News From The NewFronts: Gaming Companies Woo Brands, YouTube’s Pitch To TV Buyers


Gaming And Esports Make Their Pitch For Brand Bucks

The gaming stats that get slung around are always eye-popping.

And those cited Friday during the final day of this year’s NewFronts – a content block dedicated to esports and gaming – were no exception.

In April, for example, time spent with games soared 75% year over year. And people spent nearly $11 billion in video games during the first quarter alone, up 9% from the year prior.

Gaming was one of the few beneficiaries of the COVID-19 health crisis, although engagement and revenue have been trending in this direction for years.

But how do brands take advantage of all that engagement and spending, according to the esports and gaming companies that presented at Friday’s event?

They’ve gotta be, wait for it: authentic.

In this case, it’s really true, though. The gaming audience – which is actually quite diverse – will reward brands that genuinely care about supporting gaming content and the communities around it.

Merging storytelling with gaming culture “is the future of entertainment,” said Reginald Cash, CEO of 3BLACKDOT, an entertainment studio focused on gaming.

The biggest challenge facing brands in tapping into gaming, however, is realizing that they can’t do a cut-and-paste job using existing media plans, said Activision Blizzard’s CMO David Messinger.

“As a marketer, if we think about gaming as being the same as other mediums, we are really missing the point,” Messinger said. “The important thing to understand is what is different and unique about this medium: the incredible scale, the number of viewing hours, which is very large, but also the level of engagement, which is certainly much more heightened than other forms of media.”

Here’s another stat for you: “Time spent playing video games in the US is 50 million hours per day,” said Andre Swanston, CEO and co-founder of OTT and CTV ad tech company Tru Optik, which has a partnership to make its first- and third-party data available for in-game advertising on gaming consoles.

YouTube Explains How It’s Different From – And The Same As – TV

In its NewFronts Brandcast presentation, YouTube showed off some of its key differentiators from TV and the stodgy upfronts, while laying out its claim to the big screen on the wall.

After all, YouTube accounts for 40% of all ad-supported streaming on TV screens, said Allan Thygesen, president of Google’s Americas business.

Google’s advantage isn’t just inventory quantity.

People who tuned into the Brandcast presentation itself got to experience YouTube’s dynamic creative capabilities firsthand. There were personalized elements peppered throughout based on the viewer’s name and content preferences, which were collected during the event registration process.

YouTube also touted its ability to attribute sales and other direct conversion metrics, including app downloads and qualified leads, combining TV-style direct response campaigns with online performance marketing.

Because YouTube is a different kind of media channel than other data-driven TV options. Half of all content watched on YouTube was created in the week prior.

But YouTube is also trying to temper its focus on user-generated content, when it comes to TV-centric buyers. During the presentation, the company introduced YouTube Select, a curated selection of inventory available only to buyers that make upfront commitment deals.

Xandr Makes Its Pitch For Converged Video Advertising

Xandr used its NewFronts slot on Thursday to advocate for more convergence between TV and digital video teams.

Companies plan campaigns with television, streaming video and other digital video channels in mind. But when it comes to actually executing the ad buys, there’s a 50/50 split between advertisers with truly converged teams and those with separate buyers for TV and digital, said Xandr CRO Jason Brown.

Keeping campaigns in channel lanes doesn’t reflect the experience of an increasing number of American viewers. For instance, linear TV subscriptions are dwindling, but people are still watching.

Brown said that AT&T TV Now, an online skinny bundle of TV networks and on-demand shows, has gone from seven hours of streaming per account per week on average before the pandemic to nine hours per week now.

Viewers are watching the same shows on the same screen, but advertisers are spreading the buy across different teams.

It makes the most sense for the ad teams to remain converged, whether it’s a TV screen, computer screen or mobile device, Brow argued.

“Consumers are spending more and more time online, connected to multiple devices and exposed to ads on all these devices,” he said. “It is more critical now than ever to build a more holistic understanding of your target audience and control when and how you’re delivering ads, managing exposure and measuring effectiveness.”

TikTok Announces AR Ads And Marketing Products Hub

TikTok had some advice for brands at its first NewFronts appearance on Thursday: Don’t make ads, make TikToks.

“Brands don’t need to be perfect,” said Katie Puris, TikTok’s managing director of global business marketing.

But they do need to have fun, be original and (buzzword alert) authentic to see success on the platform, which has grown like crazy over the past year. TikTok now has roughly 800 million monthly active users around the world.

TiKTok touted its suite of “simple” advertising products: TopView (a 60-second video which is the first thing people see when they open TikTok); brand takeovers; in-feed video; branded hashtag challenges; branded effects and a new augmented reality effect for brands announced during the presentation.

Brand Scan, which is what TikTok calls its branded AR offering, is pretty much like a Sponsored Lens on Snapchat or branded AR filters on Facebook or Instagram … proof that there’s nothing new under the sun.

But TikTok does stand out thanks to its young, super-engaged audience, which now also includes grandparents who like to dance.

Puris pointed to a recent sponsored hashtag campaign for beauty brand e.l.f. that generated more than 4 billion video views and led 3 million people to create their own TikToks in the spirit of the original campaign. It was the most viral campaign in TikTok’s history.

“Culture is created here every single day,” Puris said.

TikTok also announced a new platform called TiKTok For Business, which will serve as a hub for all of its new and forthcoming marketing solutions for brands.

Snap Touts Original Shows And Gen Z Reach 

Snap’s first NewFront presentation on Tuesday highlighted the app’s growing slate of content in Discover and broad reach among younger audiences that don’t watch linear TV.

While Snap didn’t introduce anything new, it spouted off stats around the size and profile of its audience, talking up its ability to reach 229 million daily users and 90% of the United States’ Gen Z and millennial population.

Snap spoke the language of streaming and digital media networks, touting a 35% increase in time spent watching Discover content over the last year, and 23% incremental reach against linear TV campaigns for an advertiser’s target demo. The platform will launch more original shows and docuseries this year, which have so far been watched by more than half of US Gen Z-ers.

Snap is also positioning itself as a news platform, with 125 million people consuming news on Snapchat this year. The platform launched a curated section called “Happening Now” which curates real-time news updates with user stories of ongoing civil rights protests, election updates and clips from late night shows.

Condé Nast Launches A Podcast Network And Shoppable Ads, Addresses Racial Inequality

It’s an awkward time for Condé Nast to pitch its wares, given the recent firing of Bon Appetit’s editor in chief for fostering racial inequality at the company. At the publisher’s NewFront presentation on Tuesday, CEO Roger Lynch addressed the controversy and spoke of the company’s commitment to improving diversity and inclusion.

But the dog and pony show must go on. In addition to incremental audience reach verified by Nielsen, Condé Nast rolled out a shoppable video ad unit and new live shows around major events such as the Met Gala and Fashion Week. It’s also launching its first podcast network, with seven original shows across its brands including Wired, Vogue and Pitchfork.

Condé Network reaches 1 billion consumers across 80 platforms and delivers 27% incremental reach against linear TV for the 18-34 demo. The pub is pushing out more content to streaming platforms such as Roku and Vizio, but it’s also focused on growing its O&O. Architectural Digest, for example, grew its YouTube channel subscribers by 137% year over year.

Facebook’s Quarantine Sizzle Reel

In lieu of a presentation, Facebook used its less than five-minute NewFronts slot to play a sizzle reel touting how creators and brands have used its services during the lockdown.

It was about as exciting as it sounds. Here are a few highlights. You’re … welcome?

While stay-at-home orders were in place, Delta asked people where they would travel next if they could. Fans were invited to draw their ideas on top of a template posted to Stories.

Fitness brand Barry’s used Instagram Live to broadcast workouts from inside local studios and the homes of trainers.

Luggage brand Away asked its followers to share videos and photos of inventive uses for its suitcases because, you know, they probably weren’t using them to travel. Apparently, Away cases can also be used as granny carts for groceries, daybeds for pets and computer stands. Cool.

Hulu Emphasizes Experience And Intros DR Ad Format

During a time of uncertainty – and many new streaming entrants – Hulu is reminding advertisers that it’s an old pro in the streaming business.

Hulu touted its record of creative innovation in its ad formats, and its experience and scale that allows advertisers to benchmark their performance. Binge ads, for example, which unlock a lighter ad load, lead to double-digit lifts in awareness and ad recall, whereas Pause ads excel in ad recall and brand favorability.

Hulu added a new entrant to that list: the performance-focused ad format GatewayGo. During an ad, viewers can scan a QR code or send an offer to their phone to take more immediate action. Smile Direct Club, Sweetgreen and TheRealReal are among the launch partners.

Hulu’s new president, Kelly Campbell, pushed advertisers to develop unique strategies for CTV, since it’s unlike both digital and linear. For example, consumers might want more nuanced creative messaging that reflects a viewer’s mindset during a particular show.

“Streaming TV is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ or a place to ‘test and learn,’” she said, comparing the format to the introduction of search advertising 20 years ago and social media after that.

Hulu is also integrating with Nielsen Media Impact, a tool that helps media planners calculate reach.

But even more exciting to advertisers is the combined reach available through Disney Hulu XP, now that Disney has operational control over Hulu. Hulu has 83 million ad-supported viewers – but adding Disney’s video inventory increases that reach to 284 million people a month, or two-thirds of the entire internet.

Compared to other streaming platforms, Disney has the “unique ability to deliver both massive scale and specific audience targets,” said Disney Ad Sales President Rita Ferro as she closed out Hulu’s NewFronts.

Tubi Touts Fox Network Content And Unique Ad Tech Offerings

Ever since Fox bought Tubi in early March, the streaming platform has quickly onboarded Fox content.

And that content was a big theme as Tubi wooed advertisers during its Monday NewFronts presentation.

Tubi also showcased its ad tech.

Its proprietary ad server integrates directly with DSPs, and Tubi said during its presentation that advertisers can use this setup to purchase programmatic guarantees. Tubi also claimed it can solve the frequency capping issues plaguing CTV, which occur when too many ad networks buy placements in top-tier apps for the same advertiser.

Tubi uses computer vision to identify incoming creative to control for frequency. Brands that use this tech see reach improve by 200% to 300%. But in order to use this tech, brands must also buy direct with Tubi.

Tubi also emphasized its diverse audience, which is 72% more likely to be multicultural – and it has 20,000 titles that showcase different ethnic communities.

In the fall, Tubi will create a separate destination for 800 shows of Spanish-language content, Tubi En Español, similar to how it already runs a COPPA-compliant storefront featuring family friendly content, Tubi Kids.

Tubi’s sizzle reel features more licensed content than originals, but it will be creating more, such as its new original animated show, “Henchman.”

Samsung Ads Emphasizes Its ACR Footprint

Samsung Ads, the consumer tech giant’s advertising and data business, is making a big pitch for its role in video advertising and analytics.

Samsung’s strength is its automated content recognition (ACR) technology footprint. It’s the No. 1 smart TV manufacturer, and all Samsung sets come with built-in ACR tech that tracks what people watch. (For OTT apps such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, ACR tech can’t parse what programs are being watched, only that the particular app is in use.)

“[ACR data] is not just a source of reach, but a source of insights,” said Samsung Ads global head of analytics Justin Evans.

According to Samsung’s ACR data, 9% of prime-time TV viewership has moved from linear to streaming media from January to late March, when people across the United States started sheltering in place. Streaming has gained share across the board, but is up 4% in the early morning and only 5% during the day.

“Audiences are trained to come to prime time for key experiences,” Evans said. “But they’re easily transferring to a new viewer experience.”

Roku Zeroes In On Measurement And Targeting

Roku uncorked a bevy of ad offerings hoping to differentiate its real-time ad-serving capabilities from cable TV’s commercial plans.

The digital media company actually revealed many of these developments almost a month ago, but in the interest of hammering it home, Roku’s NewFront announcements include 14-day full cancellations (the standard in linear is a 50% refund with 60-day notice) and the ability to swap different brands or business lines for an upfront commitment.

Roku also used its NewFronts presentation to host an official coming-out party for OneView, the relaunched dataxu DSP product designed to help clients reach viewers on and off-platform. It combines the digital advertising IDs dataxu was built on with the Roku household OTT account identity set, said ad sales VP Alison Levin during the NewFronts presentation.

Roku is also moving further into outcomes-based measurement as a way to distinguish itself from pure ratings for more TV campaigns.

One new partnership with grocery chain Kroger allows CPG and household brand marketers to attribute store sales lift based on regions where they ran Roku ads. And Roku announced incremental reach guarantees, which means Roku doesn’t charge the brand for ads served to viewers who were exposed to the same spot on linear TV.

In case you wanted to skim last year’s narrative, here’s Roku’s 2019 NewFronts preso focused on OTT planning.

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