In 2020, nearly every industry was flipped on its head. TV advertising was no exception.
The upfronts were cancelled, the streaming wars reached a fever pitch, and consumers discovered new content, apps and devices at an unprecedented rate. Linear TV viewing surged to its highest level in more than a decade. Brands as well as consumers came to the realization that OTT isn’t just a trend; it’s a movement.
Now, after 18 months of twists, turns, bumps and spikes, the TV advertising world – from advertisers, agencies and TV media companies to programmers, CTV and OTT players – is ready to use audience data to grab the wheel and smooth out the ride.
Buyers and sellers are coming to the negotiating table with a suite of new tools this season. Both sides are investing more than ever in audience data, planning tools and measurement platforms. The end game? Fluidity.
Propelled by the explosion of advertising options and audiences’ undeniable splintering across apps – especially accelerated by the pandemic – both buyers and sellers have integrated “fluidity” terms into their upfront deals for 2021 to 2022.
What does this mean? Deal fluidity refers to combining linear and OTT inventory so that a brand's ad can run wherever its target audience may be. Simply put, fluidity deals emphasize people over programs. The lynchpin of this whole concept, however, is data.
In order to define a rich target audience that goes far beyond traditional age and gender demos, teams need to have access to people-based audience data, including first-, second- and third-party data. Adding in viewership data across linear, OTT and digital inventory types enables fluidity.
When people-based audience data and viewership data are connected, buyers and sellers can answer the question, "Was the custom target audience exposed to the ad?”
If brands, agencies and TV sellers can answer this question, everyone wins. TV sellers maximize their yield by reallocating impressions to inventory that is of higher value to TV buyers, ultimately helping them meet their reach and performance goals. In the wake of the pandemic, we have learned that placing rigid, set-and-forget buys based on basic data points simply doesn’t align with today’s modern consumers. Audience data is already driving fluidity.
Reach Underexposed Audiences
Imagine you are a leading insurance advertiser. You're launching a bundle-and-save campaign, and you need to reach renters who also own cars. Traditionally, you would only be able to build your media plan around two data points: gender and age.
You may decide to target adults aged 18 to 49, for instance. This group can be reached most effectively through a No. 1 show like CBS' “NCIS,” which also comes at a No. 1 price tag. As a best-case scenario, the program delivers the audience numbers promised in the upfront agreement, and you are able to reach adults 18 to 49. However, a big unanswered question still looms: “Did I actually reach my custom target audience of renters who own vehicles?”
Fast-forward to the era of deal fluidity. Now, by matching a custom audience with their viewing behavior, you can determine whether the ad buy reached the intended audience. However, audience-based targeting advertisers aren’t held to the standard demographic buckets; buyers and sellers can align their target audience with other valuable programs and inventory types if they recognize that the audience is underexposed.
Rather than buying “NCIS” alone, you have the flexibility and the data-driven insights to decide whether to shift dollars to other programs. For instance, the data could reveal that Paramount+’s “Why Women Kill” is exactly where the insurance company's target audience spends their time. What may have been an unlikely or fragmented ad buy in the past is now made possible thanks to the magic combination of audience and viewership data paired with fluidity deal terms.
Control Frequency to Drive Incrementality
Let’s sit in another seat. Assume you’re a booming direct-to-consumer brand. Your roots are in digital advertising and your team has maximized its spend and efficiency across platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Your brand is taking things to the next level by committing to an upfront TV spend. However, how can you guarantee this spend is helping you reach incremental people and not oversaturating them? Here again, audience data drives deal fluidity.
By combining your target audience data with their exposure across linear, CTV and online touch points, you can take two key actions. First, you can manage and optimize frequency across screens. This ensures you aren’t wasting your valuable ad spend on people who have been overexposed to your brand. And secondly, you can reallocate dollars to other programs or inventory sources to deliver incrementality and grab the attention of target consumers who have otherwise felt unreachable.
Rich first-, second- and third-party audience data is the common thread that can stitch together a seamless, fluid TV strategy in what otherwise can feel like a confusing, Wild West ecosystem. This fluidity, or the ability to move dollars around intelligently based on third-party data audience insights, is incredible for both buyers and sellers.