Turner Using Xandr Data for Targeted Ad Products

Xandr, AT&T’s data and technology-driven advertising business and Turner, acquired by AT&T last year, have quickly made a connection that they say will enhance the way Turner targets audiences for marketers.

Part of the rationale for AT&T’s $85 billion acquisition of Turner’s parent Time Warner (now AT&T’s WarnerMedia unit) was that the data from AT&T’s 170 million TV, phone and broadband customers would make Turner’s advertising inventory more valuable.

Turner already had been one of the leaders among programmers using data to target its clients’ potential customers more precisely than the traditional age and sex demographics provided by Nielsen.

“Very rarely do two companies come together that have complete alignment on vision,” said Donna Speciale, president of Turner ad sales. “To me what’s amazing right now is it’s only been six months and I think you can see that so much has happened in such a short period of time.”

Turner and Xandr have collaborated on four initiatives that are available to clients immediately:

  • Turner’s AudienceNow targeted ad product will use first-party data from AT&T set-top boxes instead of generic data available from other market sources.
  • Xandr’s data capabilities to deliver more relevant ads on Turner’s digital properties such as CNN.com and Bleacher Report.
  • Distribution of the branded content Turner creates will be expanded to Xandr’s 15 million home addressable TV advertising footprint.
  • Data from AT&T’s customers will be used in prove how much consumer behavior can be attributed to Turner ad campaigns.

AT&T Mobility in the fourth quarter beta-tested the souped up version of AudienceNow using first-party data and got an enhanced result.

Several brands have already signed up to use the new products in the first quarter, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise and L’Oreal Paris, which will be distributing branded content created by Turner with addressable TV inventory in addition to the social media outlets Turner had been using.

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“HPE has had a long-standing partnership in innovation with Turner. First-to-market programs in content creation and targeted reach via addressable TV are the latest examples of that – ensuring our branded content is additive and not interuptive to the overall viewer experience,” said Marissa Freeman, chief brand officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

The new initiatives illustrate that despite considerable hurdles, including an appeal by the Justice Department of a court ruling approving the deal, AT&T’s notion of a new type of media company is taking shape, according to Mike Welch, senior VP, corporate strategy and development at Xandr, re-named last year for AT&T founder Alexander Graham Bell.

“There have been a couple of pretty significant acquisition and mergers over the last several years where there was a promise to do something similar, combining data and distribution and content and technology. And those mergers have had very mixed results in terms of their ability to deliver the goods on the combination of all those things,” said Welch.

“We’ve got four tangible use cases in just six months where we have combined the new AT&T’s set of assets and enhanced products both for advertisers as well as made the experience more relevant for consumers,” Welch added. “That’s a promise some of those other big mergers still have yet to live up to,so we’re justifiably proud of what we’ve done and it’s just the beginning.”

Xandr has ambitions of building a cross-screen platform that will be not just by AT&T owned businesses but by a wide swath of the industry.

“The whole vision for Xandr is to create a marketplace for premium advertising centered in video and we’re starting with Turner for obvious reasons,” said Welch, who noted that the pending Justice Dept. appeal hasn’t affected AT&T advertising business..

“But our goal of building this marketplace will include all programmers and publishers and we think it will be the most robust cross-screen solution out there in the market. No one really has put together a true cross-screen premium marketplace inclusive of the one that’s always conspicuously absent and that’s the television screen,” he said. “I think that’s where Xandr is really focused is bringing both TV and digital together in a unified buy.”

"The fourth-quarter beta test of using set-top box data from DirecTV’s 25 million homes was a campaign aimed at military families for AT&T Mobility. The campaign delivered 30% more of the target audience than if they had used more traditional data," Speciale said.

Beginning in the first quarter, all of Turner’s AudineceNow campaigns will employ the Xandr data.

“It’s now part of our product, our enhanced product,” Speciale said. “Advertisers are going to have a much more robust audience segment and hopefully the business outcomes, when we can tie attribution to it, down the road there will be much stronger proof points.”

That should convince more advertisers to shift money to audience buys from traditional demo buys she said.

“Our goal is that we’re going to get a lot more clients used to diving into more audience focused buying and getting off of traditional,” Speciale said. “This will definitely do that,”

Already signed up for the first quarter are advertisers in the auto, financial and technology categories.

The branded content Turner creates will be more effective with the addition of Xandr’s addressable households.

“The branded content space for marketers has always been a challenge. It’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of expense and they’re always wanted it to be more scalable,” Speciale said. “Now we’re going to be able to push it out on the addressable on DirecTV. They’re on 75 networks, This is not just going to be pushed out onto Turner networks. This is going to be pushed out on every network they can touch with the content we create. That a huge, huge gain for marketers,” she said.

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The L’Oreal campaign is part of the company’s ongoing sponsorship of TBS and TNT’s presentation of the 25th Annual SAG awards and will feature the company’s Rouge Signature collection of bold matte lip inks.

Marketers will also be able to access Xandr Audience Segments through Turners digital content properties, which reach more than 135 million unique users monthly. Marketers can buy director from Turner or programmatically across all of Turner’s digital properties.

Turner has already closed and executed eight campaign using this capability on CNN Digital.

Speciale sees these new products as the next step in Turner’s efforts to convince the the industry that it needs to be more more data driven and targeted to succeed.

“I’ve been on the road for the past two months talking to clients and giving them a peek under the hood of what we’ve been talking about and they’re in the next year or two they’re going to test the waters and help us create what these products should look like for marketplace,” she said. “And then it will be ready for primetime with scale when Xandr creates the holistic industry platform for everybody.”

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.