Viacom wants to be the entry point for direct-to-consumer brands looking to try TV advertising.
During the annual spring ad haggle, Viacom intends to speak to the brands that have typically relied on digital advertising and might have never aired a TV campaign.
Sean Moran, head of ad solutions at Viacom, points to several acquisitions the company has made over the last two years, including AwesomenessTV, VidCon and social marketing firm WhoSay, as entry points for these types of clients.
"We now have the ability because of these touchpoints, they don't have to come in through traditional media… they can come in through an influencer campaign, or they can get involved in branded programming through Awesomeness, or they can go on-the-ground at VidCon. And all of a sudden we are starting to expand the long-tail of who is playing at Viacom because of all of those entry points."
These various acquisitions, which also include the recent purchase of streaming service Pluto TV, have opened up opportunities for smaller marketers to utilize TV, but at lower price points that are more realistic for direct-to-consumer brands, Moran says.
The direct-to-consumer category is certainly an area of interest for TV networks, which are eager to woo such brands as they try to compete with digital ad behemoths Facebook and Google. TV's growing ability to utilize data to better target specific audiences beyond age and gender demographics, as well as emerging capabilities that allow brands to secure guarantees based on business outcomes, have made TV a more attractive vehicle for brands that want more granular results in real-time.
Last week, A&E Networks introduced a new ad tool that allows small and mid-size clients to target audiences and optimize their commercial buys on a single network, and receive reports that are more akin to those they would get from a Facebook or Google. The entry point is under $500,000—at least 50 percent lower than what one of these deals would normally cost across A&E's portfolio.
And late last year NBC Universal said it was rolling out a new program that makes advertising on TV and premium video more accessible to d-to-c brands.
Viacom will be talking up its acquisitions at a half-dozen agency and client dinners over the next few weeks, where it will be showcasing how they can fit into media plans and help brands re-aggregate young audiences who are consuming content on a variety of platforms and devices.
Viacom has been more formally trying to create a deal structure that pushes demand away from its linear networks, which are experiencing some of the most severe audience erosion on TV, according to one media buyer. So if an advertiser was spending $10 million on a pure linear buy, for example, Viacom is going to want a certain percentage of that be allocated to digital video or Pluto TV, the buyer says.
In the aggregate in the fourth quarter of 2018, Viacom's cable networks, which include MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, saw a 13 percent decline in commercial ratings in the three days after a show airs (C3) in the relevant target demos. This marked the second straight quarter in which not a single Viacom brand showed year-to-year growth, although some of the most significant losses are impacting the 2-11 demos at Nickelodeon.
For brands that have a long history advertising on TV, Moran says the new touchpoints will allow them to connect with younger consumers. In particular, he points to Pluto TV, which will be a meaningful part of Viacom's upfront pitch following Viacom's $340 million acquisition of the company earlier this year.
Pluto's sales team will be part of Viacom's ad group, Moran says, and there is a combined strategy for approaching all the holding companies and clients. There are opportunities for marketers to buy branded channels, for example, or own different genres of programming.
Contributing: Anthony Crupi