Skip to main content

Data on Clients’ Results Key to Turner’s Pitch

A lot of people are talking about data during this upfront season. Donna Speciale, president of ad sales at Turner Broadcasting, plans to talk results at its upfront presentation on May 18.

Turner was one of the first TV companies to use data to help advertisers target the viewers most likely to buy their products and services, and let them buy those audiences. Now it says it can show advertisers how well the plan works. That gives Turner an advantage, but Speciale says advertisers can’t really benefit until the whole industry gets on board with more than lip service.

“Listen, imitation is a form of flattery,” says Speciale. “I’m happy that a lot of media companies now are getting into this space.”

She notes that Turner started with a baby step in its Targeting Now initiative, then turbocharged it with its successor, Audience Now last year.

“The goal is to bring the personalization of what digital brings to the linear platform,” Speciale says.

But all data products are not created equal. “I can’t compare all of their data capabilities, but from what I’m hearing Turner actually has proven results and is making headway,” she says.

Clients using Targeting Now, Turner’s first data product, which more precisely identifies target consumers, saw an average lift of 20% in the indicator they were aiming at, whether it was recall, consideration or sales. That’s over about 33 deals, and in some cases the increase was 50%.

Four clients tested Audience Now, including Kellogg’s and General Motors. They found that by buying audiences then using the traditional age and sex demographics, the cost of reaching target consumers was 15% lower. (That doesn’t mean they’re paying less per spot, but they’re getting more of the viewers they want per dollar spent.)

Speciale says she believes Audience Now is where the future is. But the future isn’t here just yet.

“The marketplace is not ready to be 100% audience. The main reason is because they can’t scale it right now across the marketplace. Right now the deals that we’re doing with clients are Turner only,” she says. “I think the next step—which is why we created the Turner Ad Lab—is to get the industry more on board so clients can take this type of product and scale it across their entire ecosystem. This cannot be a Turner-only initiative. It will not work. And we’re stating that loud and clear.”

Speciale says it’s hard to guess how much of Turner’s inventory in the upfront will be bought as audiences.

For one thing, different clients have different targets, and that affects the inventory they use.

“At the same time, clients are still very focused on branded content and telling stories and live events and so that inventory can’t necessarily be purchased that way,” she says. “The [NCAA basketball] Final Four is not likely going to be put into my audience mix because most of that is purchased on a client-by-client, campaign-by-campaign event basis. So that’s why it’s not one size fits all and all the inventory will never be put into that audience bucket.”

Lightening the Load

At the upfront, Speciale will also talk about its new millennial-focused programming and the ways it is looking to improve the viewer experience in part by cutting commercial loads. Turner is not alone in that regard either.

She noted NBC’s recent announcement about reducing ads in Saturday Night Live and similar moves by other programmers.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that the industry is finally coming together to help support where we need to be to push this industry,” she says.

Like other network sales execs, Speciale is expecting the upfront to be red hot. Quarter after quarter, pricing and volume have been rising in scatter. “It has not let up. It is stronger than ever,” she says.

“The money in television is there. It’s not going away. I think in certain cases it’s coming back. There are certain clients I believe have realized that putting too much into digital has not been good for their ROI. I think digital and TV are a very strong combination. The key is how much of each. And that’s where the learnings are coming in.

“So I’ll be honest. It’s going to be strong,” she says. “When it hits, and how long it takes, I think, is going to be the question. But no doubt in my mind that this upfront will definitely be a strong marketplace for the sellers.”

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.