Turner Offers Data-Driven Products to Upfront Clients

While a lot of people in the TV business are looking ahead to the future, Turner Broadcasting’s upfront pitch has centered on what it calls Media Now. Turner has picked some of the hottest buzzwords in the ad sales business— data and content marketing— and put together products that are ready for a limited number of advertisers to take advantage of in the upcoming TV season.

“We believe it’s important sometimes to step back and understand that while it’s critical to have a point of view for the future, it’s equally important that upfront advertisers need real opportunities that they can plan for now and that are still relevant over the next 12 to 16 months,” says Frank Sgrizzi, executive VP, Turner Entertainment ad sales.

Turner has been doing a road show, visiting agencies and some advertisers to give them a look at both its portfolio of content and its new network strategies.

Sgrizzi says what Turner has to offer starts with great content on its big cable networks TNT and TBS. Turner also has digital opportunities that deliver better targeting and measurement and additional opportunities for content marketing. For this upfront, Turner has created a suite of ad products that work best with integrated, multiplatform campaigns.

The first ad product is called Targeting Now. With Targeting Now, the agency and brand communicate a behavioral target. Turner works with them to find the places on its schedule where those audiences show up in greater concentrations. “We will optimize their plan, spot by spot, using proven single-source data,” he says.

Sgrizzi says Targeting Now has been tested and the first times out of the gate it has produced huge increases in reach against that behavioral target. “We’ve run it against nine different categories and we’re talking about double-digit increases,” he says. Those results have some advertisers very interested, he adds.

“We think this will no doubt be a game-changer and we think it is really focusing in on what advertisers are more concerned about,” Sgrizzi says. “If you think about it, your media buying demo is not your real target. An 18-year-old and a 49-year-old are very different. They buy different stuff. So your real targets are the people most likely to buy your products.”

At this point addressable advertising isn’t scalable and traditional demos are still the currency used for making media buys. “What this does is offer a solution right now to a select number of advertisers and agencies, a better way of targeting,” Sgrizzi says. Turner can only do Targeting Now with a limited number of clients because it is labor intensive. He hopes it will become more automated and more scalable in the future.

Given the extra work involved in identifying viewers in the behavioral target, will it cost advertisers more? “I’m not going to get into the pricing aspect of it. Let’s just say we feel there’s far greater value in an approach like this and we feel the advertising community will agree,” Sgrizzi says.

Many Happy Returns?

Does reaching a better target result in more sales for the advertiser? Turner thinks it can answer that question with a product it calls ROI Now. Return on Investment has long been a crucial yet elusive measure for marketers looking to prove that their advertising works.

ROI Now starts by using single-source research data from trustworthy sources. “We identify the people who saw the promotion. We track their online behavior and their buying behavior and then we compare them to a control group,” he says. “You can see the full picture: The sales of the brand and the impact of your efforts.”

Turner has also beefed up its content marketing effort. “We believe branded content works, but it only works if people see it. And what we found in our research is it works best when people see it on multiple screens,” Sgrizzi says.

The Funny or Die website has become essentially a branded content studio for Turner. “They get it. They understand how to communicate a brand message and they do it in the tone of the advertisers,” he says.

One recent Funny Or Die video, created for Fiat and called “Backseat Italian,” shows the stylish car’s surprising roominess by suggesting it comes with an Italian family in the car as standard equipment.

“It’s a very clever spot, and it reached over 50 million people across TBS, our digital properties and other social platforms in a four-to-six-week window,” Sgrizzi says. “Most people will create a piece of branded content and cross their fingers and hope that people see it. We’ve eliminated that aspect to it. We now know the formula for using these platforms to produce incredible results.”

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.