DirecTV Joins Crowded Upfront Lineup

There’s something to be said for DirecTV’s confidence in wading into the clutter. Over the next month-and-a-half, there are so many upfront and NewFront events, a perfect attendance record would probably mean major job failure.

It wasn’t long ago that during the depth of the recession, there was some talk that these things -- at least the big, glitzy network ones -- needed to be scaled way down. NBC went that route before reversing course.

Now no one wants to be on the sidelines, from AMC to Zynga. Now count DirecTV in, as its first-ever event is scheduled for May 7.

Those who listen to the satellite operator’s CEO Mike White hear him repeatedly harp on growth opportunities in advertising, which seem to fall into two buckets. Due to technological impediments, DirecTV has only recently begun selling local-market spots via a partnership with NCC Media. And there are advanced advertising opportunities on a national level, which will be the focus of the upfront gathering.

In particular, DirecTV plans to focus on addressable advertising. So not only is the company joining a crowded upfront field, but it’s going to pitch a concept that some think is yesterday’s news because it’s always touted as the future and never seems to gain much traction?

Keith Kazerman, DirecTV senior vice president of ad sales, concedes the industry fatigue -- “there’s been a lot of rhetoric” -- but argues that the time has arrived. The demand is there, and the infrastructure for DirecTV to deliver highly targeted spots to more than 11 million homes on 46 networks is in place.

“Technology to actually execute was difficult,” Kazerman said. “There was a lot of engineering that went into this. It was as close to rocket science as we’ll get in advertising.”

Over the past year, DirecTV has run multiple campaigns that fit the template of what advertisers indicate they want. Allstate wanted to sell renters insurance and DirecTV put a plan together to deliver ads into dwellings occupied by renters.

The operator serves some 20 million homes, but can only deliver addressable spots into the subset with DVRs. Kantar Media -- which collects data from DirecTV set-top boxes -- and Experian help identify consumer attributes or segments within the satellite operator’s subscriber base. Invidi delivers the spots to the specific audiences based on purchase intent, geography, and income levels.

Addressable advertising may have gotten a boost with the recent announcement that Comcast has a deal with Invidi to bring similar capabilities to its systems. If a high tide lifts all boats, DirecTV and Comcast might help each other and the wider industry.

Kazerman says that in addition to the opportunity to reach a more receptive audience more efficiently, DirecTV can offer clients a slew of return-path data that is ripe for analytics.

“When you take a look at the shift of dollars to digital over the last four or five years specifically, it’s really been driven by the data and the targetability,” Kazerman said. “From the highest levels at agencies and the clients directly that we’re speaking with, we’re hearing loud and clear that TV still has the most impact and can be the most engaging -- and if we can deliver the power of the Web with the measurability of digital on TV we’ll be there.”

Although DirecTV will hold its first upfront presentation, it has been selling national inventory for some time using the same buy-in-advance cycle as broadcast and cable networks. It has access to real estate on dozens of cable networks across its whole footprint and offers packages based on clusters such as sports, news, male-oriented programming and kids’ networks.

DirecTV has built much of its brand on sports programming and it will also pitch advertising opportunities in that area at the upfront, notably within “NFL Sunday Ticket.”

DirecTV has been running a campaign plugging its Genie DVR, featuring Hannah Davis. The model also dominates an upfront tipoff, which also includes an ad sales tagline, where “outspend the competition” is turned into “outsmart” it.

This busy upfront season, DirecTV may need some of that to get buyers in the room to hear what it has to say. Perhaps it can try a version of addressable advertising. The targeting is actually quite simple: those with loads of money to spend.










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