Turner Seeks To Become One Big Native Ad Platform

New Product Coming At CES Reimagines Commercial Breaks

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Turner is looking to turn its TV networks into one big platform for native advertising.

Conan O'Brien
Conan O'Brien Credit: TBS

The cable programmer, whose channels include TBS, TNT, CNN and Cartoon Network, among others, is introducing a new native advertising unit at the Consumer Electronics Show this week with the goal of reimagining commercial breaks.

Turner will work with marketers to replace traditional commercials with pods that tell a brand story, said Dan Riess, head of content partnerships at Turner.

"The idea is to turn Turner into a giant native ad platform," Mr. Riess said.

Instead of five to ten 30-second spots during a program, for example, Turner will air long-form branded content that's two to three minutes long, he said.

The company will produce content for marketers, as well as bring clients' existing long-form content, which is often digital-based, to TV. It will then utilize its targeting capabilities to find the right placement for the content across the entire portfolio.

Intel will be one of the first brands to utilize Native Plus in 2016.

Turner has already been experimenting with branded content on CNN. Subaru partnered with CNN's branded content studio, Courageous, last month to create pieces of content for "CNN Heroes." The vignettes, which were about two to three minutes long, told short "CNN Heroes" stories. The content was introduced during the show, was the only piece of content in the commercial break, and led right back into the programming.

"This is less interruptive for consumers and more powerful for brands," Mr. Riess said.

Native Plus will live within Turner's new Ignite division that will focus on both content and data solutions. Ignite will be led by Mr. Riess and Michael Strober, head of content strategy and ad innovation.

The goal for Ignite is to bring content back into conversations involving data. As buying audiences becomes a bigger piece of marketers' TV strategy, the focus is typically on finding target consumers and less on the programming.

"While other companies separate their data and content teams, we believe it's vital to bring them together, allowing advertisers to reimagine the possibilities of advertising in one conversation," said Donna Speciale, president-ad sales, Turner.

"We don't see data and content as separate entities," Mr. Riess added. "You need both of them to make it work. This year we are bringing content into the data conversation. None of the data matters if the content isn't amazing."

Also at CES, Turner will demonstrate its real-time social analytics and promotion product for the first time. The company has been quietly testing Launchpad since October in an effort to help marketers better monetize social conversations.

With Launchpad, Turner claims it is able to identify tribes of like-minded viewers and then see what topics they care about and share. With this information Turner then makes branded content that resonates with the audience a marketer is trying to reach.