MarTech360 Interview With Sean Cunningham, President and CEO, VAB

“The full-on shift from demography to identity (always privacy-minded) will get the final shoves from the on-going “digitization & platforming” of multiscreen TV end-to-end ad practices.”

Hi Sean, can you give us a background of your professional journey? Tell us about your current role at VAB.

I have been fortunate to have spent near “equal time” on both the advertiser side and the media side of the marketing industry. I have always been guided on both sides by a deep fascination with evolved consumer behavior, exponential changes in media, and how marketers build “loyalty beyond reason”. The best part of my industry role at the VAB is being atop the daily intersection of those three dynamics and mining for actionable, change-making insights that can cut through a sea of ad industry static and noise.

My starting point for digesting anything in our business still comes from the advertiser/marketer sensibilities of understanding product and category-specific sales & brand dynamics.  While modern multiscreen TV video ad media are worthy of dynamic dialogue, for me – all ad video conversations of real merit have to be rooted in how all that publishing/distributing/consuming ultimately leads to advertiser sales growth and/or brand growth. This approach grew though years of advertiser counsel via agency media and agency management. The next challenge was to transform the CAB (Cable Ad Bureau) into the much more impactful VAB; that being accomplished the marketplace needed still more from us. We had to evolve VAB past its well-earned identity as the “marketer’s go-to source for real Insights” by expanding VAB’s role as industry advocate by weighing in clearly and objectively (often loudly) as the unified voice of the multiscreen TV ad industry.

How does VAB lead the marketing industry in embracing modern video measurement?

On the marketer’s strategic balance sheet, we want to migrate ad video measurement/currency from a legacy of “mostly deficient, neutral at best” to “always-on-asset” for sales & brand growth.

While VAB is well known as the “whistle-blower” that (finally) and definitively called BS on defective TV trading currency in 2021, our overarching focus has been the call for real optionality and thorough re-invention in ad video measurement and currency. The dynamic that we felt was long overdue in the marketplace: for marketers to have a real choice of highly competitive and ever-advancing measurement/currency providers, is coming together with terrific speed. Our industry has gone from the perpetual compromise that was a by-product of a single (by default) provider to having most 2023 measurement/currency conversations include: iSpot, VideoAmp, Nielsen, Comscore, Samba, Innovid, 605, etc. – real choice.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview with Jay Prasad, CEO, Relo Metrics

According to you, what are the current major marketing trends?

Three major trends that will accelerate in 2023 marketing:

  • The wave of major advertisers driven by the lessons of DTC-style data/analytics will bring ever more cost/investment decisions “in-house”, particularly media planning and media buying (including programmatic buying), making sure their ability to activate their first-party data-driven decisions will “stay sealed” within their own end-to-end data/analytic rigor and fluid operations.
  • The full-on shift from demography to identity (always privacy-minded) will get the final shoves from the ongoing “digitization & platforming” of multiscreen TV end-to-end ad practices. Punting the legacy practices of proxies and undistinguished masses with just age/gender qualifiers in favor of the routine engagement with distinctly identified sets of real & current brand customers, or high-value customers of competing brands (both with precision and scale capabilities) has to be our ever-more-norm in 2023
  • Everything about “multicultural marketing” will take on one of two CMO priorities – either the primary or co-primary priority… that is for all brands that are actually planning on achieving their “stretch” or “most optimistic” growth goals.

One of the most critical issues in video marketing is video measurement. Why has measurement taken on such a heightened importance over the last few years?

The first and obvious answer is that there is so much more to measure. Just in the realm of what we used to call “TV”, the shortest list of matrix labels of what must be measured discretely includes, linear, streaming/CTV, OTT, Digital Video, Mobile, OOH, VOD & OTA with each of those detailed by an expanding number of devices & conduits.

The second answer has to do with maximizing the ability to use sophisticated data sets at a significant scale – census level or “big” data, identity resolution data, and first-party publisher data and have the interoperability to integrate the advertiser’s first-party data sets into the mix.

The third answer is coming full circle to attribution and outcomes insights as an expected part of gauging the effectiveness of the modern measurement process, marketer’s desire to fully assess campaign performance among all the moving parts of a video ad plan will only expand and never lessen

What are some of the most important issues within video measurement that need to be addressed?

Transparency, transparency & transparency lead the list.

We are only a minute or so removed from the “normalcy” of a dominant measurement /currency provider consistently (but politely) refusing to answer perfectly reasonable requests from their largest clients for detailed disclosures within measurement calculations and methodologies. We have to be more than suspicious of any “black boxes or grey boxes”, we need to all agree to be truly intolerant of them.

Next in the cue is a foundational principle that all impressions are not created equally.

There is correctly a marketer hunger to be able to analyze ad campaign performance across the largest media levers (Google, Meta, TV) and calculate unduplicated reach & frequency at a campaign level as part of a “North Star” (WFA, ANA) ambition, as well as the key deliverable of Nielsen’s in-progress N1 product.

Where it gets tricky is the idea that across the big three media levers that “an impression is an impression” regardless of source. We believe that is exactly where the entire mission goes off the rails, and whatever “results” come out of equalizing impressions don’t serve the marketer’s brand and sales-building interests.

There is just too much pretending in the idea that the DNA (impressions) of a grainy and shaky UGC video that’s four seconds long with no audio and served in an unknown context can be calculated as having EQUAL value to the DNA (impressions) of a professionally-produced, long-form video program – always with the potential for high emotional engagement, and always served in an always-brand-safe environment. It’s a reminder of why “pretend” isn’t a strategic marketing term.

There is no shortage of findings about the superior consumer ad impact from professionally-produced long-form multiscreen TV content, we have learned this from 158 reports, studies, and white papers from 37 different resources on this topic. Why willfully ignore this large body of recent work that essentially “proves the obvious” about TV’s higher value impressions?  Those promoting equalizing all video ad impressions cite “better efficiencies” as the end benefit… which practically translates to the lowest common denominator standards enabling a race to the bottom, favoring the lowest quality inventory in the marketplace.

We’ve never seen a single CMO-delivered case history where brand and sales success came from the pivotal decision to devalue obvious quality in favor of relying on inferior surrogates – in any portion of any marketing plan.

What are the benefits of modern video measurement – for marketers? for sellers?

For marketers:

Far past the legacy function of “getting the count right”, the expected innovations in 2023-thru-2025 cross-platform video measurement & currency can:

  • Provide a bold line to activate key customer groups that are resolved to identity.
  • Assure a full and correct capture & analytics of all cross-platform ad impressions
  • Prioritize the multicultural customer segments as co-primary for metrics & analytics
  • Provide privacy-minded interoperability with the marketers’ first-party data sets
  • Help enable attribution analytics that gauge the relative productivity of video media types and specific end vehicles

For sellers:

Having long-overdue and thoroughly modern measurement that finally gets the count right should most often translate into an increased supply of ad impressions for monetization.

Being able to onboard the TV publishers (ad sellers) first-party streaming data for use by multiple measurement companies will assure the best count and analytics of streaming audiences.

Having accurate, reliable, and predictable programming impressions data across all platforms and conduits also allows for the curation of maximum yield for each piece of content across the full Multiscreen TV value chain which in turn allows for increased investment in programming content.

The “platforming” of publisher’s ad assets for advertiser customization/activation will certainly accelerate as the enabling measurement data sets improve to the 2023-2025 levels we all seek.

Deeper partnerships with the full gamut of advertisers will be created through successive ad campaign cycles where the productivity (the advertiser’s sales & brand increases) of the ad investments improves with each successive ad campaign.

How is VAB leading the change?

So much of the VAB’s (often loud) success in advocating for the real-time re-invention of premium video measurement & currency is rooted in our Insights creation/issuance and subsequent heavy downloading by advertisers and agencies of that VAB Insights content.

Among 2022 VAB Insights issuances: 43 reports (860 pages/540 charts), 68 case histories, 27 webinars, 15 podcasts, etc. “Measurement Advances” was our most frequent and popular subject consumed by our senior marketer customers.

The leadership exposure VAB advocacy garnered in 2022 – over 135 stories (pieces of press coverage) in over 35 national media outlets was always rooted in the Insights-first, written-for-marketers approach that causes us to look at issues in a way that’s demonstrably different and deeper than other ad market voices.

Which initiatives is VAB partnering on to achieve more complete, accurate, and transparent measurement?

The VAB’s most active and visible sector-wide collaboration is our Measurement Innovation Task Force – comprised of the 35 most-senior research & audience data Heads across 18 different Multiscreen TV companies. This group has been highly effective at bringing unified sell-side POVs and urgent calls for very specific improvement from measurement companies, typically providing a full view to the leaders of the ten largest media agencies.

This group (MITF) was integral to the VAB’s late 2022 creation of a set of Unified Principles & Foundational Requirements for Successor Measurement and Currency Instruments which were presented to all the major measurement companies as well as the major agencies.

We are also working diligently with top ANA executives and marketer members of the ANA Board on their Cross Media Measurement initiative. Recently we collaborated on the establishment of “must-have” metadata within their in-progress VID (virtual ID) technology within the CMM solution that allows marketers to differentiate impressions by platform type, device type, ad duration, content duration, date/time specifics as well of delineate between professional content and UGC.

The VAB is also a partner in the JIC (Joint Industry Committee) has several TV publishers and streaming companies working closely with top execs from ten media agency companies and developed Measurement Certification Reuirements that will determine the “readiness” of the half-dozen or so largest and most active measurement companies.

Thanks, Sean!

Sean Cunningham leads VAB, the U.S. marketer’s foremost industry source for insights-driven video research and intelligence. With deep ad agency experience as a senior-level strategic advisor on all media formats, Sean is passionate about championing marketers’ quest to maximize outcomes, solve business challenges, build high-value brands, and drive overall sales and profitability. VAB’s continual evolution reflects his belief in the perpetual drive to reinvent a successful company as a pillar advantage for marketers.

Known for his ability to deeply immerse himself in a brand’s business, Sean has considerable experience in many of the largest consumer product verticals including automotive, technology, consumer electronics, and consumer product goods, among others.

VAB helps brand leaders navigate through our technology-rich, data-fueled world through industry-defining insights and custom analysis and addresses the challenges of today, and inspires conversations of tomorrow. VAB is driven by clear values that spark the very best forward-thinking and impactful collaboration. VAB is an insights-driven, research and marketing company dedicated to helping brand leaders make fully informed media decisions that maximize returns, solve business challenges and drive overall growth.

Comments are closed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More