Bravo, Oxygen Tout ‘Girl Power’

NEW YORK In the year since NBC Universal plopped down $925 million for Oxygen, the female-targeted net has proven to be a worthy foil for Bravo. Ratings at both nets have soared in ’08, most notably among women 18-49.

There’s more to the Bravo-Oxygen axis than merely expanding NBCU’s profile among young women, however. In conversations with media buyers and clients, Susan Malfa, svp, ad sales at Bravo and Oxygen Media, has emphasized the brains and buying power of the two audiences.

According to Nielsen N Power data for the third-quarter ’08, the women 18-49 who make up the bulk of Bravo/Oxygen’s prime-time audience are more likely to have four years of college under their belt; moreover, nearly half of those viewers report annual household income of at least $100,000.

Women who tune in to Bravo are also highly engaged, suggesting they are more likely to stick around for any ad messaging. IAG Research data through Sept. 30 ranks Bravo first among all basic cable nets, with a 72 percent engagement mark, edging VH1 (71 percent), MTV and TLC (65 percent).

The behavioral data and demo drill-down allows for precision buys in shows like Project Runway and Top Chef, inasmuch as the figures can illuminate a well-defined target. Or, to put it analogously: Born just days apart in 1973, Bravo’s Heidi Klum and Oxygen’s Tori Spelling are now halfway through their target demos, and yet the valet at The Polo Lounge probably won’t ever mistake their respective rides.

“Life stage almost always trumps demos,” Malfa said. “So it’s not necessarily a matter of just looking at women 18-49, but also looking at educated women, working women, first-time moms.” While the data used in hypertargeting is, perhaps, more relevant to those on the planning side of the business, this sort of segmentation could result in greater transparency across the network-agency-client continuum.

“We can determine the attitudinal and behavioral targets, and then at the end of the campaign, we’ll give the client a report card that shows how they did with both the demo and those particular targets across both networks,” said Tony Cardinale, svp, research and strategic insights for Bravo and Oxygen Media.

Also in the mix is iVillage, NBCU’s female-oriented community and content portal. Per the company’s Women@NBCU initiative, the sales team can sell across all three properties, as well as platforms like NBC’s Today show and prime-time broadcast fare like Lipstick Jungle, with an eye toward reaching a customized female psychographic.

“Women@NBCU gives us the latitude to talk to an advertiser about what their specific target is,” Malfa said. “Say they’re looking for a more upscale working woman, a woman who also happens to be young and a real trendsetter. We can map all those points out and put together a plan that allows the client to connect to that woman, in scale.”

“Obviously, anything you can do to bring that dream consumer into focus will give you an edge,” said one media buyer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The danger is that you can chop up the numbers to make them say interesting things.”

Certainly, data mining is a selective process. But one area where there’s little margin for wiggle room is delivery. Year to date, Bravo has averaged 322,000 women 18-49 in prime, an improvement of 61 percent versus the same period in 2007. Oxygen is up 37 percent in the demo (156,000). Both nets combined beat fourth-place Lifetime (472,000), which is up 2 percent versus a year ago.