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A+E Guaranteeing Its Ads Deliver Business Results

As the upfront market approaches, A+E Networks is guaranteeing its ads will work.

Starting with a limited number of clients, A+E is going beyond the data-driven audience-based buying that is becoming more popular among programmers. Ads will create foot traffic into retail stores and dealer showrooms or drive visits to websites, or else.

“Strategic target guarantees are a nice step, but we believe that outcomes are what matter most to our clients who are under increasing pressure to prove the effectiveness of their media spend. We are willing to take this leap because we know TV works, said Peter Olsen, executive VP of ad sales at A+E Networks.

Many clients and networks have started to work with research companies to calculate the impact individual ads have on customers, which is known in the business as attribution.

A+E is working with a number of analytics companies including Data + Math, Nelsen Catalina, Millward Brown, Axciom and to provide attribution information. Their findings will determine whether ads on A+E are performing as well as guaranteed.

Olsen said that in the upfront A+E wants to do about 10 deals that guarantee outcomes.

The outcomes A+E is comfortable with are foot traffic using geo-targeting and website visits, which are measures with pixels embedded on the client’s site.

Those outcomes are also simpler to attribute than sales, which can also be driven by other factors out of the network’s control, ranging from the quality of the product to its price.

A+E will use its data driven ad products to pinpoint audiences interested in an advertiser’s product, such as truck intenders.

“If they reach those truck intenders, those truck intenders are going to do what?" Olsen said. "They’re going to go to the showrooms or they’re going to go to the website. We’re just taking it to that next step. It brings everyone on board from agency, client and ourselves, to drive to what the clients really care about most.”

Olsen added that most clients have a pretty good idea how increased foot traffic or web visits translate into sales.

In exchange for the guarantee, A+E is looking for a number of things from its clients. It could be additional spending, or it could be a higher price for the ads.

A+E also wants the client to agree to buy more of its networks or properties, if it isn’t already buying ads on all of them. That would make it easier for A+E to find more of those consumers in its portfolio of networks and digital properties.

“There’s no reason for us to be pushing something strictly self-serving purposes, because if we recommend LIfetime and Lifetime doesn’t reach the target, it’s not going to help drive the outcome, and we’ll fail,” Olsen said.

A+E and its clients will also negotiate what happens in the event of such a failure.

So far, A+E is engaged in the early stages of discussions about these guarantees with five clients.

“Everyone’s pretty intrigued by this topic because it is, we believe, the next iteration of where the industry should be going,” he said.

Simulmedia, one of the pioneers in data-based audience buying on TV, offers similar guarantees to its clients. Turner has also experimented with performance-based guarantees. Some digital companies make performance-based guarantees as well.

“I think the primary motive of this is to make TV and video look good, and A+E Networks is part of that mix,” Olsen said.

Like a growing number of TV programmers. A+E has its own suite of advanced advertising products designed to help clients identify and target the right consumers and to report on the results those ads deliver.

A+E’s three-pronged offering includes:

  • A+E Performance, an attribution product which provides television ascription and cross-screen measurement.
  • A+E Precision, the company’s audience-based targeting platform. Its origins can be traced back to 2012 when the network launched its programmatic digital video offering. As the unit has grown, Precision now delivers a collaborative, hands-on approach to ensure marketers connect their brand message with their target customers.
  • A+E Intelligence, a dedicated think tank that takes a consultative approach to delivering insights and analytics to marketers who want to better understand what matters to their consumers. The team fuses social sciences such as anthropology, sociology, demography, economics and history, with robust qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to deliver compelling insights to partners. 

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.