Sizing Up 2016's Upfront: An Advanced TV Buyer's Take

There’s little need to guess about how the networks are feeling as this year’s television upfront concludes. “Jubilant” is probably not too strong an adjective, given the high demand, strong volume and double-digit CPM increases that they reportedly realized, despite continuing broadcast ratings erosion.

Nor have buyers been shy about declaring that the upward pricing, which from their view amounts to paying more for less, will not continue — although the seller’s market was created in part by clients shifting some dollars away from digital in reaction to click fraud and viewability concerns.

But what transpired in the advanced television arena? Audience Buying Insider talked with Samantha “Sam” Rose, VP, director of video investment for HorizonAdvanced, Horizon Media’s advanced television specialty practice.

What were your overall impressions about the advanced TV scenario at 2016’s upfront?
This was Year Two in terms of data really having its own place within the presentations and discussions, starting in May and then throughout the upfront process. While advanced data was introduced at last year’s upfront, it became more of a focal point and differentiation point this year. It was infused into most, if not all, of the discussions.



That reflected the reality that it’s becoming more and more important to both networks and advertisers to really understand the data that we’re using and how it informs the buying and selling processes. There was a lot of discussion about using first- and third-party data and mapping that to viewership, and how that informs audience selection.

At the same time, I was happy to see that the networks and agencies alike are trying to be smarter and more efficient within the process, and taking a "toe in the water" approach rather than pushing it too hard and fast. For example, the networks that have these product offerings are still limiting the number of those deals. That will, among other things, allow them to spend the appropriate time on both the front-end targeting and the back-end measurement.

Do you think that data-infused offerings had any influence in the pricing outcomes seen in traditional television buying?
I don’t think that advanced data necessarily had a direct impact on the increases in CPM pricing of traditional demo targeting that have been reported. But I do think it’s something we’re looking at alongside demo pricing.

The advanced data capabilities make everybody smarter about the buying process, but it remains to be seen whether delivering a higher concentration against a particular target, as opposed to a broad-based demo, will sell more of our product, or make our brand more likeable, or deliver higher brand health metrics.

We don’t yet have enough history of measuring these more targeted audiences to know whether, or under what circumstances, they may be more efficient and ultimately more cost-effective. We’ll need years of research to do that. But the networks and agencies have certainly begun to investigate it.

Was it your impression that there was significantly more actual buying done on the basis of enhanced data targeting?
There are two ways that that’s happening. One, clients and agencies are using more data on the front end to decide the network daypart program consideration. That might be unbeknownst to the networks, and we don’t necessarily have to share that.

But there’s also the way that we buy and interact with the networks. The different networks’ product offerings have become that much more appealing because they’re allowing us to optimize on a more real-time basis in response to programming changes. We’ll know, “Hey, this program that’s now on the schedule is going to better deliver against my particular target.’”

At this point, most of the networks have put a lot of effort toward building out those product offerings, including creating dedicated teams.

Were there specific network offerings, new or enhanced, that you found particularly impressive or surprising?
There are networks that have been [leveraging advanced data] a bit longer, while others have launched their offerings more recently, or during this upfront.

The networks — like all of us — become better at this with more time and experience under their belts. There are a lot of critical nuances with data, and a lot of expert people need to be involved to make sure that the inputs and processes are vetted.

So networks that have been doing it a little longer have an advantage at present. But the others will catch up.

What about the often-raised issue of limited reach in data-infused offerings, in comparison to traditional broadcast buys? Is going too narrow with your target a concern at this stage?
It all depends on the target audience, how you’re defining it and the data set that you’re using to define it. There’s a range from niche to broader targets.

But I do I think that you want to make sure that you’re not discounting all consumers who fall outside of your current bulls-eye target definition. Outside of addressable, you’re always going to have a little bit of waste with television — people who truly will never be interested in your product or brand. But you don’t want to miss reaching some people who aren’t within your target today but may be potential, future customers.

What do you see happening in the next 12 months and beyond with advanced TV? What factors could slow or kill the momentum?
It started on the front end with, “Can we better target?” from the clients’, agencies’ and networks’ perspectives. Again, the question is proving that out on the back end. That’s what everybody is trying to build into the future — both did it lift sales and did it help my brand’s love and loyalty over time. In the coming months and years, the industry will be determining the appropriate metrics to use and building out the back-end measurement capabilities.

There’s a lot of data out there, but it needs to be reliable. And outside of addressable, you need to match that target data set to viewership data. You need to ensure that that’s being done correctly and you’re using the right first- or third-party viewership data.

I think we’re all really excited about data, and it’s certainly the future, but we need to make sure that we’re analyzing and implementing it appropriately. 

1 comment about "Sizing Up 2016's Upfront: An Advanced TV Buyer's Take".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 29, 2016 at 1:16 p.m.

    A very solid interview, Karlene, that produced some thought provoking and sensible answers. Thanks.

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