Expedia Rewires Its Media Mix Using TubeMogul’s New Cross-Screen Planning System

UnlockEveryone talks about TV dollars leaking into digital, but what happens behind the scenes to make those dollars move?

Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing for Expedia, said it involves change management and rewiring old assumptions.

“We’ve always invested heavily in TV as a brand, but we wanted to extend our reach beyond our general market buys and reach people online who were not watching our commercials,” Walia said.

Expedia had one agency planning team focused on generating mass awareness with another devoted to online, which heightened the need for more flexibility in the planning process.

“You were making assumptions regarding duplication of audience, how much incremental reach you thought you could achieve and then stitching together a plan,” Walia said.

Expedia is using a new cross-screen media mix modeling and TV planning tool built by TubeMogul to determine what budget to allocate toward specific campaign goals. More importantly, Expedia is beginning to execute and measure performance against its buys.

“We needed to know if we were truly driving incremental reach and what was the cost associated,” Walia said. “Can we throttle or buy more or buy less based on metrics we get back in near real time? We weren’t doing that before, so it kind of opens up a whole new way of thinking about media mix management.”

Expedia is certainly not cutting ties with traditional TV allocations – its new “Bucket List” promotion being one example. But the travel brand determined linear TV was not the route to go for a winter campaign targeting Spanish-speaking audiences for a new Hispanic property. 

“As a marketer, you’re always giving up something – sometimes targetability for cost – but in our plan to reach Hispanic consumers, we made the conscious decision to focus on digital,” Walia added.

Because its Hispanic target is very social and mobile, Expedia determined it would need to turn on a mix of email, search-engine marketing, display and online video to be most effective.

Expedia, which has a wealth of first-party data, doesn’t stop at run-of-the-mill segments. It goes deeper and segments “trip types” within different personas because a single 20-something, a family of four or an elderly couple all planning a beach vacation all have very different aspirations.

“You want to be more of an assistant through their journey, not just offer a travel-booking service, and the only way you can really do that is by sequentially understanding and messaging this person cross-screen, which is really where the power of this planning tool comes in,” Walia said.

Redistributing The ‘Upfront’ Dollar

Linear TV has reach but it also generates a lot of waste. It’s not unusual when 50% of viewers either don’t tune in or aren’t in the target audience.

This is where deduplication of audiences across screens is critical and where culture clashes occur between TV and digital technologies.

“Beyond picking segments, I sometimes ask digital DSPs to show me unduplicated (or ‘new’) reach and frequency for a campaign that’s running and they can’t do it,” said Jim Nail, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. “There is still this classic divide between the TV and digital people.”

This was one key area TubeMogul focused on in the development of its cross-screen planning system. Buyers want to use upfront spend as a jumping-off point for incremental cross-screen opportunities.

How it works: In addition to building a plan around age and sex demos based on Nielsen segments, buyers can populate their targets with 2,500 segments psychographic data from provider MRI (shorthand for Mediamark Research & Intelligence) and pull in first-party or offline data attributes.

cross_screenTubeMogul’s system mashes the data against inventory to determine unduplicated reach. Then, for every person the brand didn’t reach within its strategic target, TubeMogul predicts what combination of media will be most effective.

“You go from talking about media execution challenges such as delivering on-target CPMs to very quickly talking about all the opportunities for incrementality, and where you can save them millions of dollars,” said Brett Wilson, CEO of TubeMogul. “We didn’t design this as a black box. … Buyers challenge us and everything is open for critique.”

Getting More Granular In Planning & Execution

Matt Cote, VP of video innovation at the WPP-owned midsize TV agency Eicoff, noted a continual challenge is getting even more granular with cross-screen planning.

In addition to recommendations around media distribution (for instance, allocate 22% to mobile), there are nuances to how those buys performed – whether, for instance, mobile in-app generated better results than mobile video.

“As opposed to looking at Nielsen TAR (Total Audience Ratings reports) after the fact, and having data be two weeks old, we see this as a much more real-time way to measure,” Cote said. “All of our clients start with the basic question, ‘If I have an extra million dollars, should I apply it to TV, mobile or desktop?’ and in the past we were relying on a Nielsen Fusion study or other very static tools.”

TubeMogul’s cross-screen planning system is generally available on a managed basis. Over the next several months, the plan is to roll it out on a self-serve basis to its platform customers.

It’s essentially competing with incumbents like STRATA or Mediaocean, which in addition to deep-rooted agency sell-in for billing and TV trafficking, supplies a system called Optica that predictively determines effective ad delivery paths.

“I absolutely think disruption is possible, if not inevitable,” Nail added, “but you still need one central place to bring together planning and billing to compete, as well as the ability to manage the very complex processes of planning and buying.”

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