Building a Honeycomb: Why Advertising Delivery Will Never be The Same Again
Last week saw the UK launch of Honeycomb – an intuitive, intelligent and transparent video advertising delivery platform, incomparable to anything that has come before. Designed to create a smooth and data-rich journey to programmatic TV, Honeycomb promises to take assets from advertiser to broadcaster and publisher in a faster and more efficient way.
We sat down with Honeycomb Founder, James Carpenter, to find out what all the fuss is about.
LBB> What is Honeycomb?
JC> It’s quite simply a faster, cheaper and more effective way of delivering advertising.
Devised by a group of like-minded people who have worked on all sides of the ad delivery process, Honeycomb is a platform that revolutionises how ads are delivered to broadcasters. And in the process, it generates intelligent data that can be used for programmatic ad-buying in the future.
In re-thinking the model, we have literally taken a blank piece of paper and worked out the most logical and efficient way of moving ads from creative through to your TV.
LBB> So what’s different?
JC> The current delivery systems are a digital version of the original method of manually moving tapes from advertiser to broadcaster. It works, but it relies on legacy systems and it’s built on old tech. And importantly – the costs still reflect the rate cards from when tapes were manually driven to TV stations, which simply isn’t the case anymore.
At the moment the system is very linear. There are a lot of hands that digital files pass through, and those multiple touchpoints make the process slower, costly and prone to human error. It is also very cumbersome for the advertiser, who has to spend a long time filling in online forms that will be sent down a supply chain. The new platform operates more like Google Drive – the different contributors have the ability to input information in real-time, to update one central piece of content. This saves advertisers the lengthy headache they currently face.
Our industry is moving towards automation of the decision-making process of media buying by targeting specific audiences and demographics, also called ‘programmatic’. But we need the right data to make it work in linear TV, so we’ve approached the delivery process in a smarter way, using the content that passes through to capture intelligent data that will lead to a smoother transition.
We have tackled this from the broadcaster’s end of the delivery process, where all the content converges.
LBB> Something tells me this isn’t your first rodeo?
JC> I created Adstream, one of the three leading companies in the world that deal with ad distribution. And before that I set up and ran my own creative agency – so I really have witnessed the journey that ads take from creative to delivery.
At Adstream we worked with the delivery of digital files, and put them through quality control before distribution. The system was a digital update of the old way – which was literally couriering tapes from agency to broadcaster.
Having been at the forefront of creating the digital distribution industry I can tell you that there aren’t a lot of us around who understand this part of the business, and even if you take the whole industry across the three major players, we’re talking about less than 5000 people globally. So it’s not a massive industry but it’s a very necessary part of the supply chain, and those of us who helped invent that part of the supply chain – well there are only a handful of us.
LBB> So you helped build a distribution system that still works. Why reinvent the wheel?
JC> It is a manual process that has been improved periodically but its evolution is limited by the need to maintain a ‘rate card’ to retain this part of the supply chain.
If it were just about the distribution of content that would be a good question – you can always improve the wheel but that would not be enough to excite me to do it.
We believe that TV is going to become just as programmatic as online, so what we’re trying to do is put in place systems that allow that change to happen in a more orderly way.
LBB> Why change it now in 2016?
JC> Like anything – there comes a time when the technology is available to realise the idea. It’s a new and better way that simply didn’t exist before. 2016 is its year.
LBB> What is the cost difference?
JC> We started from scratch with a different approach to building the technology that is required, and in doing so we could improve the actual cost lines. So where it might cost pounds to enable the tech part of the distribution process in the existing legacy systems, it costs us pence. The calculations indicate a significant saving compared to the existing models.
And this is just the price of the delivery. What we are really placing value on is the data that will come from employing this new model, and the route to programmatic TV. Of course there is a fee attached to the delivery but it is a fraction of the current price and, as attractive as it is, the financial saving shouldn’t be the motivation for using Honeycomb. It is in the long-term network and community that will shape media planning and execution, and people should see that as the value in being an early adopter.
As we collect more content, we collect more data, which feeds into a valuable pool of information that is greater than the sum of its parts.
LBB> Will it have any impact on the creative process?
JC> Only in so far as it will be much easier, more intuitive to interact with, it will reduce the possibility of errors, and it will be much cheaper. So if anything there is more time and money available to be reallocated to the creative.
LBB> Why have you started with broadcasters and what benefit will it bring?
JC> We started with broadcasters for one good reason; if you look at it logically and you go to the end of the supply chain – to the publisher or broadcaster, it’s the point where all of the data is compiled in one place. So everything about what happens to that content is crystallised in that one place.
So in the short-term, we are bringing broadcasters a financially advantageous way of getting content at their front door. But as time goes on, they become part of a conversation about how their inventory is treated and valued, and this is part of the journey towards programmatic TV. In the UK the market for TV advertising content is worth £5 billion. By adopting Honeycomb broadcasters are helping to protect that valuable inventory.
LBB> Honeycomb is going to cause disruption to a model and system you helped create. Are you ready for that?
JC> Someone recently said it might be hard to change people’s behaviour, but we’ve already tackled the hardest part of all this – we’ve already had the digital revolution. We don’t have to explain to people the benefit of sending a file versus a tape, or having heads of TV questioning why we would dream of sending a spot that cost $1m via the internet. That was a very hard thing to shift, particularly in a generational sense.
When the benefit outweighs the risk – people just do it. They do. People said you wouldn’t get a mobile phone in the hand of every person – and look where we are.
LBB> And finally… why the name Honeycomb?
JC> This was devised by my business partner Richard Carter, who is also a former partner from Adstream. He is chief strategy officer with a big history in this industry. He came up with Honeycomb because it is a perfect shape in nature that can expand infinitely, and as it links together theoretically it could cover the world.
It’s meant to symbolise the organic nature of the business, and you need a community working together to build a honeycomb.