What is ACR (Automatic Content Recognition)?

Automatic Content Recognition or ACR is a technology that can identify content that is being played through a media device (TV, tablet, smartphone). This information can then be transmitted back to the ACR tv software provider via an internet connection. Content information can be used by content providers and advertisers to provide interactive functionality and targeted advertising.

ACR technology is now widely available and is included on many devices, including most Smart TVs. With nearly 50% of all U.S. homes owning Smart TVs, the world of CTV (Connected TV) has enabled this technology to advance rapidly. Automatic Content Recognition is primarily used to recognize and track video content that people are watching. The ACR data collected is extensive and creates a number of opportunities, especially in the marketing and advertising industry.

What is ACR?

Automatic Content Recognition captures data (video and/or audio), it then uses this information to create a “fingerprint” of the content. This unique fingerprint is based on a number of specific technical characteristics of the video on audio data. The fingerprint is then compared to a database of fingerprints to identify the specific content. Just as with human fingerprints, if an ACR fingerprint match is located, then the ACR can specifically identify the content, including advertisements.

Another method for identifying content is to use digital watermarking. Digital watermarking is where the media creator inserts digital tags or markings into their content in such a way that they are not visible to a normal viewer, but they can be located with special software and security codes. These tags provide the information needed to identify the content.

Once the content is identified, this information, plus a lot more, is available to the ACR software. This information can give advertisers and others a tremendous insight into what is being watched and who is watching it. Some information provided (IP address) can even allow the ACR to identify other connected devices on the same network and potentially target those.

How do they get the ACR data?

Automatic Content Recognition data is obviously collected from devices viewing content, but how do they know what the content being watched is? As stated before, there is a large database of pre-identified fingerprints and tags for all content. There are several companies that collect, analyze, and sell ACR. To start with, they have built very large databases of content fingerprints based on analyzing all the types of media content available. This gives them the ability to identify the content that people a watching, but the real value is in the data on who is watching what.

In order for ACR technology to work, the software or application must be installed on the viewing device. In most cases, this is Smart TVs and smartphones. Most all the Smart TV manufacturers either have ACR software or license other companies to include ACR software on their televisions. Currently, the major companies in the ACR business are: Nielsen Gracenote, Inscape, Samsung Ads, Roku, Alphonso, and Samba TV.

What does ACR stand for?

An advertiser using ACR technology can tell if someone has watched an ad or not. They can then target a specific ad to the viewer, or if the viewer has already seen an ad, then they can send that ad to another device the viewer has. Or, if an ad for the advertiser’s product was viewed, then they can show a different ad offering the viewer a bonus for purchasing that product. For competitive advertising, advertiser A can see that the viewer watched an ad for advertiser B and target their ad to that same viewer to compete with advertiser B’s product.

Some ACR data providers will do analysis on the data and create segments, and then build data models at various scales to give the advertisers options to run campaigns of varying sizes. They can also target consumers based on media, devices types, and many other demographic characteristics. All the usual marketing strategies and tools still apply, but the possibilities to advertisers using ACR are almost endless.

Final Thoughts

In the world of Internet of things (IoT), more and more devices are connected. This, combined with the widespread use of advanced Automatic Content Recognition, gives marketers a multitude of opportunities to collect information on customers as well as tools to very precisely target the most profitable consumers.

Leave a Reply