Live Nation Entertainment’s Programmatic Opener: Custom Audiences

livenationWhen Live Nation Entertainment appointed Xaxis alum Mike Finnegan as its first ever VP of programmatic and product innovation – a role he assumed Monday – it did so with the intention of using its first-party data to build bespoke audiences for advertisers.

Formed in 2010 when events promoter Live Nation merged with ticket sales company Ticketmaster, Live Nation Entertainment is taking advantage of programmatic’s maturation as well as its own evolution into what it describes as a digital publisher, content producer and digital solutions company.

“Low-cost banners aren’t what [advertisers] want anymore,” said Finnegan, who spent three years at Xaxis, initially building a managed service team to execute programmatic buys and later as its director of product development. “Now [programmatic is] much more focused on audience and unique media executions.”

Consequently, Live Nation Entertainment’s initial foray into programmatic will focus on that audience-creating practice, as opposed to pushing inventory onto an open exchange.

“We won’t open ourselves up to an open marketplace,” said the company’s SVP of digital sales, Jeremy Levine. “At some point, potentially, but out of the box, it’ll be customized partner-by-partner opportunities.”

Those opportunities will likely emerge in six months, Levine said. Live Nation Entertainment is educating prospective partners about the unique audiences it can construct from the anonymized purchase histories and tendencies within its first-party datasets. While millennials are a huge target for brands, Live Nation Entertainment envisions delving deeper by targeting, for instance, affluent individuals.

“With our tremendous database in terms of live events history, we can create unique, specific targets psychographically, demographically, in terms of entertainment spend and affinity,” Levine said. “We can create an audience segment of the first-row purchaser. Someone who’s spending a lot on tickets, always purchasing in the first few rows, who travels a lot: We can segment based on someone’s purchasing power and their affinity in the world of live entertainment based on our primary data and not third-party demographic data, which is really commoditized at this point.”

Finnegan plans to create prebuilt audiences and work with advertisers on a brand-by-brand basis, adding that his background at Xaxis (which has a pre-existing media partnership with Live Nation Entertainment) dovetails neatly into his current role.

“I had a lot of experience at Xaxis, working closely with publishers,” he said. “What we look for on the buying side is some semblance of unique value to the market.” Publishers who did programmatic the right way, he explained, take advantage of their first-party data assets and work with advertisers and agencies to figure out what they need in terms of audience, and how that audience can be built.

While Live Nation Entertainment is building its programmatic unit from the ground up – part of Finnegan’s role entails training up the existing sales team currently selling display content and traditional advertising products – it has a solid data foundation. Following the 2010 merger, the company prioritized “getting things into top shape from a database perspective,” Levine said. “Traditionally, we’ve used [first-party data] on-site to target ads and through dedicated emails for our own purposes and with our partners. Programmatic was the next natural step to open it a little wider.”

The company has been bulking up on ad tech infrastructure as well, investing in “what you’d expect from a DSP, SSP, DMP standpoint, getting all the data in an accessible format to help with efficiency and building segments,” Levine said. The company has relationships with some of these tech providers, though Levine wouldn’t specify further.

And as Live Nation Entertainment’s programmatic solutions evolve, further technological investments will follow, Finnegan said, singling out infrastructure that could ensure viewability and reduce ad fraud.

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