Media Buying & Planning Guide: Ahead of the Curve

The days when marketers could count on a family huddling around the living room TV to watch their favorite shows during prime time are long gone, replaced by individual viewers who watch “what they want, when they want” on myriad devices — from the large screens on their living room walls to the small screens on their mobile phones, and everything in between.

This level of fragmentation is both challenging and advantageous for advertisers, depending on how you look at it. On one hand, there’s more competition for eyeballs than ever. But that also presents a plethora of new media opportunities for companies that are willing to put some extra elbow grease into meeting consumers where they are (instead of expecting those viewers to just naturally come their way).

The good news is that neither TV nor advertising is dead. However, both are changing rapidly. “That’s an opportunity for growth,” writes Operative’s Lorne Brown in AdExchanger. “Google and Facebook have the biggest modern advertising marketplaces today, but that is changing. Programmatic, impression-based, and targeted advertising will spread to advanced TV and all video formats. Google and Facebook won’t gobble up all that advertising revenue.”

Two new doors that have opened for marketers in recent years are programmatic and addressable TV. The automation of audience-based TV advertising through a software platform, programmatic provides a support structure for addressable, which in turn provides advanced audience segmentation to deliver specific video ads at a household level in real-time. According to eMarketer, addressable TV ad spending is growing quickly, but will remain a small portion of total TV spend for the foreseeable future, with 2017’s total addressable TV ad expenditures hitting $1.26 billion.

Targeting the Audience

Defining addressable TV ads as “targeted ads delivered by a cable or satellite provider via set-top boxes,” eMarketer notes that these ads mainly target viewers based on age and gender. They can be seen during live broadcast/cable viewing or during on-demand viewing.

“While three-quarters of U.S. households have cable or satellite boxes capable of delivering targeted ads, addressable TV spending will make up just 1.7 percent of total TV ad expenditures ($72.7 billion) in the country this year,” eMarketer states. “By 2019, that proportion will grow to 4 percent.”

Meanwhile, programmatic TV ad spending grew by 75.7 percent to $1.13 billion in 2017. In 2018, the research firm expects programmatic TV advertising to grow another 85.2 percent to $2.09 billion, and then reach nearly $4 billion by 2019.

Scott Berger, general manager of direct response and multicultural advertising at DISH Media Sales, says he’s seeing healthy opportunities in the “advanced TV” space, where marketers put time and effort into understanding how their campaigns are performing and measuring other key performance indicators. 

“It’s about being able to measure real ROI, and no longer just going for mass quantity,” says Berger, who also sees more companies targeting quality audiences that truly align with what those firms are trying to sell to. 

“It’s not just about blanking out one message across the entire country and hoping that something sticks,” says Berger. “Instead, marketers are really focused in on the ‘digital’ way of thinking, or going after their potential consumers with a much more refined approach.”

The same marketers are paying more attention to brand safety, or the tools and strategies used to ensure that an ad doesn’t appear in a context that could potentially damage the advertiser’s brand. For example, a bottled water company wouldn’t want ads to land next to an article on plastic water bottles polluting the ocean, and a cruise line wouldn’t want their ads to appear next to an article on a cruise ship accident. 

“We must continue to deliver the message that companies need to recognize who their friends are,” says Berger, “and see the potential downsides of certain ad placements.”

Finally, Berger, a member of the DRMA TV Everywhere Committee, says over-the-top advertising (OTT), or the delivery of film and TV content via the internet (without a subscription to a traditional cable or satellite pay-TV service), is an emerging media opportunity for which a wide swath of advertisers can benefit from. 

“We’re seeing Sling TV soar to new heights — we have the largest market share in the live-streaming world,” Berger points out. “The question becomes, ‘How do we use that to expand the reach of what they’re getting when it comes to video and who the advertisers are reaching?’”

That’s where things start to come full circle. By combining OTT with audience targeting, for example, and by focusing not on calls to action (CTAs) but instead on real, measurable ROI, Berger adds, “Marketers can then directly attribute that action back to a customer that buys their product through quality advertising.”

SlingTV, from DISH, has gained impressive stature in the OTT wars thanks to its extensive
lineup of popular programming, including HGTV’s “Property Brothers.” 

The Newcomer 

Fairly new to the marketplace, MeTV or “Memorable Entertainment Television” airs a variety of classic television programs from the 1950s through the early 1990s, which are sourced primarily from the libraries of CBS Television Distribution and 20th Television. In 2010, MeTV became a full-fledged network with a standardized schedule, available to any station that wished to affiliate. And it’s been growing ever since, according to Jeff Nash, vice president, network ad sales. 

“We’re right up there with some of the top tier networks like TV Land, AMC, and History,” says Nash. “But we’re still in our infancy stage.” 

Some of that “newness” works in MeTV’s favor. After all, as a newcomer to the market, it doesn’t have the old-school track record that many of its competitors are still relying on. For example, Nash says programmatic is an area where the network has seen “significant growth” in recent years, with MeTV posting some “really strong ratings in multiple [programmatic] demos.”

“Marketers have taken notice of us, so programmatic is now taking a liking to our platform and using it for several different advertisers in all demos,” says Nash. “That, in turn, has helped to expand our client base and offer some premium pricing opportunities for us — as well as them.” 

What’s especially good about programmatic, says Nash, is that it allows companies to test by targeting specific demographics. MeTV, for example, reaches adults ages 35 to 64 — a range that includes baby boomers who have spending power. “These are viewers who can and will buy just about every product that’s available and applicable for them,” says Nash. “That makes our network a perfect fit for programmatic.”

For now, at least, Nash cautions marketers to thoroughly test programmatic, namely because the medium is still new and evolving. “A lot of companies are trial-and-error with it, seeing what works and what doesn’t,” says Nash. “Hopefully, through the exploratory process, the end result is better measurement and better performance for the companies that are using programmatic.”

As networks like MeTV continue to proliferate and offer interesting new ways to “slice-and-dice” audience demographics, expect the number of media-buying opportunities to grow exponentially. “TV’s still king, and our network is doing terrific with (traditional) DR,” says Nash, “and we think the brand side will also start to see the efficiencies that MeTV has to offer.” 

Nielsen Cable Rankings: MBPG

The DRTV Arena 

Speaking of DRTV, Abed Abusaleh, executive vice president at Havas Edge, says five-minute DRTV shows are gaining in popularity along with other non-traditional commercial lengths. “These shows offer a great blend of short-form and long-form,” says Abusaleh, noting that above-$50 price point, service-based items (e.g., continuity programs, insurance firms, medical device companies, beauty, etc.) tend to do best in this mid-range category. 

“It’s a pretty exciting frontier,” he adds.

Abusaleh, a member of the Response Advisory Board, also sees opportunity in the digital video arena — a space that’s beginning to mature as an advertising medium, be it YouTube or other platforms. “Consumers are using multi-screen experiences, and marketers are figuring out how to target them during that process and then deliver them content; that’s been a real growth area,” says Abusaleh, who also sees the U.S. Hispanic market as another opportunity area during the next year.

“U.S. Hispanic is the hottest, most profitable space in the industry right now, and it’s also the most underutilized,” says Abusaleh. “Not enough marketers are doing it right, and the market is very discounted to its true value, which means it’s a really profitable venture for early adopters.”

The Growth of Audience-Based Buying 

A term used to describe the shift from buying proxies for audiences (e.g., content) to directly buying audience segments based on data collected about them, audience-based buying helps marketers reach the right person at the right time and on the right device. Using a data-management platform to pull audience data from multiple sources, audience-based buying allows a brand to target consumers in the market for a new car in whatever corner of digital media that they might visit — not just on the usual suspects, like automotive review websites or magazines.

Michaela Giovengo, sales director, direct response, for Hulu, says audience-based buying is one of the “biggest growth opportunities” right now because it helps marketers reach the right audience members, and at the right time.

“At this time, there’s very little waste when you’re advertising on OTT platforms,” says Giovengo. “One-hundred percent of the buys on Hulu are data informed, and marketers continue to rely on this first-party and third-party data to make these assumptions.”

Digging down a little deeper, Giovengo says audience-based buying differs from linear TV, which has been traditionally associated with target content or dayparts. Audience-based buying, on the other hand, homes in on a specific demographic (e.g., gender, age, household income) and can even incorporate behavioral and/or lifestyle targeting. 

With this in mind, Giovengo says marketers should continue to use data to target their desired customers and “eliminate the waste.” For example, Hulu works in partnership with Oracle BlueKai to extend first-party online and offline data that “allows marketers to target specific audiences based on behavior and lifestyle.”

Giovengo says these metrics are important because they allow advertisers to measure OTT in an audience-specific manner, versus utilizing promo codes or other linear TV methods. “With the help of audience-based buying, marketers have started utilizing data more effectively,” she points out, “and are now putting together their own proprietary closed-loop attribution methodologies.”

Hulu works with third parties like Samba and Nielsen to help its clients with these advanced levels of measurement and attribution. “For one DR e-commerce brand, we saw website visits increase by three times — and registration grow by five times,” says Giovengo, “when we exposed it via an ad on Hulu (and in concert with Samba’s measurement technology).”

As she looks out over the next six-to-12 months, Giovengo tells marketers to pay attention to the innovations that are taking place in living rooms across the country. Since the living room is predominantly where consumers are watching on-demand content, she says, capturing your audience in that environment is paramount.

“Almost 80 percent of Hulu viewers are watching content in the living room, in this OTT environment, and across multiple devices,” says Giovengo. “It’s important to continue to give consumers choice and control.”

For example, Hulu is currently working with BrightLine and Innovid to create interactive ads, knowing that — compared to the “static ad” experience — the former’s viewers spend twice as long engaging with the brand in an interactive unit, are seven times more aware of the brand, and are 160-percent more likely to purchase a product. Look for even more interactivity in the future: in early 2018, Hulu rolled out a commerce ad unit, where consumers can buy a product on TV from their remote, directly, without having to leave their Hulu app.

Giovengo says the service is already popular with viewers. “It just launched a few weeks ago, and it’s going really well so far,” she says. “We’ve already seen double the number of users interacting with it so far in 2018.”