Turner: Measurement Side Needs To Step Up For Audience Deals

The following post was first published in an earlier edition of Audience Buyer Insider.

Turner and other media companies are investing heavily to be able to sell much of their inventory through targeted audience-based deals in the near future — and they need measurement partners to step up to that challenge.

That, in a nutshell, is the message that Dan Aversano, SVP of ad innovation and programmatic solutions for Turner, wants to convey to what Turner believes will remain a small number of data companies supplying viewership data in the years ahead — “the Nielsens, Rentraks, TiVos and perhaps a few others,” as he put it, in an interview with Audience Buying Insider.

Turner is deadly serious about meeting its goal of transacting nearly half of its inventory deals on the basis of audience data by 2020, as declared some time ago by its president of ad sales, Donna Speciale, Aversano says.

“That was not just a headline; that’s our strategy,” he emphasizes. Turner has made “massive investments in technology and resources and staff and team building. We’ve spent the last two to three years vetting market demand, building out solutions, solving for availability of data and for the analytics, and we’re now doing deals on this data. We’re going to be ready to achieve that inventory sales objective by 2020. The question is: ‘Which data partners are going to be standing there with us, and which won’t?’”



Aversano: Turner’s Not Alone
Aversano stresses that Viacom, NBCU and others are making similar investments, have begun to make audience-based deals, and according to him, share similar concerns about measurement partners’ limitations as sellers and buyers attempt to use advanced data sets, rather than age/sex demos, dayparts and programming, as currency, or the basis of primary guarantees.

“Age/sex demos are by and large outdated as a way to plan, guarantee and evaluate media decisions,” he asserts. “The good news is that many advanced data sets are now available. And we believe that we need an ecosystem that enables advertisers, agencies and media companies to use a vast variety of behavioral and attitudinal data, both first-party and third-party.

“But consistency and accuracy are crucial — both are necessary in order to move beyond age/sex demographic planning and buying,” he continues. “We believe that advertisers and agencies need to define their segments once and in a consistent manner, with multiple media partners. And the viewership data that we are matching, modeling or fusing to needs to widely accepted across the marketplace.”  

On the accuracy front, “the data companies are not yet treating these advanced data services as currency,” Aversano maintains. “The data are slow [to come back after a campaign], often improperly weighted, and do not meet the standards that are necessary to use them as currency.”

Regardless of the data provider, the use of historical data results in a lack of day-to-day consistency in universe estimates for audience segments because they’re not building custom projection systems for advanced targets, he says.

Some might say that Turner has its own agenda, as well as an industrywide view, given that Turner has openly said that it hopes to license use of its own Competitive Audience Estimates (CAE) predictive modeling system to other media companies. CAE drives Turner’s audience-based AudienceNow offering, which dispenses entirely with daypart-based, sex/age demo buying.

But Aversano describes CAE licensing as something Turner would “consider” doing with media companies that are “having a problem building their own audience estimates, or are not comfortable doing it with their inventory and revenue groups” — not (as some in the industry believe is Turner’s goal) as a potential industry-wide solution.

Instead, Aversano maintains, Turner, along with other media companies, wants the data companies to move quickly to provide the stable measurement that will enable buyers and their clients to make audience-based buys without having to worry about being caught off guard by under-delivery of their targets. That stability is also needed to enable networks to prove within a reasonable time frame that they’ve met their guarantees so that revenue recognition is not delayed for extended periods of time, he says. (For Turner, such delays are also an obstacle to its goal of having its audience targeting solutions MRC-accredited.)

Last but not least, the data companies need to help the industry “build the rules of engagement — ‘you can do this with the data, but you can’t do that,’” he says. “Right now, it’s the Wild West.”

Shared Or Conflicting Visions? 
While again stressing that these concerns extend to all of the key data companies at present, Aversano notes that during the recent Advertising Week in New York, Megan Clarken, Nielsen's president of product leadership, made it clear in outlining Nielsen’s view of the future that Nielsen believes that age/gender will continue to be at the core of audience measurement in 2025.

Aversano points out that Howard Shimmel, Turner’s chief research officer, who was on a panel following Clarken’s presentation, expressed dismay at Nielsen’s view on this point.  

A review of the session shows that specifically. Shimmel said: “It scares me to think about the year 2025, and we're still transacting TV using age/sex demographics. If we do this, we're going to leave lots of ROI for [advertisers] untapped because we're not doing things like targeting." In addition, co-panelist Lyle Schwartz, managing partner for GroupM, said that GroupM already eschews demographics for planning, instead using its own internally generated research data to assess ROI and negotiate. “If the industry can’t agree on metrics, fine — we’ll do it ourselves,” he said.

Aversano echoes those sentiments. “I think that the media companies have done a pretty good job at trying to package solutions and build business models and analytics around them,” he sums up. “But I think that over the next two or three years, we’ll be looking at the data companies and saying, ‘Okay, this should no longer be a side project for you. We need a way to consistently build a target based on any of these many audience data sets, activate that target across different screens, and then measure very quickly. It’s complicated and it’s hard. But that’s where the world is going, and that’s where we’re going. So we will continue to push in this space.”

1 comment about "Turner: Measurement Side Needs To Step Up For Audience Deals".
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  1. Gerard Broussard from Pre-Meditated Media, LLC, January 5, 2017 at 9:31 a.m.

    I assume that all mentions of data partners here refer to firms that provide consumer transactional information e.g., purchases.  IMHO, there needs to be some kind of standardization in order to create a currency around consumer-purchase based targets, thereby clearing the roadblock for executing advanced targeting at scale. Standardization would cover data quality checkpoints (representativeness, recency, data collection methods, etc) and nomenclature, i.e., the same/similar definitions and names for consumer targets across data providers.  I also agree with Dan A. that data firms need to have more skin in the game and should accelerate their processing and reporting for post analysis, otherwise campaign course correction and future media planning will suffer.  They will likely pick up the slack advanced target inventory amounts to 15% or of all TV ad spend.   

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