- Execs from Viacom, NBCUniversal, and Turner say they have big plans to change how advertisers have bought and measured TV advertising for decades and are steadily rolling out new tools for advertisers.
- But advertisers and networks have been slow to back more data-driven buying and targeting because of the legwork needed to match digital advertising’s efficiency.
- Meanwhile, the rise in direct-to-consumer brands with smaller budgets is forcing TV networks to lower their advertising prices.
TV networks are scrambling to keep up with digital advertising’s data-based targeting and measurement but continue to struggle in turning around how their businesses work.
During a panel at AdExchanger’s Industry Preview conference on Wednesday, executives from Viacom, Turner, NBCUniversal, and Hulu spoke about how they’re trying to make big moves toward allowing advertisers to more precisely target and measure ads as they do digital ads on Facebook, Google, and Amazon. While advertisers are hungry for more data, there are significant challenges to changing how buyers purchase ads and giving them access to data they want quickly, the execs said.
“I think there’s a balance between digital and linear,” said Donna Speciale, Turner’s president of advertising sales. “It’s not one or the other — clients need to figure out that mix.”
Turner, Fox, Viacom, and NBCUniversal are part of an industry consortium called Open A.P. that pools some data together across the networks to help marketers determine which networks and time slots best match an audience. Speciale said 1,000 buyers used Open A.P.’s software, which launched two years ago, to set up campaigns, up from 800 accounts reported in March of last year.
The networks are pushing to change how they sell ads to buyers, but the process is slow. According to Speciale, about 5% of advertisers’ spend goes toward audience-based buying. Turner is now rolling out tools to advertisers that allow them to match up its programming data with data from AT&T’s set-top boxes and from AT&T’s ad and analytics division Xandr. The goal is to speed up how long it takes advertisers to run a targeted TV campaign.
“I wish it were more — I think we’re going really slow,” Speciale said. “But I believe that I now have AT&T as part of our products and I can now do attribution and tie the whole thing together that 2019 is going to be the year that it pushes through.”
Advertisers want more data in TV campaigns, but it’s a challenge
Viacom’s Sean Moran, head of ad solutions, suggested that part of the problem is that advertisers don’t understand the depth of data needed to pull off more granular TV measurement.
Plus, direct-to-consumer brands like Casper and Warby Parker are increasingly moving into TV advertising and want the same kind of targeting they can get from digital but also want the reach of TV. Unlike traditional marketers, direct-to-consumer brands don’t have huge budgets, and they meticulously analyze ads’ performance in driving conversions.
“People say that they want [attribution], but when you ask to really measure attribution, you need to get access to a lot of proprietary data on their side,” he said. “That’s where it stalls.”
Another challenge: creative agencies. While media buyers are increasingly experimenting with new ways of buying ads, creative agencies are used to creating one spot that airs on TV rather than testing multiple versions the way advertisers do with digital advertising.
“A lot of the media agencies and clients are talking about audiences and getting more relevant, but the creative agencies are not part of the conversation,” Turner’s Speciale said. “They’re not creating many iterations of messaging and creative.”
NBCUniversal plans to lighten the ad load in its streaming service
NBCUniversal has been cutting ad loads to stay competitive with streaming services like Hulu. According to Laura Molen, the president of advertising sales and partnerships at NBCUniversal, the network cut digital ad loads by 35% in 2017, which led to a spike in digital viewers. With linear TV, the network cut its commercial load by 10% in its top 50 shows and recently announced that it would expand those tests to all its networks with the goal of slashing commercial breaks by 20% in prime-time TV shows.
The networks also plans to limit ad loads in its own streaming service that will launch in 2020, Molen said.
Peter Naylor, the senior vice president of advertising sales at Hulu, said that 95% of its ad inventory was purchased through audience-based buys as opposed to traditional, programming-based buys.
The Comcast-owned NBCUniversal is reportedly considering willing to sell its 30% stake in Hulu. NBCUniversal’s Molen declined to comment on how the network’s coming streaming service would affect its relationship with Hulu. But she took a dig at how Hulu and other streaming services boast about their ability to move quickly into data-driven advertising.
“I say we built our mansion in the 1950s and we’re rewiring a home — that’s different than just building your house in 2010,” she said.
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