Turner Puts Its Upfront in Context

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It’s all context all the time for Turner Broadcasting in this year’s upfront.

Linda Yaccarino, executive VP and COO of Turner Entertainment Ad Sales/Marketing and Acquisitions, says that all of the group’s sponsorships and integrations will be contextually relevant next season. “We unveiled that in the marketplace about a month ago, and everything from an old-fashioned billboard to custom spots that could air in our original programming, they’re all part of the context initiative,” Yaccarino says.

Turner’s inContext program is designed to put “the right commercial in the right place at the right time,” Yaccarino adds. To do that, Turner originally catalogued all the scenes in all of its scripted shows so that it could find relevant places for clients’ marketing messages to create a platform it called TVinContext. That allows Turner to place an ad for a matchmaking service after a scene about a bad date. InContext has been expanded to custom content and integrations and large-scale marketing partnerships to help build relevance for advertisers.

A recent example comes in TNT’s original series The Closer, sponsored by Hershey’s. In one scene, Kyra Sedgwick’s candy-loving character is seen rifling through her desk drawer to fi nd a Hershey bar. Costar G.W. Bailey locates the chocolate, opens it and gives it to Sedgwick. That scene is followed by a vignette featuring a couple: The woman deduces that the man has gone out to secretly buy chocolate. He fesses up, producing a Hershey bar. That’s followed by a bumper announcing that The Closer is brought to you by Hershey’s and then, finally, a Hershey’s commercial airs.

Priming consumers to get ready to receive a sponsor’s messages works, Yaccarino says: “That’s the backbone of media planning or contextual planning for years and years.” Turner has been working with research company Ameritest, which measures consumer receptivity to ad messages.

“On average, it delivers at least 25% increased receptivity,” Yaccarino says. “Our customers who invested in this early on have been enjoying those kinds of results. And now the lions’ share of our customers can participate and take advantage.”

Yaccarino wouldn’t say how much extra it charges to help clients get that 25% lift in receptivity. “I would say that in the continued effort at Turner networks to innovate and offer our clients a bigger return on investment—and they push us for more measurement and more accountability— they’re happy with the context relationship.”

Buyers note that Turner is usually among the most aggressive in pricing. “Everything they do is to increase the price of their inventory,” says one buyer.

But improved receptivity is not being guaranteed by Turner, which is still basing sales on traditional costper- thousand viewer metrics.

“We want to be user-friendly to our customer, so of course every deal is done with a CPM agreement, but these sponsorship enhancements are part of the negotiation. So whether it’s custom or embedded in some of our programming, that’s a unique negotiation for each deal,” Yaccarino says.

“The key thing about this is it’s unique to the entire television marketplace,” she adds. “We’ve all read about some successful initiatives out there, whether driven by an advertiser or another network. This has reached an important threshold of 100% scale, meaning it’s everything we do.”

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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.