Media Buying & Planning Guide: Power Play

At the 11th annual Response Expo held last month in San Diego, industry leaders and innovators gathered to share ideas, tackle challenges, and drive new business in the dynamic world of performance-based marketing.

Panels were organized around a central theme that Response teed up in a series of stories published during the past several months: The Consumer Journey. Broken down into five sessions — awareness, engagement, purchase, post-purchase, and advocacy —marketing experts behind top brands provided go-to strategies and campaign insights to help map out each phase.

Over the course of the three-day event, veterans on the buying and selling side of the industry dug further into topics including programmatic buying, new opportunities in digital video, trustworthy and transparent statistics reporting, and even how to protect transactions against today’s high-tech fraudsters.

In this round of the semi-annual Media Buying & Planning Guide, the conversation continues as the experts return with recommendations on how to turn the latest buying opportunities into measureable returns.

Movers and Shifters

Digital video continues to dominate attention, especially now that programmatic buying makes audience targeting so efficient. However, it’s not without growing pains.

“From a direct response standpoint, we’re seeing growth as it relates to video-on-demand (VOD) and over-the-top (OTT) content and services,” says Jason Baron, senior vice president of direct marketing and programmatic at Turner Ad Sales in New York. “Time-shifted viewing has really taken off, and we’ve put a lot more focus on that with our programming across the board. Along with online video, this presents new opportunities for advertisers to expand on any branding campaigns they already have in the works.”

Baron is also working to bring some of the targeting that can be done on the digital side over to TV.

“What we’re taking a hard look at is selling TV on audience segments and defined audiences, and working with premium brand advertisers to optimize their spend around outcomes that matter to them,” he says. “Things like cost-per-visit to a site or store, or tying to actual sales. Going beyond traditional age and gender metrics is incredibly valuable for advertisers.”

Scott Berger — general manager, direct response and paid programming at Dish Media Sales in New York — shares a similar perspective: DRTV advertisers should reach out proactively and connect with people who are most likely to buy their product, wherever and whenever they are watching video.

Addressable advertising, he says, is the answer to serving the right ad to the right person at the right time, while also capturing ROI. It brings the reach of television together with the targeting and measurement of digital advertising.

“It’s more important than ever to take a 360-degree approach,” says Berger. “As consumer behavior in the TV space shifts, this means that advertisers must reach viewers wherever and whenever they are watching. Brands are adopting addressable advertising in droves to reach TV viewers on all fronts and measure return on investment. The introduction of digital video services like Sling TV offer these advertisers additional scale, delivering unique eyeballs across more than a dozen devices with the full-screen viewability of traditional TV and advanced reporting. You’re not only reaching these viewers in their living rooms, but also as they catch up on news during their morning commute or watch the big game from their hotel room.”

According to a report published by the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) in November, television, by far, remains the largest video platform viewed by consumers and utilized by marketers, with more than 90 percent monthly reach and more than 90 percent of total video spend. Digital video advertising may be growing at a steady pace, but addressable advertising, or “one-to-one” household marketing — where an advertiser purchases actual audience segments rather than network or program slots — is on track to reach $1 billion in advertising spend by 2018.

There are still, however, some misconceptions about addressable advertising that Berger would like to set straight. In a column he wrote for Response’s November issue, “How Addressable Advertising Brings Data and ROI to DRTV,” Berger goes into more detail, but essentially there are a couple of things that advertisers should keep in mind.

First, he says, addressable TV is not too expensive — even though the CPM on an addressable deal is often significantly higher than a traditional buy. Targeting to specific households eliminates wasted impressions. And second, says Berger, a DRTV ad can be successful even if viewers don’t jump on the phone to “call now.”

“As viewing behavior changes, marketers must evolve their measurement processes and place less value on the need for a campaign to yield instant results,” he wrote. “Addressable advertising provides the data to tie active viewers to direct sales at the end of a campaign, uncovering complete transparency and giving marketers real, measureable ROI.”

In Good Company

With addressable advertising, marketers also have the assurance that their brand will appear with quality content. This has been a growing concern in programmatic buying on the digital side, with both display and video advertising.

Complete transparency is arguably the key element missing from programmatic buying in the digital space. Anyone can set up a campaign, target their desired audience, monitor engagement, and even A/B test ad copy. At the same time, just about anyone can publish content and monetize it through programmatic ad networks. From there, it’s up to algorithms to work their magic, pairing the rights ads with the right content for the right people.

Recently, however, high-profile criticisms have shown the pitfalls of placing algorithms in charge without enough human oversight. The Times published a story in February citing several examples of large companies, including Mercedes-Benz, Waitrose, and Marie Curie, appearing on YouTube videos created by supporters of terrorist and hate groups. When advertisers began to pull their budgets, Google, which owns YouTube, issued an apology and changed its policy.

“There are a lot of advertisers trying to get away from fraud and inadvertently finding their brands associated with unsavory content,” says Baron. “They are looking for premium content and premium video, something that is scarce if you really dig into it and are honest with what people are fans of. We are fortunate to be able to activate programmatic video for clients around some of the most valuable content available — everything from CNN pre-roll to TBS full-episode players.”

The key to programmatic buying, says Kevin Lyons — CEO of Opportunity Media Inc., which represents all long-form DR for A+E Networks, and a member of the Response Advisory Board — is to work it into a larger buying strategy.

“Programmatic ad buying, in my view, will be an enhancement to the traditional buying process and one that is much more about data flow and targeting than anything else,” says Lyons.

Similarly, Berger says to think of programmatic as “a process, not a product.”

“It’s an emerging opportunity that automates the mundane tasks of TV buying so that buyers and sellers can focus on innovating new ways to find that edge for an advertiser,” he adds.

Solid Numbers

Another important factor when it comes to total transparency is accurate reporting.

“Measurement for all advertising, especially performance-based advertising, is critical,” says Lyons. “It is essential to have accurate measurement and attribution of media to determine the success of campaigns. Aside from the numerous evolving attribution solutions, Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement will provide a much more comprehensive look at viewership across platforms. This is a great start in showcasing the powerful effect of video on consumer engagement and, ultimately, purchase behavior.”

Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement is a new, highly ambitious effort to measure TV ratings and total digital content ratings to give advertisers and content creators a holistic view of audience engagement. This is especially important for performance marketers who want to understand viewing data across live TV, DVR, VOD, and other digital channels.

In January, at the annual IAB digital advertising conference, Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s chief marketing officer, called on peers to demand a more transparent media buying system.

“We have an antiquated media buying and selling system that was clearly not built for this technology revolution,” he said. “We serve ads to consumers through a non-transparent media supply chain with spotty compliance to common standards, unreliable measurement hidden rebates, and new inventions like bot and methbot fraud.”

Setting new standards for itself, and urging others to step up to the challenge, Pritchard said that P&G would use the Media Ratings Council (MRC)-validated viewability standard and would begin to implement MRC-accredited third-party verification.

It’s common sense, he argued. Good advertising and improved consumer experiences lead to better business.

“Better advertising and media transparency are closely related,” Pritchard said. “Why? Because better advertising requires time and money, yet we’re all wasting way too much time and money on a media supply chain with poor standards adoption, too many players grading their own homework, too many hidden touches, and too many holes to allow criminals to rip us off. We have a media supply chain that is murky at best and fraudulent at worst. We need to clean it up, and invest the time and money we save into better advertising to drive growth.”

Earlier this month, Turner, Viacom, and Fox announced OpenAP, a new platform that will help media buyers target audiences across all networks using set-top box data from comScore and ratings information from Nielsen. Accenture will operate and monitor the platform. The project, which has been in the works for the past year, aims to give advertisers the sort of audience targeting they can get with digital buys and makes it easy to replicate across various networks.

“We support the consortium’s ambitions to create a clearinghouse for audience-based buying on linear television,” Nielsen said in a statement. “Nielsen’s audience segments built on our household, person-level, and ‘buyergraphic’ ratings data are the most widely used for national audience-based buying across linear television today. We are confident that they will play the same role in OpenAP. We look forward to working with the participating networks and advertisers on the broader success of this initiative.”

Constant Connection

As television plays catch up with audience targeting, e-commerce companies continue to invest in TV to extend their reach and build their brands.

“We’re seeing more e-commerce, subscription services, and online education brands emerge given the nature of these businesses go hand-in-hand with the direct response model,” says Berger.

Baron notes the same, as well as new growth from familiar categories.

“From an overall marketplace standpoint, we’ve seen a lot of e-commerce and retail embracing direct response; there is tremendous competition happening in those spaces, so that’s not that surprising,” says Baron. “We’ve also seen spending growth in traditional DR categories, including insurance, pharma, and financial. One interesting area that is seeing lot of DR adoption is OTT internet TV services, with more and more ‘skinny bundle’-type services hitting the market every month.”

Consumers want options, personalization, and the freedom to create their own entertainment experience. They’ve come to expect a certain level of control from ads they see, too. Facebook allows people to hide ads, ask why they are seeing ads, save links to ads, and even to acknowledge that they’ve found an ad useful.

The guiding principle throughout the “Consumer Journey” series, Response Expo, and in omnichannel marketing overall, is to keep consumer experience top of mind. Be present and be persistent, but let consumers take the lead.

“Direct response advertisers have always been innovators, and they’re leaning into new opportunities, including addressable advertising and digital video,” says Berger. “Addressable advertising lends itself well to direct response since the technology is all about accountability — leveraging data to identify the right target and increase return on investment. On the digital video front, direct response brands are using Sling TV to reach a new consumer, test creative, and gain more insight into their audience.”

He continues, “Even traditional direct response advertisers are entering these spaces, supplementing their national direct response efforts with focused campaigns to reach the right mass audience while they’re watching TV. For example, a life insurance brand might thinly target DISH and Sling TV viewers to ensure that their ads are delivered to the broadest audience over the age of 65 while not wasting impressions on households like mine with young families.” ■