AMC Launching Behavior-Based Ads in Upfront

Latest Measurement Tool Aims to Better Align Brands With Audiences

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NEW YORK -- Forget commercial ratings. This year's upfront metrics are getting a whole lot more granular.

Witness Rainbow Media's AMC, home of ad-industry fave "Mad Men," which aims to introduce behavioral targeting characteristics to its upfront sales via a new measurement system developed with Nielsen. Dubbed the Audience Identity Metric, or AIM, the new measurement tool will help advertisers align brands to psychographic categories of AMC viewers.
Charlene Weisler
Charlene Weisler

Rainbow's senior VP-research, Charlene Weisler, likens it to a "Price Is Right" game. "We talk about it as Plinko. It's taking all of these different small bits of data and going through the methodology so they fall into the right cluster," she said.

Auto, financial and theatrical advertisers
AIM was designed for automotive, financial and theatrical advertisers to better align their brands to specific behaviors within the adults 18-to-49 and 25-to-54 demographics -- ad receptivity on different platforms and brand affinity being chief among them. AMC then tagged specific attributes such as purchase descriptors and demographic criteria to more than 150 movies in its catalog to create a broad database of targeting capabilities. Ms. Weisler gave the example of a viewer who tunes into "Independence Day," who, based on their viewing criteria, would be packaged with movies such as "Catwoman" or "Philadelphia."

"The buying target might be 18 to 49, but the planning target might be someone who attends a movie on an opening weekend or who is most likely to be in the market for a new car," Ms. Weisler explained.

Taking an aggressive measurement stance is the latest move in a strategic repositioning for AMC. Last year, the movie network added its first two original series: "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad." As a result, AMC President Charlie Collier said the targeting strategy is now taking shape even from a programming standpoint. Last summer's premiere of "Mad Men," for example, was preceded by movies, such as "Goodfellas," centered on conflicted characters with appeal to certain financial and automotive marketers. Other tent-pole programming for the network, such as its awards coverage and annual American Cinematheque tributes, will be similarly realigned to like-minded viewers and programs.

"We're taking those opt-in opportunities recognizable on the web and creating targeted planning opportunities," Mr. Collier said. "It really was like putting the paradigm on its head."

As the entire TV industry made the initial transition from program ratings to commercial ratings last year, the concept of analyzing behavior within the commercial break took a backseat to persuading more viewers to stay for the commercial break itself.

"The C3 metric is so disproportionate, with impressions focused on the light viewer departing," Mr. Collier said. "We want to look at who's staying and what their value is."

'A lot of pressure'
Such behavioral targeting characteristics are favored by other media researchers. "We're not in a world anymore where standard age/sex groups tell you what you need to know," said Steve Sternberg, exec VP-audience analysis at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global. "It really does make sense for a network like AMC, because you really do start to see big differences in different types of movies. The type of programming they have is perfect for this type of research."

Brad Adgate, senior VP-research at Horizon Media, added that enhanced research studies are a sign that TV is finally catching up with its digital counterparts. "Because the internet can provide a lot of different criteria for accountability, there's a lot of pressure on mainstream media to come up with some sort of metrics to compete with that," he said.

In fact, if Mr. Sternberg had his druthers, "engagement" wouldn't even be on the table in this year's upfront. "That really is a word that shouldn't be used. You don't even know what that means," he said. "It's about moving the needle. You have to measure exposure first. C3 is as close to the real exposure to the commercials as we're getting right now. Once you have that, then you can start seeing how people respond to the commercials. Ad receptivity is really where it's at."
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