Turner Ups Audience Buys in Upfront Deals with Clients

In a strong upfront overall, Turner seems to have achieved its objective in getting clients to spend more of their ad dollars on data-targeted campaigns.

Before the upfront, Turner president David Levy called on clients to shift 5% of their TV budgets from traditional demographic to the kind of advanced advertising Turner was among the leaders in creating.

According to sources familiar with the situation, Turner clients have committed to spending five times the dollars on target-audience based campaigns in this year’s upfront compared to a year ago.

Clients also increased their commitments to Turner’s digital platforms, including video-on-demand and over the top.

Turner was recently acquired by AT&T, which has ambitious plans to use its data to boost the yield on Turner’s advertising. The ruling that cleared the way for AT&T to buy Turner is being appealed by the Justice Dept.

From a traditional point of view, Turner got higher prices for advertising, garnering low double-digit gains, and an increase in dollar volume in the low to mid-single digits. Both figures were slightly higher than estimates of market overall.

Related: Turner Moves to Make Advanced Advertising Easier

Levy and other Turner executives declined to comment on the upfront.

Before the upfront, Levy said he didn’t want advertisers to change the way they advertising only at Turner.

“It’s an industry call-out,” he said. “This industry has to start spending 5% of their dollars on audience buying. As an industry we’re not getting enough clients to come in."

“This is the time, this is the year, when audience buying is a must. People are going to start getting left behind if they don’t start doing it.”

Levy’s 5% harkens back to the early days of cable, when ad agency Ted Bates decided to spend 5% of its TV budget on cable.

“Back then, people knew cable worked,” he said. “They knew it was going to help build reach and frequency. Now, if you want to build ROI, you need to get into audience-based targeting.”

During Turner’s upfront presentation in May, Donna Speciale, president of ad sales for Turner, said the programmer would be making it easier for clients to buy ads in a new way.

“TV ratings are no longer our sole success metric and they shouldn't be yours either. We must not just value TV but the whole ecosystem,” she said.

Speciale said Turner would be creating plans that would include viewing on linear, digital and social platforms.

“We will make it simple for you. This upfront we will create one unified plan to buy all of our audiences across all of our platforms,” she said. “You can target by demo or by audience segment. And because we don't believe in grading our own homework, we've aligned with reputable third parties to verify your campaign on the back end. That's one plan, one guarantee and third-party verifying,” she said.

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.