For our second JUMP interview, we reached out to MPG’s EVP/Managing Director Innovation, Mitch Oscar, who just had a hand in creating the first ad supported Video on Demand directory in conjunction with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Mediaocean and Rentrak. 

We spoke to Oscar about innovation in the advanced TV space, what metrics are being used to measure Video on Demand (VOD), and how we, as an industry, have to share more so we can advance.

What is your position at MPG?

My title is EVP/Managing Director of Innovation. Prior to that I was the EVP Televisual Applications. I made up “televisual” as a definition of video across all platforms. What is watching TV on a smart phone? If look at apps, broadband video or out of home/play space, it’s all television. 

Labels are confusing. As Director of Innovation, no one knows what it means for your company but people have an idea of what innovation is for them.

So what is innovation to you?

I like to say I’m an enzyme. I bring ideas to different teams to encourage new thinking. I’m also the founder of the Collaborative Alliance. It’s a community that is striving to advance products and develop new thinking. I like to be pragmatic. Theory is one thing but it’s about pragmatism. When you hear what Starcom and Group M are doing with advanced television, everyone talks about scale.

Personally, I would rather learn the same by testing in 100,000 homes before growing it out to 50 million homes so I have a better sense of what works in order to not waste as much money.

With cable and ad supported video on demand, networks are saying must be value there but we don’t have demographics. We do have gross transactions and know how much you watched, but not where. 

You recently created the first ad sponsored VOD directory. How will this help the industry?

If you’re a TV buyer and you have a kids brand, you’d traditionally have to call each network that has Video on Demand to see if your advertising is applicable. Listed by genre, you’ll have the details of nearly 200 networks with our new VOD directory.

Initiatives like that move the community forward. It all ties in to attract people from an innovation point of view. 

How are new innovations changing the landscape?

Our main problem is we’re in an industry selling to ourselves. Something is always hotter. In 1975, the ad business was 15% commission on buying and planning. Now it’s 3%. We have to remember there are new innovations all the time. It’s all about redefining.

Neilsen is saying consumers are watching 5 hours of TV a day but no one is watching lineral TV. Look at AOL and Yahoo. Their big strategy is content. What’s Hulu and Netflix? People say they are destroying the model but they’re about content too. Are they breaking the mold? We don’t have enough info to analyze.

As everyone moves into the digital video space, what about the community element that exists with those already making videos on YouTube, for instance?

I don’t know if it’s about interaction in those spaces as much as it’s about making a star. Major stars are try to make money and exploit, and digital is helping them find another source of revenue. The longer term goal is to make money. There is no alteristic commitment there.

But I think also looking at a cultural divide: new digital vs old television. Digital may know how to retarget, etc. but it’s the new digital people who are thinking they are more important. As TV people still have way more digital dollars, they won’t help the new digital guys evolve when they keep saying TV thinking is antiquated.

The agency world was the same. They just bought the digital companies but kept traditional and digital separate for a long time.

What should advertisers do in the digital television/video space then?

Be diligent. There’s always the sexiest. “Oh that must be great.” The media people that are charged with figuring out what consumers want, are they the best to say they know what they want? Everyone 3 years ago was familiar with Google but regular people didn’t hear it as much as the ad people.

Agencies should look at all platforms. Not everyone has all the answers so we need to collaborate. We need baselines. What is engagement? What is this two screen stuff? We have to come up with best practice and create a knowledge base and evolve with each experience. 

Once, in a former position I was in, we had a double opt in with the interactive TV ads we were running, we had double op in. You could see a commercial and click through to get a salesman to call. Once they said yes, a second box would come up and say are you sure and we lost 75% of people at that point, so that’s not good to do. 

Instead we measure creative, which is silly. We’re told to make sure it’s good creative as good creative engages more. So a lot of research is shown where people are engaged with program, but we’re always doing new programming and commercials. Media people have to tie into creative but they don’t need the help there. We need to evaluate media and connectivity to the product and consumer.

Somehow we’re not learning what works or not in Advanced TV. We can ask clients to experiment and they say why? It may be hot but what can they learn. Unless you get the client to come up with the money and the clients believe you are the experts, you may get results.  the problem is that all tests being done by the agencies are proprietary and unpublished as they want the advantage. 

If we shared more, we could help move the industry forward.