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This Is the Year Advertisers Plug Into the Connected Home

By the end of the decade, futurists predict many of us will live in homes where voice-activated controls have replaced switches, touch-sensitive walls resemble super-sized smartphones, and “intelligent” systems adapt to our habits and preferences.

Most of us are not yet living in homes with Tony Stark-like functionality. But many consumers are already benefitting from enhanced home connectivity, most notably in the way they access media and entertainment.

Entertainment becomes the vanguard of the connected home

Connected TV (CTV) and digital audio are transforming how we watch TV and listen to music and other audio entertainment. In Q2 2020, streaming accounted for 25%of TV viewing time according to Nielsen, while a report from Edison Research and Triton Digital found 169 million consumers streamed online radio or podcasts weekly.

When the pandemic hit, homebound consumers turned to CTV in search of engaging, on-demand content, often cutting the cord along the way. Further buoyed by the launch of new subscription services like Disney+ and HBO Max, along with a slew of ad-supported offerings headlined by NBCU’s Peacock, Q2 2020 CTV viewing time shot up 81% YOY according to Nielsen.

While streaming is replacing traditional TV, it’s also reshaping audio entertainment. Thanks to improved connectivity, rapid adoption of personal assistants and wireless speakers, and changing work habits, “radio” is returning to the home.

The shift to streaming media was well underway before COVID-19, driven by the trifecta of on-demand viewing and listening, fresh content and lower costs. Expectstreaming to retain the audiences it attracted in 2020 and continue to grow its share of media consumption time.

An identity-based view of consumers

Th eaverage US home contains more than 10 connected devices, and different devices emit different signals. The devices at the center of the streaming revolution — connected TVs, smart speakers and gaming consoles — are home-based and not addressable using legacy digital signals like cookies and device IDs.

Especially with this year’s pending browser and device restrictions, the connected home is poised to become the new frontier for advertisers. However, they’ll need a new kind of identity map to navigate it. Most legacy device graphs probabilistically link devices to users, an approach that doesn’t translate well when connecting people to households and households to devices.

An alternative is solutions grounded in persistent signals from devices that do not leave the home, such as connected TVs. By anchoring connected devices to the correct household based on commonalities in digital signatures, this approach flips the device-based script. While home-based devices tend to be shared, personal devices like smartphones and tablets are also used for streaming and can be mapped to homes, providing a comprehensive device inventory for each household.

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Working to connect the home and consumer privacy

Some components of the future home —such as smart refrigerators with shelf sensors and connected screens — will allow marketers to directly engage consumers, others will not. But all will generate terabytes of information. This will heighten demand for the consent and data management tools marketers will require to better understand and meet consumer needs in a privacy-safe way.

Once we’ve translated disparate signals to individuals and households, we’ll have created a map that will empower advertisers and media companies to market to connected homes with precision, coordination and scale. That map will also be a basis for implementing consumer-facing privacy controls across the connected home, and establishing enterprise-level or even industry-wide privacy management systems.

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Thinking ahead, stewarding information about connected households will require collaboration and data sharing across many stakeholders within a complex ecosystem, underscoring the importance of developing standards for privacy and consent controls now.

A vision of success

Unlocking the full potential of streaming media today requires reconciling a wide array of devices and signals to a secure household identifier across tens of millions of homes.

The home of the near future will add more types of connected devices and more industry stakeholders to an already complex ecosystem. But the fundamental challenges will be the same.

Identity-resolution services will provide the connective tissue tying data and devices to consumers in a secure, privacy-compliant manner.

Advertisers and media companies ultimately seek a valid, identity-based understanding of each signal to operate at peak effectiveness in a digital world. Identity-resolution services that marry interoperability with scale, accuracy and robust device coverage can improve marketing performance today and position companies for success in an increasingly connected future.

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