How Viacom’s Vantage Ad Unit Goes to the Movies

Viacom, one of the first media companies to jump into the data-driven ad sales business, is ready for a close up with big spending movie studio clients.

The company is introducing Viacom Vantage Studio Edition, which accounts for the special marketing needs for films and utilizes a data set that provides title level information about which households like to see which pictures.

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The result is more people likely to be interested in a particular film will see ads for that picture and buy a ticket, Viacom says.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman mentioned the Vantage Movie Edition while discussing the company's quarterly earnings.

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The announcement comes just as the upfront is going to unfold. Like other media companies, Viacom is expecting a big upfront, partly because there are a large number of kids and family-type films that will need to advertising on youth-oriented networks like Nickelodeon and MTV.  And Viacom expects many of its largest clients to include Vantage programs in their upfront buys.

The Big Picture

Viacom Vantage uses data and predictive algorithms to create media schedules designed to reach precisely defined, custom target audiences for advertisers. And, according to Bryson Gordon, senior VP of data strategy, after three years, Viacom had worked for clients in a number of industries, but discovered that a unique set of rules applied to the movie business, where a product comes and goes quickly.

Vantage worked particularly closely with Paramount Pictures, also a part of Viacom, in developing Studio Edition, its first product aimed at an individual category.

“We came to the realization that there was an opportunity to create a unique product that was actually going to be custom tailored to those needs,” Gordon said.

Double Feature

Studios require two approaches that need to be balanced. On one hand, they need advanced targeting to find people who are going to have the highest propensity to go see that film. “This is about the low-hanging fruit,” Gordon said.

“However you want to balance that with broad-reach optimized awareness,” he added, because movies are created to reach mass audiences. “And so this is this sweet spot between advanced targeting and [run of schedule], where we’re bringing some of the intelligence behind how we think about targeting to actually deliver de-duplicated broad reach across a broader buy as part of the overarching media plan.”

Behind the Camera

The engine that powers the dual needs of the Studio Edition is called the Telecast-Level Multi-Goal Optimizer, although Gordon concedes the company needs to come up with a catchier name.

“This multi-goal optimizer is fundamentally what is allowing us to balance on one hand the sophisticated predictive model for reaching the high-value segment with this broad-de-duplicated reach.

The other key to Vantage Studio Edition is the addition of the data base that provides title-level movie purchase behavior matched to individual households.

Rolling the Credits

“Historically what you’ve been able to do is use credit card data to look at people who spend money on the movies. But that doesn’t tell you whether they saw Star Wars and The Hunger Games," Gordon said.

“So now what we’ve been able to do is actually get title level data, match that to the 40 million households that we have through our comScore-Rentrak partnership, and by doing that it actually lets us go and drive very granular level predictions that help us find people who are going to be very good targets for whatever film is being promoted because we can actually look at the specific ticket purchase behavior at the title level for that household.”

That means that Viacom can find people who like Bill Murray movies, or romantic comedies, or science fiction and target them when a film that might appeal to them is coming out.

Family Films

“We can also look at ticket types,” Gordon added. “We can look at transactions where you have adult tickets and children’s tickets in the same transaction. That would mean that’s a family that goes to movies together.”

Viacom recently ran a test campaign for a new movie and running it through Viacom Studio Edition, using its capabilities to track which people see ads and which people buy tickets.

Vantage found that people who saw no TV ads were 59% below average in their likelihood to see the film. If similar people see just one TV ad, their purchase rate increased 70%. People who saw a trailer for the film on a Viacom network were 72% more likely to see the film than the people who saw the film on non-Viacom network.

And finally, people who saw a trailer on a Viacom network and also were exposed to integrated marketing messages created by Viacom’s Velocity branded content unit were 3.7 times more likely to purchase a ticket.

”This was a really interesting example of what we could do with the data to understand the impact of TV, the power of television,” Gordon said. “ But it also shows the granularity with which we can access this data source to go and help our studio clients create very powerful and advanced media plans.”

Surprise Ending

Gordon says the aim is not to have studios restrict their ad spending or try to reach fewer people while still filling theaters. Instead the goal is to reach the same number of people but have them be the people most likely to buy a ticket to that particular picture.

“Viacom is going to deliver even more value to the studios for the spending they bring to us,” he said.

For now, Vantage Studio Edition, makes buy recommendations and optimizes only for Viacom networks.

But if it works so well, wouldn’t it be helpful if it was able to optimize for all of the networks a studio might want to buy?

Gordon says clients haven’t asked and Vantage will cross that bridge when it gets to it.

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.