For Six Flags, Video Is The TV Buy

JamesSixFlagsAlthough theme-park operator Six Flags says TV still accounts for half of its media mix, smartphone adoption has led the company to define that mix more expansively, meaning “the sight, sound and motion” of digital video.

To account for cross-screen consumer habits, the advertiser and its agency, BPN, tapped Tremor Video’s “all-screen” campaign optimization tool, launched Tuesday. An extension of Tremor’s VideoHub technology platform, media buyers and planners can set campaign goals and frequency caps, predict optimal reach across devices and track unduplicated reach, in an automated fashion.

James Geiser, VP of marketing for Six Flags, spoke with AdExchanger about the theme park’s deeper push into digital media.

AdExchanger: Why did Six Flags decide to enhance its media mix with video?

JAMES GEISER: Six Flags has been a big user of broadcast media for many years. Our product really needs an additional component to compel people to get excited about our parks, what’s new. And for many years, TV was really it. As digital media properties have expanded, it’s given us more and more opportunities to get in front of our guests in an exciting way with the ability to target them more effectively. With media consumption skewing so much in the area of digital, we have more and more opportunity to reach people across platforms, which is really important to us.

We want to be really pretty agnostic in the way we approach people using smartphones, tablets, desktop, etc. on the go. They’re consuming media all the time and this gives us that opportunity to deliver that in a more personal way. It’s kind of a one-on-one message delivery. 

How does Six Flags and its agency, BPN, use cross-screen optimization?

It starts with really developing our campaigns and our targets and geography. We look very closely into media consumption habits across people we’re trying to reach and then really lining up content (that’s relative to where) they’re viewing it. That leads us in a lot of different directions. Our buyers at BPN make a lot of those decisions, but on our side, we are taking a platform-neutral approach to this.

We need the ability to deliver our message to people when and where they’re consuming or utilizing their device to receive content. I don’t tell my agency to go buy mobile or digital. I say, “I want to reach teens who have a high propensity to visit theme parks. Who are these people?” We use a lot of data to find those consumers. Just because you’re a teen, it doesn’t mean you want to go to a theme park. To us, once we determine our target, we craft a relevant message. Gone are the days when we have a TV buy. We don’t have a TV buy anymore. We have a video buy and we want to find ways in which we can deliver that message to potential guests on multiple devices.

How are you segmenting guests? Do you seek to drive weekend traffic vs. retain season-ticket holders, for instance?

It’s really complicated to be honest with you. Sometimes it overwhelms us at times because of all the opportunities we have. It used to be that we were focusing on teens or moms that have teens in the home, but now there’s so much more rich targeting capabilities whether it’s people that want to purchase specific products like a season pass or someone who might live in the Bronx and might want to come once a year. Or someone who’s really into coasters or into animal attractions and experiences. We have now the ability to find those people and serve them a message appropriate to them. At the same time, it requires a lot of work on the preplanning side of it.

On the planning side, what’s been the biggest change?

The majority of our dollars still go in to broadcast areas. But how do you decide what broadcast is anymore? Is it Is it Hulu? There are so many ways you’re watching programming you’re passionate about, but you’re getting a lot of it through your smartphone while you’re on the go or at the gym vs. watching your television at home.

We have to stay on top of the new opportunities to deliver our message in the most effective way we believe, and that’s still sight, sound, motion – video. We still do quite a bit on the audio side, [but] we don’t call it radio anymore. It can be streaming or so forth. Even through paid social resources, you now deliver video that way. We’re open to the fact we need to follow the consumer and deliver content the way they want it, so yes, we are moving our budgets around and I tell my agency, “We may come up with a plan in August but my gosh, the world has changed since last August when we made our plan,” so we have to constantly test and change.

What percentage of your budget is allocated to the TV buy?

Fifty percent of the dollars, I’d say. And that’s changed quite a bit in the last five years. Three years ago, that figure was more like 75% of the budget. We have been making significant movement toward more digital media overall.

How are you measuring success of your video campaigns?

We try to take all our platforms we’re working with in all of our buys and develop KPIs on a really medium-neutral basis. As often as I can, I’m going to look at our digital and social or any other platform equally with the way we’re looking at TV, radio, etc. If it’s impressions, we look at other avenues of our costs and conversions, but we (augment) that with (side-by-side) comparison and research.

We have data points that suggest our buys are working hard for us in delivering guests. That is the ultimate judge we base all our expense dollars on and every brand I’m sure has their own way of doing that. I guess I’d say – we’re making sure, with this new opportunity [with Tremor] as well, we’re making sure our dollars are working for us.


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