ACR (Automatic Content Recognition)

What is automatic content recognition?

Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) is technology that gathers data from a user of an internet-enabled TV, or Smart TV, to help in identifying and gathering TV viewership data. This data is gathered automatically without any user-based opt-in or input, which offers greater depth and accuracy than user-offered data. ACR gathers such data as geolocation, viewing history and user pathways.

These TVs usually choose to share this aggregated viewership data with demand-side platforms (DSPs), who use this information to serve ads to viewers most likely to view, engage, and convert into customers with a purchase.

ACR is a technology that was first created in 2011 when it was applied to TV content by Shazam, a music recognition service. Today, ACR data is harnessed by both advertisers and data-aggregation companies alike, who use it to develop their audience targets. Thanks to ACR, we can now track real-time TV audience measurement metrics and adjust ad strategy with greater precision and efficiency.

In some cases, ACR is sent back to the original client, which they then use to offer the user direct content recommendations within the video service. For example, in connected TV (CTV), a streaming video platform may use ACR to suggest similar shows to watch after the user finishes a crime series to maintain user engagement in and continued use of the platform.

There is an option on almost every device for the user to disable the ACR feature and opt-out of offering their data, though it is the default setting to be opted-in. Some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who utilize ACR technology include Samsung, Vizio, and LG.

For advertisers to be able to not only target audiences but also measure the performance and pickup of their TV advertisements, they typically partner with a DSP to run campaign reports on user data. The DSP, in turn, works with a trusted and well-known data provider, who is host to myriad Smart TV providers’ data, gathered originally through automatic content recognition (ACR) technology.

As the leader in cross-channel TV planning, buying and measurement, Simulmedia’s partnerships include both ad technology providers who license their own ACR data, such as Vizio’s Inscape panel – which  offer a footprint of roughly 14 million monthly active devices – as well as companies who license their own ACR data from data providers. The aggregate of this offering provides advertisers with a clear overview of who is watching your ad and when. Providers like Kantar Media, Tivo, and Nielsen lift household-level linear TV and CTV data to draw up reports reflecting demographic data, behavioral viewing patterns, and to track the user pathway from browsing, selection, viewing and beyond.

Armed with this information, advertisers can weigh who they targeted for an advertisement, versus who actually sat through and watched – and for how long. This is especially useful when taking the campaign to scale, whether increasing in frequency or reach.

Overall, ACR can gather granular, real-time user information that is key to informing future decision making. Whether it’s retargeting, changing creative, shifting budget or widening audience reach, ACR is an advertiser’s behind-the-scenes ally.