During last year’s Upfronts, NBCUniversal put a $1 billion dollar stake in the ground on using granular data to buy TV ads. It placed $1 billion worth of inventory for sale using its Audience Symphony platform, which includes information from set-top boxes and third-party sources. This move gave advertisers the option to use non-Nielsen data to make some of their biggest ad buys of the year.
NBCU didn’t hit that number largely because the market was not ready. But now it is.
At this year’s Upfronts, the hot topic is using data—inclusive of third-party data and first-party granular data—for data-driven targeting/linear indexing and measurement. More advertisers will be testing data-driven buys, earmarking 1 to 2 percent of their linear TV budget for spots backed by data-driven guarantees provided by the networks. The existence of these guarantees shows networks’ confidence in reaching specific audiences that go far beyond the age and gender datasets that have underpinned TV buys for decades.
One to 2 percent may not seem like a lot of money, but consider the fact that eMarketer predicts $68–70 billion will be spent annually on TV ads from 2018 to 2022. That seemingly small percentage actually represents more than $1 billion in TV ad spend annually, a number that will rise if more advertisers experiment with advanced TV this year and garner the results they want.
Here are three things advertisers can do to maximize their data-driven ad spends at the upfronts and prepare for data-driven TV ad buying at scale.
Put the effort in the front end
In the past, the most time-consuming work for advertisers was creating commercials with mass appeal. Today, the heavy lifting is on the marketing analysts and researchers, who must make sure that the segment being used for a particular targeted TV campaign works and is correct. If marketers don’t lay the foundation properly, then the execution and results won’t deliver the desired insights, sales lift or other key campaign KPIs.
Brands must take the time to really identify their true customer and target and communicate this to their agencies. Then, they should collaborate on creating segmentation that will help deliver on that true target while being cognizant that they may need help tweaking the target segment once the time comes to secure media against it.
Be realistic with your KPIs and validate them
Measurement is how we prove things. While TV is never going to be a fully bottom-of-the-funnel channel, put guardrails and parameters in place so you have a clear set of expectations as to what your KPIs are and how they relate to the outcomes of your campaign. Don’t just run an advanced TV campaign and think you’ll see a 20 percent lift in sales for your product. Be realistic as you get started and modify along the way. Iteration and experimentation are keys to success.
Take measurement partners for a test drive
As difficult as it is to settle on a new provider, don’t commit to a full year of measurement with a platform for one brand and leave it at that. Do test campaigns, work with different partners and see how results vary. If you put this level of rigor into your data-driven TV ad buying when the economic stakes are lower, you’ll have the right mar-tech stack to move forward with targeting and measuring at scale. Don’t be afraid to leverage different kinds of viewership and ad exposure data from disparate sources—they all play a role in the development of the advanced TV ecosystem and each brings key benefits to your data-enabled campaigns.
Today, different network groups are aligned with different measurement platforms, often more than one. This makes it easier for advertisers to test different platforms out and get a few more notches on their advanced TV belts.
If advertisers shift dollars toward more advanced TV buys in the upfronts, they will encourage the industry to adopt a new level of transparency, which is sorely needed to prove just how powerful and undervalued TV is as an advertising medium. When that happens, we won’t be talking about how expensive TV is anymore, and the already blurred line between digital and TV will disappear.