy Grail possible. Nielsen’s Jason Bolles sees an opportunity for advertisers to become more efficient and eliminate waste.

Larry Allen, VP of ad product strategy for WarnerMedia, observed that for the first time in the modern history of entertainment, content creators have a first level connection with their audience in place of what has been a third level connection.

AI and 5G are enabling technologies that the panelists agreed will be the biggest factors in the next wave of transformation. But several, including IBM, which is here at CES under the banner “Let’s Put Smart to Work,” caution that having data and technology does not necessarily mean that every company has attained the competence to use it most effectively.

Some are learning. Hulu, for example, is developing a deep understanding of binge watchers, viewers that view three or more episodes in one session. By knowing more about the intentions of binge viewers, Jeremy Helfand, VP and head of advertising platforms, said that with Hulu is working with major advertisers to develop integrations and create better advertising experiences that add value to the viewer and deliver for the brands.

Content creators are typically limited in altering movies or television shows without permission. Yet AI and 5G will make it technically possible to insert or replace product placements in movies and TV shows. Such placements have long been popular as an unobtrusive way to impress consumers. Warner’s Allen sees library content as a valuable place to start as rights and permissions are granted — or new content is created.

Twitch, represented by Nathan Lindberg, director of global sponsorships, is particularly bullish about 5G. Twitch has grown on the basis of delivering a shared experience to its audience. 5G increases the potential of a multiplayer environment where people, regardless of geography, can participate and have fun together. This could include concerts, eSports, and other events suddenly freed of the limitations of physical space. “Imagine a world where there is unlimited viewing capacity,” he said.

Ironically, despite the freedom of consumers to program their own lives and viewing habits, human nature is drawn to the water cooler — people enjoy experiencing things together and sharing a common conversation. Live events still command an audience and even online services, unconstrained by anything other than audience demand, are finding scheduled, predictable release days and times to be popular. Audience interest in these shared experiences is creating new and contextual opportunities for advertisers.