FreeWheel Making Moves On The Buy Side With First Upfront Event

FreeWheel, the Comcast-owned video ad tech company, hosted its first television upfront on Wednesday and is mounting a campaign to expand its buy-side business.

The marketer outreach centers on new attribution features and the launch of FreeWheel Media, which formalizes its buy-side accounts and ad-serving business into a cohesive offering, CRO Brian Wallach told AdExchanger.

FreeWheel released the first DSP integration for its new DRIVE product suite with Adobe, via the marketing cloud’s TubeMogul product. Wallach said the company will add DSP alternatives soon, and eventually plans to make its inventory available to any buy-side solutions.

The DSP inventory is only in the US right now, but FreeWheel also plans to expand to global markets this year.

FreeWheel has operated largely in the background with broadcasters and media companies in the past few years, Comcast’s president of advertising, Marcien Jenckes, said at the upfront event. But a new attribution product is bringing it closer to the buy side.

“We’ve unlocked new ways to go to market with attribution,” Jenckes said. “Unless you can measure it, you may as well not be doing it.”

Comcast announced a partnership with Data Plus Math, a TV and digital attribution company, to incorporate conversions like in-store purchases or, say, ticket sales for an entertainment company, and plans to make that data part of its standard campaign reporting, Wallach said.

Broadcasters and buyers need to work together to accelerate the data feedback during a campaign, which would allow brands to optimize television in-flight, instead of demonstrating results weeks or months after a campaign, said Jonathan Steuer, Omnicom’s chief research officer, at the FreeWheel event.

Selling campaigns based on outcomes requires more cohesion between the media seller and the buyer, Steuer said. “It raises questions about how they define an outcome, how do they allocate value and what flexibility the media seller has to move inventory around to generate outcomes.”

For instance, a TV buy might traditionally target specific programs or markets. But if FreeWheel has a clearer definition of concrete business goals, like generating in-store sales lift or driving foot traffic to auto lots, then it could optimize campaigns toward specific audiences, shows or media channels that are driving results.

And other broadcasters are converging on outcome-based buying. Turner announced in January that it’s using AT&T’s Xandr ad unit to connect linear commercials to conversions. And last month NBCUniversal sold its ever TV ad campaign based on guaranteed business outcomes.

It’s no surprise that FreeWheel is mounting such a strong offensive on the buy side, since closer relationships with advertisers improve its attribution – and thus its inventory rates. And if FreeWheel’s SSP business can target more efficiently, it creates more supply because the company doesn’t need to blanket whole audience demos or TV markets to get the necessary results.

If anything, expect FreeWheel to take an even more aggressive approach to its buy-side business. Comcast is looking to acquire additional ad tech companies, and companies it’s considering include the DSP dataxu and Cadent, an advanced TV ad tech company for marketers, according to AdExchanger sources. Previously Comcast kept itself to supply-side tech, like the FreeWheel ad server and StickyAds, the French video SSP.

“Talk to your colleagues and let them know that FreeWheel Media is ready to deliver,” Wallach said. “Let us compete for your business.”

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