BRYSON GORDON: I used to run the commerce team at Microsoft and we did a lot of early work when data-management platforms were just coming into their own, when demand-side platforms and programmatic buying weren’t even called programmatic. We used to call it algorithmic buying. [We looked] at how we can start to bring together disparate data sets in a way that allows you to significantly increase the efficacy of your advertising.
The most interesting opportunity was really, for the first time, being able to connect viewing data in a deterministic way with audience data.
The data team at Viacom houses the data and audience platform Vantage. What does it do and what are your objectives?
We help an advertiser find their custom segment within our media, which helped Vantage move from a pilot last year with a handful of advertisers to something that scaled this year with 10 of the largest advertisers in the world. We work very closely with advertisers to understand how they approach their segmentation methodology and Vantage helps them find the specific set of ad units that will significantly overindex on that segment within our portfolio.
How have you improved the product based on your learnings?
Vantage invests in first-, second- and third-party data sets [by] making sure they’re broad enough. So regardless of how an advertiser defines their custom segments, we have the data and matching capabilities to identify that segment within Viacom’s media assets. Then, we built predictive algorithms that help identify the future ad slots that will overindex on that segment and where audiences will show up in the future. The biggest change we’ve seen is as data sets – especially on the digital and commerce side – have opened up for matching and advance data analytics, the ability for you to create more custom segments for your advertisers is possible.
How do these algorithms help you more effectively traffic a media placement?
Vantage onboards a custom segment from an advertiser, and we can put that at the center of all media investments they will make with Viacom, whether that’s a linear investment, or in digital or social advertising. When we invest in our data platform, that allows us to look at the impact that ad has on the custom segment across all those touch points, we can tell the advertiser the effectiveness across the portfolio, not just (a single) piece of media within any one channel. It helps them gauge the customer journey and the impact on their brand, commercial/traffic outcomes.
How does Viacom’s data team support your sales and ad ops?
It’s an incredibly strategic relationship. [We] work with them daily. We’re not sitting in an ivory tower. It’s about having a deep understanding of Viacom audience across digital, linear and social assets, and being able to take those insights and translate them into value our sales team can deliver for advertisers. It’s one that frankly bore a lot of much fruit this year, when we signed on 10 of the largest advertisers to Vantage.
Is Viacom pursuing programmatic as a sales strategy?
Programmatic here is a method of automating a buying process. What we are focused on with Vantage is helping an advertiser find a custom audience segment within the atomic level of the ad unit. It’s less about developing new buying processes and [more about] helping them get the most value out of their media spend on Viacom. What we’re hearing from advertisers is the more important thing is to go beyond demo-based targeting and find their custom segment, which they’ve spent a lot of time and money defining internally.
TV ratings are down. Are you investing in data to inform new content channels like YouTube, mobile apps, Vessel, etc.?
Different types of media in different sequences will produce different outcomes. As we’ve looked at different pathways of customers’ journeys from first being exposed to a brand to acquiring a brand to becoming a fan for that brand, it’s very important to understand the right mix, and it’s more than just the top-level media mix modeling.
It comes down to a granular understanding of a path analysis for individual viewers across a host of categories. It’s why we’ve invested in a combination of first- and third-party data sets so we can look across screens.
(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)