In this edition of the Buy-Side View, we speak with Rebecca Candeland, who earlier this summer joined Publicis Media’s Spark Foundry as Head of AV. In this interview, Candeland discusses how Publicis’ OTT-buying tool PMX Lift has transformed Spark’s TV buying, the challenges of defining and measuring attention, and how Spark Foundry is working to drive more media spend to diverse-owned media businesses.
What is your biggest bugbear when it comes to video and CTV advertising?
My biggest bugbear, which covers both digital video and CTV, is the amount of fragmentation in the market. It has had such an impact on how efficient we can be for brands in helping to maximise their reach.
In our day-to-day viewing as consumers, we’re so inundated with amazing content across different platforms. But as a media agency, it’s really difficult for us to show a complete holistic view for a campaign across all those different platforms.
There are some reporting systems that can help, like BARB’s Dovetail and CFlight. Those have given us some better insight into how campaigns are performing, and into the benefits of running across multiple platforms.
But we still don’t really get that full holistic view, and there’s still so much viewing that is unattributed on different viewing platforms.
The flip side is that audiences are choosing to watch across all these different platforms, so there’s a really good opportunity to reach as many people as possible. And lots of these platforms are opening up new opportunities around targeting and personalised content. So it’s a bugbear, but if it’s tackled the right way, there’s a really exciting opportunity there too.
Which do you think video advertising is the most effective for – generating awareness and brand-building, or driving short-term sales?
I think it can be effective for both. It definitely depends on the creative utilisation and the context of where the ad is run.
Longer creatives which are run in a more relaxed, big screen environment would typically have a stronger correlation with driving brand building and awareness than shorter, simpler messages which are delivered next to more easily consumable content. The social platforms would tend to be slightly better at driving short-term sales.
That said, I still think either platform can do the opposite too. And our job as a media agency is to make sense of how the two can work together to drive the best results.
Are you investing in CTV advertising? How will the shift towards CTV change your TV buying strategy?
We’re definitely buying more as the market develops. And a big thing at Publicis Media is that we have our own OTT buying solution called PMX Lift. It’s a real innovation in the AV space because it’s helping us to work towards solving those fragmentation issues that I mentioned earlier.
Using data from Epsilon, it allows us to create what’s known as a core ID. That then lets us identify a single viewer consistently across data-driven linear addressable TV, CTV, and OTT video.
Already that’s massively changed the way that we’re planning and implementing our TV buying, because the audiences we can reach are a lot more advanced, and we can frequency cap. There’s also massive potential for advanced measurement, such as measuring conversions. We can also pull in clients’ own data alongside Epsilon data, and make really hyper-targeted audiences.
At its heart, it’s allowing us to make our biggest major channel as impactful as possible.
For us, the majority of CTV inventory is bought programmatically, and it’s all done in-house using our own tech, which is really exciting.
A lot of CTV buying is limited to broadcasters and YouTube – are you spending with any of the smaller CTV publishers?
It depends on the brand and brief, but we are definitely moving more into that space as well, because there’s a bit of an untapped market there.
The majority of CTV spend at the moment naturally goes through the broadcasters and YouTube, but those newer players, the Plutos and the Rakutens, are an exciting opportunity. And smart TVs are making it easier and easier to watch that content.
Which ad tech solution has delivered the most impact for your business?
I think Sky has made some massive moves in the last five years in terms of developing their advertiser offering and their targeting capabilities.
And CFlight has been really useful. It’s already helping us to illustrate the incremental benefit of running on-demand campaigns, and it’s really empowered us to understand common trends by audience or vertical, and to understand people’s businesses better. That’s then helped us counteract inflation across linear TV as well.
We’re actually able to integrate Sky data into PMX Lift. Asda was the first to test this with us in the UK, they ingested their own CRM data which then allowed us to identify customers for their George @ ASDA brand, and run targeting around that.
Which metrics do you value the most when it comes to video and CTV advertising?
It definitely depends on the campaign goal. But at the heart of it all, advertising isn’t really valuable unless it’s grabbing your attention, so I’d probably say attention.
Obviously there are different states of attention, so it’s really difficult to assess how to truly measure it. Sometimes you don’t even realise you’re listening to an advert, and then you start singing along to it! So in a sense you can pay attention to an advert when you’re not even aware of it. It’s really hard to measure whether someone is focusing on an advert, or how much they’re taking away from a brand message.
I think the best current solution for measuring attention is time spent. And for us as a media agency, our goal is to get ads in the right context where you’re generating a truly engaged view from a consumer. At Publicis Media, we’ll continue to fuel our plans and optimise campaigns based on attention data we get through.
I’m really excited to see how it evolves. Perhaps in the future you’ll see brands using dynamic creative to reflect the content which their ads are next to, to make their ads as relevant as possible to grab that attention. There’s so much focus across the industry on attention at the moment, it’s going to be really interesting to see how it progresses over the next few years.
What could agencies do better to help clean up the industry?
Spark Foundry has always championed diversity and inclusion, and our head of performance insights Azad Ali has developed a product called DIME (Diverse & Inclusive Media Exchange).
DIME aims to achieve two things. The first is to ensure that all our media reaches audiences by accessing the most diverse inventory we can, and the second is to ensure that our media spend is going to partners who share our inclusive values. This means that brands are getting more reach, since buying more diverse media means we’re reaching more category consumers. And it ensures it’s all in high quality environments.
That’s such a positive because it means we’re getting more revenue to areas of the ecosystem that perhaps weren’t heavily invested in before, and it means we’re supporting more diverse creators.
We’re also encouraging those partners to report back on audience diversity in a responsible way. And if we can shift the way that media is reported, that helps us to drive a more inclusive society overall.
Which person in the industry inspires you the most today?
I would say Ally Owen – I’ve never met her, but I’ve always really admired her.
She set up Brixton Finishing School and the ADcademy, which basically act as a sort of blueprint to expand the industry’s talent pool and make it more inclusive and open to all.
They help people who are currently underrepresented in the industry – whether that’s through their race, or class, or education level – to break in. I think she’s set up a really amazing initiative, and it’s the kind of thing I’d love to help with as my career continues!
Out of all the video and TV advertising campaigns you’ve been involved with, which are you most proud of?
One that stands out in my mind was Asda’s Christmas campaign back in 2019.
Asda has a food range called ‘Extra Special’, and for this campaign we created something called ‘Extra Special Week’ with ITV.
Asda’s Christmas creative was Northern Lights themed, and so throughout that week we teased the ad across ITV. We had bespoke weather idents throughout the week where Alex Beresford, one of their weather presenters, encouraged viewers to look out for the Northern Lights on the date the campaign was launching. And on the day of the launch we changed the opening credits for Emmerdale so that the Northern Lights appeared over the Dales. That was a real media first.
We also mirrored that activity across ITV’s digital platforms, and also ran a silver spot on Frozen 2 in the cinemas, which was Northern Lights themed as well.
It was the most comprehensive activation I’ve ever done, and it was great to be able to do something like that with a massive property like Emmerdale. And it’s nice for your parents to see that, and to say “I know the person who put the Northern Lights over Emmerdale!”