How Data Will Play a Role in TV Upfronts

Advertisers Will Use Outside and Inside Intelligence to Plan Budgets, Inform TV Buys

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Data has always played some role in the TV upfronts, but this year expect more sources for that data -- and more crowing about its usage.

While advertisers aren't getting away from the Nielsen age-and-gender demographic guarantees at the heart of TV deals anytime soon, data from the likes of Rentrak and Acxiom, as well as internal data, will be used to plan budgets and more efficiently determine which networks are truly reaching target audiences. In some cases, this data will also be used to set second-level guarantees.

"We'll see a lot of announcements, which probably will overstate the degree to which sources beyond Nielsen ratings are involved in actual buys and plans, but it will certainly reflect the general trajectory toward increased use of incremental sources of data," said Brian Wieser, analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

Spark Chief Investment Officer John Muszynski
Spark Chief Investment Officer John Muszynski

At Publicis Groupe's Spark, Chief Investment Officer John Muszynski will be putting a premium on data in the upfronts, the time when networks look to secure a bulk of their ad commitments.

"One hundred percent of our investment decisions will be informed by data," he said, noting that he will also use Twitter-ratings data and other social-media measurements to inform TV buys.

"Data can tell us where are the sweet spots and where we should focus our attention," said Joseph Abruzzo, exec VP–director of research, Havas Media.

"Media buyers can pinpoint pockets of programming that are overlooked, undervalued and overdeliver on their target," said Debbie Reichig, chief revenue officer at PrecisionDemand.

But this is something that agencies have been doing behind the scenes for several years, said Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer, GroupM. "It's not to the advantage of agencies and clients to share that with vendors, because it would be reflected in the pricing," he said.

Still, data could be coming to the negotiating table. "We won't necessarily be using it as a form of currency," but there will be individual conversations where, depending on the clients' needs, data could be used to set secondary guarantees, Mr. Muszynski said.

These secondary guarantees will come into play with integrations that extend beyond the 30-second spot, Mr. Abruzzo said, noting that while most data firms don't have a national footprint, they may offer a better sample size than Nielsen for harder-to-reach audiences like households with income over $150,000.
NBC Universal will help clients make more data-informed media buys through its NBCU+ Powered by Comcast product. The partnership, announced in January, will allow marketers to increase the effectiveness of media buys through consumer segmentation, advanced analytics and targeting, said Linda Yaccarino, president-advertising sales, NBC Universal.

Still, "it is foolish to imagine more deals than not will be negotiated with anything but Nielsen," she said.

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