What Apple TV Plus Can Teach Us About The Future of Audience Profiling

by Toccara Baker

Posted on 05-31-2019

The way we buy prod­ucts has changed a lot in the last few years. Con­sumers today are enam­oured by mod­els allow­ing them to buy their favourite prod­ucts and ser­vices on a month­ly basis, from music on Spo­ti­fy, food on Blue Apron, to make-up on Birch­box – even Adobe’s own Cre­ative Cloud suite is avail­able on a sub­scrip­tion-based model!

But nowhere has the sub­scrip­tion-based mod­el proved more trans­for­ma­tive than the enter­tain­ment indus­try. View­ers no longer wish to behold them­selves to the pro­gram­ming sched­ule of free-to-air net­works – they want to sub­scribe to a range of orig­i­nal con­tent they can stream when­ev­er and wher­ev­er they like. Net­flix, Hulu, and Ama­zon Prime are all Video on Demand (VOD) ser­vices that cater to this appetite, and last week Apple became the lat­est to throw their hat into the ring with the launch of Apple TV plus.

Sub­scrip­tion-based VOD is chang­ing the way peo­ple watch tele­vi­sion, but it’s also grad­u­al­ly chang­ing the way peo­ple con­sume adver­tis­ing. Some VOD ser­vices, like Hulu, fea­ture adver­tis­ing along­side their pro­gram­ming. How­ev­er most don’t. Net­flix and Ama­zon Prime come in under this cat­e­go­ry, and Apple is the lat­est play­er to eschew adver­tis­ing. This is pre­sum­ably seen by Apple as a sell­ing point for its view­ers, but it’s also a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to con­nect with and get to know their audi­ences on the platform.

It’s already dif­fi­cult enough for mar­keters to keep track of their audience’s entire jour­ney across mobile, desk­top, TV and apps – just to name a few. And the mul­ti­tude of chan­nels is just the begin­ning. Some chan­nels have dif­fer­ent ways of track­ing users than oth­ers, and some – for instance walled gar­dens – pre­vent brands from access­ing a full pic­ture of user activ­i­ty on their plat­form. Apple TV rep­re­sents a trend for sub­scrip­tion-based VOD to close them­selves off from brands alto­geth­er. For­get walled gar­dens – these plat­forms are walled waste­lands for marketers!

These new media con­sump­tion trends cast doubt on the ways mar­keters are cur­rent­ly build­ing audi­ence pro­files, not just on VOD, but across the board. Let’s face it – the indus­try needs to rethink the way we pro­file, and it isn’t because Apple TV plus decid­ed to deprive brands of adver­tis­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. It’s because the old meth­ods of build­ing audi­ence data online – name­ly cook­ies – are becom­ing defunct.

The writ­ing has been on the wall for cook­ies since the rise of mobile devices and apps, nei­ther of which sup­port the track­ing tech­nol­o­gy. Apple’s own Safari web brows­er blocks cook­ies alto­geth­er using a tech­nol­o­gy called Intel­li­gent Track­ing Pre­ven­tion, which was recent­ly strength­ened in a ver­sion 2.2. Google’s Chrome brows­er was itself recent­ly updat­ed to give users more vis­i­bil­i­ty and con­trol over the way their cook­ies were used by third par­ties. Chrome’s approach is much more bal­anced than that of Apple, giv­ing user’s greater pri­va­cy con­trol with­out com­plete­ly depriv­ing third par­ties from the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to know their audi­ences bet­ter using data. How­ev­er, it’s also anoth­er piece of evi­dence that momen­tum is shift­ing away from cookies.

So what is the future of audi­ence pro­file build­ing? At the moment, we’re see­ing the indus­try explore oth­er meth­ods of pro­file build­ing like Unique­ly Iden­ti­fied Data (UID). This method uses alter­na­tive iden­ti­fiers to make sense of a user’s behav­iour, like IP address, user agent, and gate­way IP address. UID is much more accu­rate than cook­ies because it’s a more com­plete way of trac­ing a user’s jour­ney online. It also offers brands the abil­i­ty to build up their own user data­bas­es more secure­ly, and with less reliance on opaque walled-gar­den envi­ron­ments. This is the method employed to build user pro­files on our own Expe­ri­ence Cloud plat­form, for example.

The industry’s shift from cook­ies to oth­er more over­ar­ch­ing forms of user iden­ti­fi­ca­tion under­scores the over­all impor­tance of a broad­er shift in audi­ence pro­fil­ing. Con­sumers are increas­ing­ly demand­ing con­tent that’s per­son­alised to their own spe­cif­ic needs and pref­er­ences, and this is requir­ing mar­keters to rethink the way they tar­get. Build­ing cam­paigns based on demo­graph­ics or cohorts is no longer spe­cif­ic enough. Brands need to tai­lor their com­mu­ni­ca­tion to indi­vid­u­als, and this requires a fin­er and more sophis­ti­cat­ed approach.

That’s why brands are look­ing to uni­fied pro­fil­ing – that is pro­fil­ing that looks at an individual’s jour­ney cross-chan­nel – and they are turn­ing to Data Man­age­ment Plat­forms (DMPs) to help piece them togeth­er. DMPs cen­tralise and cor­re­late data at a user-lev­el, pool­ing togeth­er infor­ma­tion from a range of touch­points to build com­plete user-based pro­files. Mar­keters can then use these pro­files to deliv­er more rel­e­vant and con­sis­tent mes­sag­ing to users based on a more com­pre­hen­sive under­stand­ing of their behav­ior and actions.

Such insight can also be used to detect new tar­get audi­ences based on the per­for­mance of exist­ing seg­ments, for exam­ple con­sumers who may be inter­est­ed in run­ning pants after hav­ing already pur­chased sneak­ers and browsed drink bot­tles. Adobe’s own Expe­ri­ence plat­form per­forms this func­tion­al­i­ty using AI to accu­rate­ly pre­dict a user’s inter­ests based on the behav­iour of looka­like audi­ences. This helps brands tar­get their cam­paigns more effec­tive­ly and yield greater returns from paid media spend.

The media envi­ron­ment is evolv­ing and frag­ment­ing, and this lat­est prod­uct announce­ment from Apple is only the lat­est step in a wider trans­for­ma­tion. We are see­ing approach­es to user pro­fil­ing adapt along­side this shift, as brands attempt to keep track of their audi­ence as they jump from one chan­nel to anoth­er. This is all part of a more fun­da­men­tal effort to engage users as indi­vid­u­als. Tech­nol­o­gy presents mar­keters an unprece­dent­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to know their cus­tomer, and inter­act with them on a much more per­son­al lev­el. And it’s paving the way to a much more uni­fied approach to audi­ence profiling.

Topics: Advertising, Apple TV Plus, UK, UK Exclusive, Digital EMEA