The media advertising landscape is transforming dramatically, fueled by the changing media consumption habits across a multitude of platforms and technological changes that are driving the next wave of digital transformation. Media tech leaders have the opportunity to capitalize on this digital advertising shift with the right technology investments, right skills, right partners, and the right ecosystem to drive innovation and unlock new business models.

Glen Ceniza, CTO at Operative, recently discussed with Todd Pruzan of Harvard Business Review how Operative is building a next-generation advertising platform based on a foundation of data that is supported by AI, ML, and data science for advanced workflow optimization and automated decision-making. Watch this interview to learn about Glen’s view on important trends in the media industry, the evolving media advertising landscape, and the massive opportunities for innovation and partnerships.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Welcome to the HBR Video Quick Take. I’m Todd Pruzan, senior editor for research and special projects at Harvard Business Review. The media advertising landscape is under enormous pressure to change. The transformation in how and where we consume media, fueled by technological change and the lasting impact of the pandemic, is causing media to reimagine every aspect of the advertising experience.

From workflow processes to personalized journeys, Operative is at the center of this change with a single open platform that prepares organizations for digital and linear convergence. Today, I’m speaking with Glen Ceniza, Operative’s chief technology officer, to talk about these changes and this platform. Glen, thank you so much for joining us today.

Glen Ceniza, Operative

Thank you, Todd. I am delighted to be here.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

The Covid-19 pandemic has fueled the next wave of transformation in the media industry. What shifts do you see happening that make digital transformation an imperative for the media industry? How are media tech companies responding?

Glen Ceniza, Operative

Yeah, sure. Great question. I think for the last 18 months, there have been some significant pivots and strides, actually, in the media and entertainment industry. I think the pandemic has certainly accelerated what has been happening in media for a number of years. It’s just been accelerated exponentially.

We’ve seen an exponential rise in streaming content, the volume of users that are streaming and watching television, watching it across a multitude of devices. Remote workflows, remote workforce is absolutely happening across the media and entertainment industry. And nearly every single media publisher or television company out there is now providing direct-to-consumer applications. And so that is all on the rise and has been accelerated dramatically as a result of the pandemic.

I think that Covid itself has dramatically changed viewing habits because people– content is surging. People are watching more content. And it’s an on-demand consumption across a multitude of platforms, whether that’s through a traditional television, whether that’s through an iPhone, whether that’s through an iPad, mobile device, and really watching all content anywhere.

So, when viewing habits like this change and the consumption of media changes, this has to coincide with an innovation in media, media technology, to drive new strategies to maximize revenue growth for these companies. So, there’s a fundamental shift in the way media is transacted across all of these platforms– both digital and linear platforms in the industry.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

There’s a lot of focus right now on advanced TV. What is advanced TV? And how is the media changing to stay competitive?

Glen Ceniza, Operative

Yeah, so a primer on advanced TV. So, to set context of what advanced TV is, we have to first understand what linear TV is, which is the opposite of that or the predecessor to that. And linear TV is the way we all grew up watching television, which is a traditional broadcast of content, whether that was programmed according to a schedule or whether it was delivered live through a broadcast.

This is what we all grew up with. So, the program inventory tended to be very finite with programs planned well in advance and advertisement being delivered at very fixed points and very fixed geographies. The notion of advanced TV and where we are right now is the idea of being able to consume content over internet-enabled devices, which enable us to watch programs anywhere at any time.

And so, there are three major technological changes that are part and parcel of advanced TV. One is interactivity. Two is interoperability. And third is addressability. And so, from an interactivity perspective, you’re no longer watching things linearly or in sequence. As the viewer, you get to choose what you want to watch, on what type of device that you want to watch it, and when you want to watch it.

Second, from interoperability, this is the notion of being able to watch across the platforms. It’s not just, I’m sitting in my house, and I’m watching behind a television. It’s across a multitude of digital platforms as well.

And then third, most importantly for the media companies and the advertisers that fund the media companies, is addressability. Historically, in linear television, it was very difficult to know who the viewer was on the other side. When we operate in a digital world or an intelligent world with advanced television, we know precisely who is on the other side of the device that is watching the content.

And because of that, it changes the way in which content and advertising can be delivered. Everything is now– content can be delivered in a very curated way that projects upon the projected affinity of the viewer behind the device, as well as advertising can now become very targeted. And at the end of the day, what media companies want to maximize is yield from their viewership, which means maximizing revenue from their inventory or their supply, which, in this case, is viewership.

And advertising agencies, what they care about today is reaching outcomes. If you’re Walmart, when you spend money on an advertisement, what you really want to see is, was there a lift on footfall within your stores? If you’re Ford and you’re putting out an advertisement for the new Ford F-150, you want to maximize lift on that. And so, what advertisers want, or what agencies want, is to figure out how to improve that.

And targeting helps everybody. Targeting helps media companies maximize their inventory. Targeting helps advertisers and agencies reach outcomes that they’ve been seeking all along.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

So, what role does Operative play in helping media companies with these shifts?

Glen Ceniza, Operative

Yeah, I think that Operative has a unique vantage point in the industry, in that for years, we’ve provided innovations and solutions across the breadth of media, whether that is network broadcasting media companies, whether that is local station broadcasting companies, whether that’s cable providers, or whether that is pure-play digital companies, so from network linear to local station to pure digital and the media giants today that are all of the above. So, we have this unique vantage point.

We have been investing heavily and innovating heavily in a new platform that we call AOS, which stands for Advertising Operating System, that enables companies to unify their technology from workflow automation to converged inventory to unification across platforms and across currency. I mean, it’s important to understand that the currency by which advertising was traded in linear differs from where we’re going today with digital.

Digital transacts across what are called impressions. And the linear world has traditionally transacted across spots and ratings. And our AOS technology is a modern cloud-based architecture that simplifies all of this, unifies all this. And it provides a means from uniting traditional linear television with digital media.

So, with the AOS platform, our aim is to help media companies unlock business models, improve the way they package, integrate their supply and existing inventory. And we’ve been investing on this now for about three years. And I think that what’s been happening in the pandemic has caused an acceleration within our own innovation to invest even bigger and faster within AOS.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Glen, what is your strategy to build an organization with the right technology investments, the right skills, the right partners, and the right ecosystem to build the next wave of software-driven innovation in the media industry?

Glen Ceniza, Operative

Yeah, that’s an excellent question. Yeah, clearly, we see a massive opportunity to innovate in the shift to multiplatform inventory and multicurrency for planning and selling in media. In order to capitalize on this, Operative and companies like Operative and media companies need to innovate quickly. The world is evolving quickly. The media landscape is evolving quickly.

As we talked about before, the pandemic has forced this acceleration. And what we needed to do in the last 18 months is really to scale quickly, scale immediately, and having the right set of talent to be able to engineer the innovation that the media companies have needed. And the media industry today is moving so fast that it’s– to spend a year building talent traditionally has been difficult. And what we recognize is that we leverage partnerships as a means to be able to augment and scale quickly.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Great. So how do you see the future unfolding for companies like Operative? What’s next for you?

Glen Ceniza, Operative

Yeah. As I mentioned before, everything is going to multiplatform with digital and linear and multicurrency with impressions and spots and ratings, everything unifying. And our platform as the enabler for that unification, for us, is the next, immediate big step. Our mission is to be the company that ushers in this paradigm shift.

And beyond that, I think that there’s a lot of talk in every single industry that the next wave is going to be AI. The age of AI is upon us. I think AI and machine learning are– there’s a massive opportunity here within media to do more of what we’re doing and to usher in more automation.

But it’s important to understand that if we believe that that is the future, that the means to get there is based on the foundation of data and unified data and having a platform to do that. And ecosystem companies, platforms like Operative need to be building to be able to scale to this future. And I think that eventually, what we’ll see is more and more optimization and more and more decision making that traditionally has been done by people will be done in a platform such as ours.

If we fast-forward way into the future, I think that’s where things are headed. I think the nearer-term step, as I mentioned, is really around unification for the industry around multiplatform, multicurrency, and really having a platform that’s a foundation of data to support AI, ML, data science, and all of that.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Glen, this has been a great conversation. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Glen Ceniza, Operative

Thank you. I was delighted to be here. You’re very welcome.

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