Ad sellers — broadcasters and cable networks — are wading deeper into data pools so that they are helping advertisers and their agencies program-target their buys and avoid undervaluing their time.
Local broadcast news has traditionally captured the majority of political advertising dollars in election years. But there may be a noticeable shift into other media during the midterm election season this fall — at least among clients of the Republican-focused research firm, Deep Roots Analytics.
Deep Root President Brent McGoldrick says he is advising political clients to look to Fox Sports’ Home Team Sports where local games can be purchased as an alternative to the tried-and-true local news.
“[Local sports is] under-bought relative to what the data is showing,” says McGoldrick, whose clients include Republican governors and members of Congress and PACs.
Such data is what Deep Roots is all about. Tapping a variety of sources, it identifies voting blocs — Trump-weary Republicans that may vote Democratic, for instance — and determines what shows they are watching. Then, it’s a simple matter of buying those shows.
Right now, the political buyers have the edge using data to target voters, McGoldrick says. “Political campaigns will always know more about the audience they’re trying to target than the broadcasters do. In the data arms race between buyers and sellers, the sellers have to catch up.”
However, there is mounting evidence that sellers — broadcasters and cable networks — are wading deeper into data pools so that they are helping advertisers and their agencies — political and commercial — program-target their buys and avoid undervaluing their time.
E.W. Scripps has launched MarketPredict, a service that provides live, predictive data modeling to help political campaigns and agencies.
“The differentiation gets down to a change from a cost-per-thousand or cost-per-point currency to a cost-per-converted-consumer,” says Michael O’Brien, VP of distribution at Scripps.
O’Brien refrains from giving away MarketPredict’s secret sauce, but essentially it is taking data sets from multiple sources, including info from a particular campaign regarding their targeted voters.
MarketPredict comes up with recommendations about where a given campaign should advertise to sway particular voters — and it does so across TV, digital, social media as well as earned media related to things like debate performance or candidate appearances.
“We are running some very small tests right now at the local level with two different [ad] segments to see if it is just as useful. One is automotive and one is health care,” says Scripps’ Eisha Armstrong, managing director of analytics.
Russell Zingale, president of media agency U.S. International Media, points to a campaign in which his agency partnered with Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media on a health-oriented campaign.
The campaign mixed Nielsen and comScore to target people with household incomes under $30,000.
Sinclair’s researchers did a painstaking, quarter-hour by quarter-hour analysis of comScore data to determine what programs the lower-income households were watching where the ads ran, then they optimized a separate part of the campaign in three markets: Cincinnati; Little Rock, Ark.; and Washington.
In the larger, national campaign, “we out-delivered adults 25-54, and we also out-delivered, by 11.7%, the lower-income target,” says Jonathan Spaet, Sinclair’s VP of network sales and development.
“It was nice for the client, because it was an effective way of getting local news, and it was nice for us because we got to try something new,” adds Zingale.
That campaign ran quite some time ago, in 2016. But it’s a landmark campaign, in Spaet’s view, because, as a result of its success, he was able to buy access to more rich data sources for future campaigns.
TiVo, the DVR set-top company, is supplying targeting data for clients, mostly pharmaceutical companies, travel and content marketing, says Walt Horstman, its SVP and GM of advanced media and advertising.
Recently, TiVo was involved in a campaign for the premiere of a TV show and targeted certain viewers known to watch programs in the same genre as the debuting show.
“What we found with the targeting was a 41% lift in viewership for the premiere. Then as we followed on, after the premiere, we saw a 63% lift for the second episode,”
TiVo derives data from its own devices as well as cable set-top boxes, then adds in first-party data sets or third-party behavioral data sets based on individual campaign needs.
To date, much of the targeting activity has involved cable networks, but broadcasters’ role as a data collector and user may be expanding.
In addition to all the behavioral data available from the long-established Nielsen, there are newer data-centric services. Sinclair and Hearst Television have invested in Sorenson Media, which launched last year and tracks consumer behavior with smart-TV data. Tom Roberts, CMO of Sorenson, says about 100 stations have signed on so far.
Another TV station group said to be on the cutting edge of using data for spot sales is Cox Media.
Cox executives declined to be interviewed for this story. However, Corey Elliott, VP of research at Borrell Associates, says his firm has been working with Cox on a project that blends Polk auto registration data with auto dealers’ customer bases to identify likely buyers.
Combined with statistics indicating which households are likely to buy certain car brands, Cox had the ability to present clients with attractive opportunities, he says. “A lot of that [analysis] was to help the stations’ digital capability.”
Automated ad selling platforms like Videa and WideOrbit are also expected to make it increasingly easy to access and analyze rich data. Right now, they’re in the early stages of adding research to their systems.
Broadcasters may plunge more deeply into data-based advertising if they can successfully deploy the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard with its ad-targeting capability.
It is in trials now. “Because it’s part of the ATSC 3.0 standard, it’s applicable across all the platforms — broadcast, OTT, mobile,” said Nil Shah, CEO of Verance.
“Local television is at the start of a renaissance,” said Steve Walsh, EVP of local markets at comScore, which is doing its own part to offer richer data.
“TV 10 years ago was looking down the tunnel and saw a light, but didn’t know if it was a train or an opportunity. We know now that it’s an opportunity.”