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News 6 Apr 2022 - 5 min read

'We just don't believe it': Uber Eats, Optus deliver feisty call for broadcasters to fix their poor BVOD viewer ad experience

By Sam Buckingham-Jones - Deputy Editor
Lucinda Barlow, Nicole Smart BVOD

“The experience for advertisers is nowhere near the nirvana that was presented earlier," Uber's Lucinda Barlow (L) said. Optus' Nicole Smart (R) said better targeting would put BVOD "back on par" with competitors.

A feisty session at the Future of TV forum in Sydney yesterday saw two big brand marketers deliver some frank advice to the major television networks: more money will flow to YouTube if they don't fix the "shit", repetitive ad experience for viewers on their video on-demand platforms. Uber’s APAC marketing boss Lucinda Barlow and Optus media ops lead Nicole Smart said poor ad frequency capping, credulous ad effectiveness reporting and expensive independent verification meant they were restraining BVOD budgets or flipping spend to rivals like YouTube.

What you need to know:

  • Uber’s Head of Marketing APAC, Lucinda Barlow, and Optus’ Director of Media and Marketing, Nicole Smart, told a packed Future of TV event the major BVOD platforms were falling behind YouTube in measurement, attribution and advertiser experience.
  • The BVOD platforms had poor frequency capping – i.e. many repeated ads, untrustworthy impact measurement and a more involved process.

When we use third party solutions or we use the network's own solutions, there's always issues with the methodology. No one trusts it internally, we see crazy results, uplift of 20 per cent consideration and we just don't believe it. So we end up doing our own thing and it's tough.

Lucinda Barlow, Uber, Head of Marketing APAC

BVOD must do better  

Two major advertisers have called on the television networks to up the game with their broadcaster video on demand (BVOD) ads, describing the experience as “shit” with its frequency capping and advertiser experience.

Lucinda Barlow, the Head of Marketing in APAC for Uber, and Nicole Smart, the Director of Media and Marketing Operations for Optus, said the networks weren’t delivering the same quality attribution and metrics as YouTube and, despite enormous demand, aren’t delivering a polished BVOD product for advertisers.

The pair joined Nine’s Director of Powered, Liana Dubois, KPMG Partner Karen Halligan, Unruly’s Grant Bingham and OMD co-CEO Sian Whitnall at a packed Mediatel Future of TV Sydney conference yesterday.

Uber was a sponsor of the Australian Open earlier this year, which was broadcast by Nine. The event was a massive event in January, watched by millions of people. But Barlow said her own experience on 9Now was seeing the same ads dozens of times – despite being a signed-in user.

“As an advertiser, there is huge demand. There's a huge need to build brands,” she told a fiery session.

“The experience for advertisers is nowhere near the nirvana that was presented earlier. I saw that NSW Health COVID-19 vaccine ad I think, 300 times. And I almost wanted to not get vaccinated. But that's an addressable experience with very, very valuable customers that are hard to reach through other mechanisms.

“I felt as a sort of conspiracy theorist advertiser, ‘oh, my God, Channel Nine is actually throttling this experience to make it so shit so that they're keeping free to air as long as possible. That is what goes through my mind.”

It was a friendly but frank conversation between the advertisers, agencies and publisher. Nine’s Liana Dubois countered that television networks are “held to a higher account”, and are “absolutely in seat 1A of the bus of turning the BVOD experience into the most extraordinary consumer experience”.

“There are still some tensions, there are still some advancements,” she said, “But I think there is an innovation pathway across every single network… there is intent, there is significant investment in an innovation pathway that will fundamentally make consumer experience stand head and shoulders above.”

As an advertiser, we want to be able to target more on an individual basis... Everything that can be done to get consumers watching through the app is going to be of huge benefit to advertisers and will just really put you back on par with that kind of data targeting.

Nicole Smart, Optus, Director of Media and Marketing Operations

Measurement a problem

Barlow stressed she had been extremely happy with the results of the Australian Open sponsorship. But measurement of TV campaigns is an issue both her and Smart raised.

“I think that TV's next biggest competitor when it comes to investment is the likes of YouTube,” Smart said.

“As an advertiser, we want to be able to target more on an individual basis. We want to be able to influence our messages. We want to be able to know what a consumer has watched, in what order, and therefore what action they have taken. So everything that can be done to get consumers watching through the app is going to be of huge benefit to advertisers and will just really put you back on par with that kind of data targeting.”

She said a single app combining BVOD platforms would be welcome from an advertiser point of view, but also said Optus has seen some interesting results on screen media. Linear TV is “hugely successful” in driving preference outcomes for the brand. But on pure brand advertising, she said YouTube had been more effective. “And that completely threw us because it's exactly the opposite of what you would expect,” she said.

Optus, of course, has had it's own streaming challenges with its soccer rights and Uber’s Barlow is a former Google and YouTube marketing exec. She said Uber leads its campaigns with YouTube and “struggles” with TV buys. The company holds back 25 per cent of its TV ad budget to figure out how to measure its success, from a brand and sales perspective.

“We optimise to brand. We really see these screens are driving long-term brand growth rather than acquisition, but we want to track 'are we actually seeing a return here in orders?' We see it. Where we have a great campaign - really strong creative, well targeted, all those things, well planned - we see phenomenal uplift,” she said.

“When we use third party solutions or we use the network's own solutions, there's always issues with the methodology. No one trusts it internally, we see crazy results, uplift of 20 per cent consideration and we just don't believe it. So we end up doing our own thing and it's tough.”

Long term, Uber is investing in media mix modelling, but that’s a big investment, Barlow said. Verifying TV campaigns through third parties is expensive and can take months, meaning the information can evaluate a campaign, but not to optimise one.

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