FreeWheel Is Deduping Audiences So Advertisers Can Use CTV For Incremental Reach

Comcast is making all of its national addressable inventory available programmatically for the first time.

On Tuesday, FreeWheel, the ad tech arm of Comcast, announced that some TV buyers will now be able to get a unified view across their linear and connected TV campaigns so they can deduplicate reach and hit incremental audiences with their CTV buys.

The new offering, which will only be available to political advertisers to start, is being rolled out as a self-serve capability within Strata, FreeWheel’s platform for cross-media campaign planning, activation and optimization.

Comcast already supports CTV buys, but this marks the first time it’s aggregating linear and CTV audiences so advertisers can maximize the reach of their linear campaigns.

The goal, said Jon Whitticom, FreeWheel’s chief product officer, is to “defragment the entire inventory pool across linear addressable and CTV and enable household-level targeting.”

The hope, he said, is that this solution can help solve one of the biggest pain points plaguing advertisers, which is having to go through multiple parties to connect the dots between inventory scattered among individual content distributors.

FreeWheel considers this addition to Strata a step toward supply-path optimization because it allows advertisers to transact directly across publishers with premium video inventory and allows publishers to make more revenue by selling across their distribution footprints.

As an ad server, FreeWheel can also “stitch together” fragmented inventory pools to deliver cross-platform measurement using an advertiser’s currency of choice, Whitticom said, whether that be Nielsen or VideoAmp. FreeWheel can then transact against it to help advertisers understand the performance of their linear addressable versus CTV campaigns.

FreeWheel can deliver incremental reach to advertisers because it’s able to extract log-level exposure data tied to linear addressable commercials within Comcast’s national addressable footprint. From there, it can deduplicate reach at the household level.

Because FreeWheel uses ad logs to track individual ad exposures, it’s able to help advertisers target custom audiences at the household level across platforms, which isn’t possible with what Whitticom referred to as more “historical” approaches to measuring incremental reach, such as indexing against a ZIP code.

Enabling unified planning across linear and CTV, he said, marks the evolution of Strata from a “campaign stewardship system” that supports the flow of insertion orders to a “media activation system” that allows buyers to “buy CTV at scale through the FreeWheel ad server.”

Politicking

Although FreeWheel is planning to roll out unified planning to all TV buyers in the US by the end of the year, it’s starting with political advertisers.

Political advertisers have been the “most interested,” Whitticom said, because they realize TV has reached a “saturation point” in terms of messaging, which means they need to try out different channels and “use more complex data activation capabilities” in order to reach voters.

Many marketers are hesitant to shift ad dollars into CTV because attribution is more challenging in that environment. For instance, there’s no obvious action that takes place there, like the click of a button in digital environments.

But political advertisers are more interested in reaching people at the top of funnel, aka before they make up their mind on a candidate.

For that reason, political advertisers were “willing to move quicker and make a bet that data-driven CTV activation is the right way for them to be able to move voters and bring them to the polls,” Whitticom  said.

After making unified planning available to clients in the US throughout the course of this year, FreeWheel expects to bring the capability to European markets in 2023.

This article has been edited.

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