WarnerMedia Pitches Power of AT&T Data

The WarnerMedia upfront will seem familiar to those who attended Turner’s event a year ago — with the addition of a new not-so-secret ingredient.

Turner was acquired last year when AT&T bought Time Warner. AT&T combined Time Warner’s Turner, HBO and Warner Bros. units into WarnerMedia. The Turner brand is being phased out.

Though something of a coming out for WarnerMedia, much of the presentation on Wednesday won’t change that much. “I’m going to showcase the content like we always do,” Donna Speciale, WarnerMedia Group’s president of ad sales, said. Conan O’Brien, Anderson Cooper and Shaquille O’Neal will again be there. In addition to clips of the Turner cable network series, Otter Media’s digital media properties Crunchyroll and Rooster Teeth will be featured.

But this year, Speciale will be introducing WarnerMedia’s special sauce: the data and analytics it now has access to from AT&T advertising unit, Xandr.

Turner Had Pushed Data Deals

Under Speciale, Turner pushed clients to do deals that were not based on the traditional broad age/sex demographics. Instead, she said the industry’s future lay in more targeted campaigns, using data to identify audiences most likely to respond to an ad message.

She plans to include in her presentation a case study or two showing how much better targeted campaigns work when they’re infused with the AT&T data.

WarnerMedia and Xandr began their collaboration last year and began pitching clients during CES.

In the first half of 2019, WarnerMedia has run 25 audience-based TV campaigns using the AT&T data and insights from Xandr. WarnerMedia also ran more than 200 digital campaigns using the Xandr data.

“Now we can be a lot smarter,” Speciale said. “The AT&T data is so powerful and has such enormous reach, with 170 million consumer touch points, that it is now setting us apart from other media companies that don’t have access to this data.”

“It’s not the future,” she said. “It’s reality. That’s why I want to have some proof points at this upfront. To really show it’s happening. It’s working and it’s real. We’re proving that the big screen works just like digital does in bringing business metrics to clients.”

That leads to a natural next step.

“I truly believe is that my goal this year is to have guarantees on business outcomes,” Speciale said. “I want to get away from the traditional demo guarantees. I want to take it to the next level with attribution and have business outcomes be the guarantee that we do business on.”

Working with Xandr and having access to the AT&T data means WarnerMedia can turn around its reports quickly. “Clients will be able to make better decisions about what their next campaign should be.” But Speciale said that even the best data can’t work without human input.

“We have to be very clear about bringing content into that conversation,” she said. “The art and science are the key. It can’t all be science. There is a human element here that we need to touch.”

Xandr is hosting its own event on Tuesday morning, but don’t call it an upfront. “We’re a complement to what the upfronts are doing,” Xandr chief marketing officer Kirk McDonald said. “We’re bringing data and technology to bear so we can add some enhancements to what they do.”

WarnerMedia’s networks have fans, and Xandr can help reach those fans more effectively, he said, noting that unlike some other merger situations, WarnerMedia and Xandr moved quickly to work together. Xandr wants to work not just with WarnerMedia, but with other programmers. Xandr can help fill in some of the gaps in the media buying process at a time when marketers are looking for more control.

Xandr to Promote New Tools

At its Xandr Front, the company will be making announcements about some new capabilities, McDonald said.

A year ago, Turner pledged that it would get its clients to spend at least 5% of their TV budget on audience-based buying.

“We hit that number in the upfront,” Speciale said. And while she’s not setting a target this year, WarnerMedia is looking for growth in its data-driven ad products.

A big part of the WarnerMedia presentation will involve the company’s upcoming, three-tiered, ad-supported, direct-to-consumer streaming product.

Speciale said she’s been involved in figuring out its advertising profile.

“What I love about the AVOD product is it’s basically a clean slate,” she said. “We’ve been reducing commercial loads. We obviously know that is not an easy task to do, to try to undo a lot of history. Now with the AVOD product, we’re going to have an open slate and kind of create it from scratch. So that’s really what we’ve been working on more so.”

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.