TV Upfront

Data Actually Becomes a Form of Currency in the TV Upfronts

Hallmark Strikes Deal With Spark To Set Secondary Guarantees

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While big data outside of Nielsen demographics has been used in the media planning process for some time as a way for agencies to more efficiently decide which TV networks and programs to buy, it hadn't been part of actual deal-making.

But during this year's upfront negotiations -- when networks look to secure a bulk of their ad commitments for the TV season ahead -- Hallmark Channel began to guarantee more than the typical age and sex demographics.

The network struck a deal with Spark for its client ConAgra Foods, whose brands include Chef Boyardee and Swiss Miss, in which ConAgra continued to get guarantees around Nielsen age and sex demos but added secondary guarantees to deliver impressions on more specific targets such as heavy frozen food purchasers. Hallmark will use Nielsen Catalina Solutions data to help gauge its reach among those more specific targets.

As in any TV deal, if Hallmark under-delivers for Con-Agra, it will provide makegoods.

"We are guaranteeing Hallmark Channel will over-index on their primary consumer, those that represent the strongest intention of buying their products," said Ed Georger, exec VP-advertising sales and digital media, Crown Media, parent of Hallmark Channel.

Mr. Georger said Hallmark Channel is in discussions with other potential clients.

It's unclear whether other networks struck similar agreements during during this summer's ad negotiations. Spark's other deals were influenced by data but didn't use it as a form of currency, according to John Muszynski, chief investment officer. If the ConAgra approach is successful, however, Mr. Muszynski said the agency will likely do similar deals for other clients.

Even this deal still includes Nielsen age and sex demographics as the predominant negotiating currency, as there's still a hesitancy to abandon the metrics entirely.

"We will continue to deliver on Nielsen ratings. This isn't replacing that. But as we move forward, this data will become more important," Mr. Georger said. He did not go so far as to say that other types of data will eventually replace Nielsen guarantees.

Mr. Georger also expects the data to eventually allow advertisers to make better decisions on which time of day to advertise by revealing when the highest percentage of their purchasers are actually watching.

The tactic is Hallmark's response to marketers' growing desire to negotiate with more specific data to support their media buying decisions, Mr. Georger said.

Offering such secondary guarantees is also a way to stand out in a lackluster marketplace and grab a bigger portion of advertisers' budgets.

"We always felt our brand delivers an important audience to advertisers," Mr. Georger said. "Women 25-to-54 are only part of our story. We also reach consumers with purchasing power that has value to advertisers … It's an incentive for advertisers to reallocate dollars and help us gain share in the marketplace."

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