Inside NBC’s efforts to move away from demographic guarantees
NBCUniversal is hoping 2020 will be the year the TV ad marketplace rethinks its reliance on broad age and sex demographics to sell ads.
To this end, NBCU is approaching the upfront marketplace with four ways for brands to do business with its portfolio that work towards stepping back from legacy metrics.
As more viewers consume content on a multitude of screens and through various platforms, it has been a challenge for TV networks to monetize all of those eyeballs.
Traditional media companies have also spent the last several years attempting to compete with the Googles and Facebooks of the world by introducing ad products that allow marketers to use data to target very specific consumers. But advertisers have been slow to completely move away from historical metrics.
Certainly, much of the TV industry agrees that the use of demographics is antiquated in an era where brands have a vast amount of data at their disposal that allows them to target audiences at a much more granular level. It becomes even more frustrating when you take into account that a large chunk of the audience watching live linear TV is over the age of 50 and thus not counted in traditional 18-49 demo guarantees.
So, during this year's ad haggle, NBCU will look to take initial steps away from those metrics.
For marketers that still want to maintain demo guarantees, NBCU will look to strike deals that allow them to deliver these demos from anywhere across the company’s portfolio. This would allow NBCU to push demand across platforms and make up for any shortfall of linear TV.
“We know some advertisers still want to retain Nielsen age and gender metrics. We are OK with that but allow us to tap into the entirety of our assets,” says Tom Winiarski, executive VP, planning and monetization, NBCU.
NBCU is also looking to guarantee on adults 18-plus instead of on the traditional 18-49 demographic. This would help NBCU account for, and monetize, older audiences, while advertisers would still have full input on where and when the ads are running. “It would just make it easier to deliver broad reach,” Winiarski says.
For those who are doing big sponsorships of live events or integrations into a program, these deals would still be guaranteed on demos.
Advertisers would also be able to continue to target more specific consumers through NBCU’s AdSmart product.
In January, NBCU announced its One Platform, which will allow marketers to find audiences and optimize campaigns across both linear TV and digital. This is something they had to do individually in the past. While an actual platform won’t be available during this year’s ad haggle, advertisers will now be able to apply advanced targeting across NBCU’s entire portfolio to get unduplicated reach, Winiarski says.
The ad community recognizes the need for NBCU to move away from legacy metrics.
“They can’t keep transacting the way the marketplace keeps asking them to transact,” one media buyer says.
But there will certainly be plenty of brands that do not want to abandon demographics and give up the low base rates they have been grandfathered into, or that are simply scared to move away from the way they have been operating in TV for decades.
“TV is held to a higher standard than something like Google and Facebook,” a second media buyer says, adding that advertisers go to Google to get a massive amount of impressions. But that’s not the same reason marketers advertise on TV.
TV buyers have historically bought TV by specific day parts and programs. NBC’s plan, the buyer says, “moves us closer to a Google model.”
It also once again raises the question if every impression is worth the same. Is an impression in “This Is Us” as valuable as one from an Oxygen show, the buyer asks.
“There will always be certain things advertisers have an affinity to, or an aversion for,” Winiarski says. “Our goal isn’t to say, ‘cede all control to us because we know better how to reach your audiences and drive your business.’ We are asking, ‘what is it you’d like to help optimize for?’”
Winiarski says the company also understands media buyers are graded based upon how they performed compared with previous years. So NBCU created tools to provide a view on how media deals over the past few years would have performed if they had been guaranteed in these new ways. This way, buyers can have comparables with which to discuss base rates.