Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

ATV’s Agents of Change: David Counsell of the7stars on the evolution of video advertising

‘Agents of Change’ is an ongoing initiative from MiQ (in partnership with New Digital Age) shining a spotlight on the individuals helping build the new Advanced TV (ATV) industry. As the ATV advertising marketplace continues to grow and expand rapidly, the series will feature profiles of key digital media execs who are helping to break down the traditional media buying silos in their own organisations. 

In the first of the series, David Counsell, Head of Trading at the7stars, the UK’s largest independent media agency, warns advertisers against jumping on the ATV bandwagon without focusing on investment in quality inventory…

What are the biggest challenges to the growth of ATV advertising? 

Generally speaking, it’s planning and measurement. The fragmentation of the marketplace means that those moving budgets from ‘old TV’ to ‘new TV’ find the opportunities of ATV tricky to plan and measure against. From our point of view, we’re trying to ensure that we have a team of video specialists who are just as comfortable buying YouTube inventory as they are linear TV or ATV ads. We’ve recognised the importance of the new TV landscape and know that we need to think holistically to get the results that our clients are looking for.

Do traditional silos between agency AV teams and Digital/Programmatic teams still exist?

It’s fair to say that silos do still exist in many agencies, which is understandable to an extent, as programmatic activations can be very complicated and require specialist skills. We’ve been able to pivot our teams so that we’re creating overall ‘video’ plans for clients which recognise and appreciate the differences in format and environment, and the different delivery mechanisms in play.  In that way, even if some KPIs and available metrics differ across the environments, we know that we’re still working towards the same total campaign objectives.

At an industry level, what can be done to reduce the level of fragmentation in the ATV marketplace for advertisers and their agencies?

Let’s keep it simple. ATV is a big opportunity. We need to go back to basics and appreciate the value of premium publishers and premium content. Right now, given the huge growth in ATV, a lot of new sales houses are entering the market promising advertisers access to an extensive inventory pool with decent reach, but they don’t necessarily focus on the quality of that supply or how it integrates with the advertiser’s wider video plan. I think ATV advertisers can avoid the trading mistakes we saw with programmatic display ads (cheap, undisclosed, reseller fuelled) by keeping the supply lines as clean as possible and focusing on quality inventory controlled at a platform level.

How do you personally act as an agent of change in your own organisation?

For me, it’s about building the strongest relationships with all parts of the supply chain to facilitate the best buys. So, that means the media owners themselves, the tech vendors, the measurement providers, and trying to get people working collaboratively to provide the best campaign opportunities for clients. 

In practice, that means making sure everyone understands what the main objectives are, being able to prove to clients that their investments are working as they should and having the ability to redirect spending quickly whenever improvements can be made. 

What upcoming industry developments are you most excited about? 

The ATV landscape is evolving all the time, but 2023 has the potential to be the most exciting year yet in the history of video trading. Obviously, the launch of Netflix and Disney+ ad-supported options will be interesting, but also the continued growth of existing channels like YouTube and Amazon Prime means it’s a great time to be a planner or buyer in the ATV space and to be testing and learning for clients.

The other thing on my radar right now is the shift towards ‘attention’ as a metric. It’s been a hot topic in the digital sphere for a few years and attention data is now becoming more widely available for linear TV trading. I think that could have an impact on trading strategies as we better understand how effective linear TV is in combination with digital and ATV activations as well. 

MiQ, in partnership with New Digital Age, recently published a special insight report, Agents of Change: Shaping the future of Advanced TV advertising, featuring further profiles of key digital media executives who are helping to leverage the incredible potential of ATV. You can download the full report for free here.

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