Atomic 212°’s Barry O’Brien: VOZ May Be The Future, But We Need It Now

Atomic 212°’s Barry O’Brien: VOZ May Be The Future, But We Need It Now

In this guest post, Atomic 212° chairman Barry O’Brien argues the painfully slow rollout of TV metric VOZ could mean it’s very quickly usurped by better and faster technology (hello, Google). (UPDATED) Following the piece, OzTAM CEO Doug Peiffer responds…

The release of the first VOZ information by OzTAM and the TV networks late last month is a very positive move for an industry facing big structural and cyclical challenges. The new measurement tool is impressive and a world first. It’s great to see the Australian networks cooperating and leading the world in TV audience measurement. But they are moving too slowly. The rollout of VOZ must speed up or it will fail to live up to its promise.

The networks believe that by combining TV and broadcast video-on-demand (BVOD) viewing data, VOZ will convince marketers to spend more money with them. Maybe, but looking at the current timetable for the full introduction of VOZ, that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Given how quickly the media world is changing, you have to wonder if it is going to happen at all.

The networks have spent two years developing VOZ, which OzTAM describes as a new era of “televisionary measurement”. It’s a very strange phrase that really only points out OzTAM needs better marketing and communication advice.

Last month, OzTAM and the networks showed the first insights from VOZ. The first full iteration of VOZ data will be available from 30 April. The full data will not start appearing until November, but considering the delays to VOZ so far, you have to be sceptical about the networks and OzTAM hitting that deadline.

In the time it takes to complete the roll-out of VOZ, I can assure you, Google will have introduced a host of new product offerings and measurement tools for marketers and agencies to use. Speed is vital here.

OzTAM’s Doug Peiffer says VOZ will evolve when Australia’s broadcasters eventually get together to create a shared demand-side platform. Of course, that depends on whether the broadcasters ever get together to do so; one of the networks is refusing to join an industry-wide platform. Regardless, Doug reckons media agencies should start using the VOZ data now. He is being a bit optimistic.

Right now, there are no audience segments in VOZ, so it isn’t of much use as a planning and post-analysis tool. Those segments will be added, but no one can say when that’s going to happen.

Moreover, VOZ data is not integrated into industry-wide systems: for example, it cannot yet be analysed through existing TV ratings software like eTAM. The new eTAM and similar software has to be developed and presumably it will be ASAP.

The bigger issue is that VOZ data isn’t in buying platforms. Of course, at its core VOZ data is for planning and post-analysis. But in the long run it needs to be built into trading platforms. The networks need to fix that problem, fast.

The main promise of VOZ is that it will, for the first time, combine TV and BVOD viewing data and give a more accurate picture of how many people are watching the networks’ content. In the theory, that combined data will lead to changes in how content, marketing and advertising dollars are spent. In practice, any change is a long way away.

VOZ will tell us how many people are watching the networks’ on-demand services (Netflix, Stan, Amazon, YouTube and other on-demand video platforms aren’t included in the new measurement system). For the first time, marketers and agencies will know how much, or how little, BVOD viewers overlap with broadcast TV viewers.

The first VOZ numbers revealed by OzTAM show about 4% of Australians only watch BVOD (they don’t watch any linear TV) in any given week. That translates into about one million people. Given how rapidly BVOD viewing is growing, that number is only going to increase.

It’s important we know that information. But right now, we can’t really do anything with it.

The people pushing the benefits of VOZ data say it will give agencies a way to plan ad campaigns more efficiently across TV and BVOD. Also, for the first time, agencies will get access to data from OzTAM’s video player measurement system. That means we can better analyse BVOD viewing.

But, as one TV executive points out, VOZ is “not yet a one-stop-shop for the entire TV and BVOD ad technology ecosystem”. Sure, we will be able to use VOZ data to plan and post-analyse TV and BVOD campaigns, but not until November this year at the earliest. Can the TV networks afford to wait that long or should they be doing everything they possibly can to get useful and useable VOZ data into the market as soon as possible? I think we all know the answer to that.

Response from OzTAM CEO, Doug Peiffer…

Industry expectations of VOZ are understandably high. OzTAM, Regional TAM and Nielsen have committed to building an all-screen measurement system that is as credible, robust and transparent as the established metrics for linear television and BVOD. Those measurement systems are world class but separately siloed, reflecting the way advertising on those platforms is bought and sold. Pulling them together crystallises the true TV viewing picture.

With so much riding on that – and let’s remember advertisers committed $3.86 bn to advertising on Australian metro, regional and subscription TV broadcasters in 2019 – accuracy is more important than speed to market.

It’s why we’ve taken the past three years (not two!) to conceive, design, develop, refine, consult with broadcasters and media agencies, and repeatedly test VOZ data to ensure we have confidence in the product from launch.

It’s been a challenge for measurement services around the world to meld the two very different systems for measuring linear and connected device viewing, and Australia has taken a unique approach to doing so which reflects our market’s unique characteristics. No measurement system in the world is ahead of Australia – despite some taking much longer in their respective development and launch programs.

Myriad stakeholders are involved in the VOZ rollout to market, and preparedness of their respective systems and infrastructure to handle VOZ varies greatly.

We are working with third party software providers to integrate VOZ into their software systems so the database can be used in trading – a big challenge for all as BVOD and TV are bought and sold in different ways and will likely continue to be traded in their own ecosystems for some time.

OzTAM is also facilitating discussions among industry participants towards the industry coming to agreement on a standard set of audience segments.

What VOZ can do from launch however is provide planners with insights to make more informed decisions on how to gather audiences across the screens where their target consumers are. And at the campaign evaluation stage, VOZ can be used to post-analyse.

The broadcasters are justifiably proud and excited about the launch of VOZ. For the first time, we have a clear view of the incremental viewing BVOD delivers to linear TV, and how audiences move between screens over time.

Regardless of the latest and greatest walled-garden metrics unveiled by digital behemoths, for as far as we can see into the future VOZ looks set to remain the only independent, open and transparent measurement of Australia’s ever-changing Total TV landscape.



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Atomic 212 Barry O'Brien VOZ

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