NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Behavioral targeting has long been a strength of the web for aligning advertising with consumer preferences, but what about TV? Rainbow Media's movie-themed cable network AMC set out to test targeting last year via a research tool called AIM, or Audience Identity Metric. It paired advertisers with psychographically targeted film packages that went beyond "young-male action-movie fan" or "female romantic-comedy lover." Now the network is expanding its commitment beyond the testing phase, with a new advertiser, Shell-Pennzoil, onboard.
For its first deal with AMC, the gasoline marketer was looking to reach adults 25 to 54, men 25 to 54 and adults 18 to 49, based on a specific portfolio of movies. AMC's research and ad sales teams came back to Shell-Pennzoil and its media agency, WPP Group's MediaCom, with a lineup that included "U.S. Marshals," "Karate Kid," "The Godfather," "Apollo 13" and "The Rookie," a diverse slate of action, sports and drama movies that didn't skew toward any one genre.
"When you buy cable, there's so much inventory that when it comes to movie titles, you don't really know where you're going to land too far in advance," said Jay Baum, a managing partner at MediaCom. "This takes away that step of having to work through all the schedules and getting all the right inventory." The targeted movie schedule also assured Mr. Baum that Shell-Pennzoil's ads would be contextually relevant. "For an 18-to-49 advertiser that has a male skew, if they're in 'Driving Miss Daisy,' maybe that's not the best place to be."
The expansion of AIM coincides with AMC's new networkwide branding initiative, dubbed "Story matters here," that ties the network's lineup of classic movies to its original series "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad."
"It's putting Oscar winners next to Emmy winners," said AMC President Charlie Collier. "We've really created an environment that has more dollars on the screen and more quality than most networks can boast. We want to put the value on storytelling, be it movies or our originals, so we're a place where the 30-second story can thrive."
AIM has also helped AMC carve out a niche in the competitive cable environment for acquired movies. "We've shown we can be as targeted as any network out there," Mr. Collier said. "We've given advertisers an opportunity to look at AMC not as a broad-based network but as a series of specific targeting opportunities."
Bill Rosolie, Rainbow Media's exec VP-national ad sales, said AMC partnered with Nielsen for a custom study that polled 5,000 TV viewers about their behavioral characteristics in the hope of creating a new kind of engagement metric to sell new clients in the automotive, financial and electronics categories. The goal was to show how targeted research could help advertisers stray from obvious or stereotypical movie matchups.
"We had moments in our research where you would have, say, a financial advertiser trying to reach a financially independent investor, and you'd see titles like 'Wall Street' or some of the more iconic ones come up," Mr. Collier said. "Once we drilled down a step further, you found things more diverse, like a 'Cool Hand Luke' or 'Goodfellas.' So often what this proves out is your intuition -- you can picture the person you're targeting stopping and spending time in a meaningful way."
AMC isn't the only cable network shopping a contextual-advertising tool. Turner's TNT and TBS have been offering TVinContext since last year's upfront, partnering with Starcom MediaVest Group and Magna last fall and expanding their offerings to 100 movies and original series this year.