Data Driving Viacom’s Media Buying to Support Networks

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Viacom, which wants advertisers to buy its data-driven advertising products like Viacom Vantage, is embracing data and programmatic technology to support its own networks, including MTV.

When it comes to ad sales, major programmers have been moving slowly because of concerns that they can lose control over inventory and pricing in an automated environment. But as a buyer, “we wholeheartedly embrace programmatic,” says Julian Zilberbrand, executive VP of audience science at Viacom.

Viacom is using programmatic to buy digital media, including display, native, social video and mobile. In a fragmented and changing environment, “our job is to find those people in an environment where it’s going to be most relevant to see a marketing message,” Zilberbrand says.

MTV has used programmatic to take advantage of the first-party data Viacom collects across all of its brands. “We can use our in-house data to simply re-target our current fan bases of each of our shows and save a lot of time, money, work and resources,” says Mindy Stockfield, senior VP of consumer marketing at MTV.

Stockfield says that when MTV wanted to promote the latest season of Teen Wolf, “we didn’t have to go back out there and say, ‘We’re going to reach females 18 to 24.’ We don’t have to be so big. We can be very specific because we have the data set and the cookie data to go back and retarget them programmatically.” Data was also used to promote MTV’s new series Greatest Party Story Ever, which launched a few weeks ago. MTV didn’t have another animated series on the air to create comparisons, so it used data from Comedy Central’s long-running South Park to find viewers with an affinity for that genre.

“It really provided a very easy and cost-efficient way for us to go reach a fan base,” Stockfield says.

MTV has looked for new viewers for its channel among viewers who are starting get a bit old for Nickelodeon, Viacom’s kids’ network. “We’ve been very pleased,” Stockfield says of the results.

Like most in the programmatic business, Zilberbrand has a definition of what the buzzword means.

“Programmatic is large-scale automation using a mix of real-time systems, machine-based transactions and algorithmic intelligence that enables marketers to serve multichannel placements from a single dashboard, with data acting as the primary driver in campaign creation, creative intelligence, implementation and optimization,” says Zilberbrand, who joined Viacom last year from media buyer ZenithOptimedia.

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“That’s a mouthful,” he concedes, “but long story short, we’re using technology to enable the data to be the driver of the decision-making on how you reach your targeted consumer.”

Zilberbrand couldn’t say how much of Viacom’s spending is now going through programmatic channels. But using data-enriched systems has produced a “measurable improvement in efficiency and performance... we can enhance and optimize more effectively,” he says.

He acknowledges that right now there’s a lot of noise surrounding programmatic. And that programmatic TV remains a while away from being a reality.

“But in my mind the concept of being able to use data to drive your marketing decisions is something that will be ubiquitous across all genres of marketing,” Zilberbrand adds. “And so the sooner we embrace the concept of data as a decision-maker, the better we are positioned for marketing in the future.”

Jon Lafayette

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.