How Many 'Desperate Housewives' Fans Drink Coke or Drive Fords?

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NEW YORK ( -- With the calendar ticking down the weeks before the broadcast network upfront ad market kicks into high gear, ABC is hoping to gain an edge on its rivals by selling its audience to marketers in thinner, more targeted -- and potentially more lucrative -- slices.
ABC is offering agencies use of its optimizer research toolto help media agencies buy ratings points that are more akin to their clients' target markets. Instead of buying broad swaths of adults aged 18-to-49, marketers can know exactly who watches “Desperate Housewives” and drives trucks or drinks Coke.

More targeted data
The Walt Disney Co. network is out shopping a new optimizer product to help media agencies buy ratings points that are more akin to their clients' target markets, as opposed to broad swaths of adults aged 18-to-49.

The network, for instance, could tell agencies exactly how many people watching "Desperate Housewives” drive trucks or drink Coke. That info can help marketers best understand where to spend their dollars, though ABC said it is offering up data based on program genres and dayparts to get a better sample size at this point.

ABC, which has invested just less then half a million dollars in the product, said it is responding to marketers' desire to use research to better inform their TV buying.

"Brand managers spend hours developing a profile of their best consumer prospects that would encompass age, lifestyle, geographic skews,” said Warren Siddall, VP-sales development, ABC TV Network. "What ends up happening is by the time the plan gets to the buying group, it's generalized as whatever is at the top of the pyramid, say women aged 18 to 49. Marketers are frustrated media buyers aren't as targeted as they'd like them to be.”

ABC's optimizer, dubbed M4 because it involves four separate metrics companies' data, isn't the first in the game. Agencies all have their own optimizer technology. But ABC said its product is much more all-encompassing. In theory, ABC's first optimizer product could potentially direct a client's money to another broadcast network or to cable, though, Mr. Siddall added, "we wouldn't be out there if we didn't believe we have the advantages.” The network is No. 1 in the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

The new research tool offers some intriguing findings about the concentration of particular target viewers at ABC. For instance, female viewers aged 18-49 are more likely to drink Lipton Sugar Free iced tea than viewers of other networks. Viewers of ABC's primetime dramas in the same demo were more likely to use a Visa card than rival broadcast network viewers and adults aged 25-54 who watched ABC's "This Week" are more likely to be tech savvy than viewers of other broadcast networks. Just to show that the research doesn't always favor the alphabet network, the M4 tool showed that viewers who eat Oreo cookies are fairly equally represented across national TV.

Typically skeptical media buyers said they viewed ABC's efforts positively. "We are always looking for more information to make more informed decisions and what they've come out with is worth a look,” said Tim Spengler, exec VP-national broadcast Initiative. "I can't make a buy on it, but it's useful information.” Gary Carr, senior VP-director of broadcast services at TargetCast TCM, said: "I applaud them for taking a leadership role, for trying to explore the data that tries to come closer to the truth.”

No guarantees
Mr. Siddall said the product is being offered free to marketers who want to participate and share target-market data. However, the network isn't quite ready to base guarantees on the data, though he offered a glimpse at potential negotiations in the future. "At this point, we've only discussed it in terms of a pilot project, let's do this in parallel.”

He suggested it could ultimately become a game changer "if the marketer is used to paying a $20 [cost-per-thousand] for adults 25-to-54, maybe we could narrow it down to a more meaningful fewer bodies, and the client could be in the position of paying say $70 a CPM. There's less people but they're the right people, that's what we're prepared to help document.”

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