Big Data Might Cure Much That Ails Spot

BIA/Kelsey media buying veteran Maribeth Papuga examines the health of spot TV and advises station groups to work together to get smarter about who is watching their programs, create more relevant data and seek out new programs that might attract new audiences. She also says Big Data is what broadcasters need to reap the most benefits from programmatic or automated buying.

Earlier this month, former long-time media buyer and consultant Maribeth Papuga joined BIA/Kelsey as executive-in-residence where she will advise the media research and investment firm and clients on all things local.

She brings 25 years of experience to the task, mostly at MediaVest, where she was EVP, local investment and activation, and represented a host of national advertisers in their local buying across the key categories — Procter & Gamble, Heineken, Coca-Cola, Honda, Wendy’s and Comcast, among many others.

In this interview, Papuga talks about the prospects spot TV, one of many media battling to hold on and perhaps increase its share of the some $150 billion spent locally by local and national advertisers. Her advice to TV stations group: Get together and get smarter about who is watching your programs and seek out new programs that might attract new audiences. Big Data, she says, is also the key to making the most of programmatic or automated buying.

An edited transcript:

As you look across the different ad categories, which are interested in spot and which aren’t?

I think everyone is interested in spot, but top dollars have probably diminished a bit because buyers have to allocate marketing and media budgets across more players now just to accomplish the tasks that you might have accomplished with three or four different players in the past. 


Spot TV may see some resurgence of local spending because businesses are starting to lose share. There are probably local disrupters like Uber and AirBnB that are starting to creep into territory and steal some of those local dollars. That’s traditionally what forces someone to spend more money in the market — they are losing market share or they see a potential competitive threat.

Spot seems to be stuck with growth in the low single-digit range. How come?

If you look at trends over time, as media habits change you have got to reach consumers in more places than one. That’s where the dollars have been fragmented because people are looking at their plans and saying, you know, we’re going to miss people if we only look at television.

TV groups really need to look at how do they preserve ad spending. What’s happening is being clouded right now by the fact that there are other revenue streams coming in. There is this expectation that retransmission will go double digits forever, but the reality is — my perception is — that is not something you could count on forever. If you start losing more ad revenue, it’s going to be a fall over a precipice.

The sad part about all of this is the local measurements piece in TV.  You have got a fairly antiquated system. It doesn’t even measure advertising the way network broadcast does. So you have to really do something to demonstrate that people are still watching television. But that is where the huge opportunity is.

How’s that?

Broadcasters can take some action about understanding what the local markets are all about — how their content is received — and start building databases that can then ultimately feed a currency of some sort. 

So it may be a different currency than we have today. It may be part Nielsen. It could be in-market panels. It could be things that give you cross-media allocations.

So if broadcasters could figure out more about who is watching what programs, they could get a bigger piece of the pie?

And also I think it’s finding out what local audiences really want to watch. You know, a lot of what’s on TV has been on TV for years and years and years. Maybe there is an opportunity for some of these local programs that people are developing to gain a bigger share.

Maybe there is a way to look at the differences between markets. Small markets don’t have a lot of opportunity to get a lot of national dollars, but maybe they could if they could demonstrate that they have an audience you can’t reach in national.

How do stations go about developing relevant data?

You know, there is lots and lots of government open data that can set that foundation and demonstrate who those people are that live in that market, what their income levels are, how they commute every day.  The more information you have about people, their actual habits and trends, the better.

Broadcasters actually report on a lot of local stories. I may be leaping ahead, but there may be a way for news content to be trended into data, metadata, where stations could start actually analyzing how stories work and become aware of what viewers think. Maybe there is follow-through on Facebook and social media. If you could tie some of that data together, you could validate the importance of this programming to audiences and advertisers.

I take it you are aware that Nielsen is trying to improve its measurement in the diary markets through this code reader.  Do you give much hope to those efforts?

Any measurement company is sort of at a loss right now to come up with a full solution. This is nothing against Nielsen or Rentrak or any of those other services — they are trying to actually modernize what they are doing — but you need the whole industry to come along with you.

In other words, the broadcasters themselves need to invest more in this data measurement and viewer data?

Well, yeah. I don’t think that any one broadcaster should look at this as an individual effort. I think they need to look at it and say, alright, we’re going to come together as an industry.  We’re going to invite in the other broadcast guys — radio.

Maybe they even integrate some of these local digital and other channels. We will all vote and we will have people start investing in an audience data platform. I think even on a digital side, locally, you’re going to have a lot of trouble building audiences and building enough revenue if you don’t have the right data.

There has been an unusually high number of media agency accounts in review. What’s going on?

I don’t think there is any one reason. Contracts were up and it may not mean anything other than it was time to get a different perspectives. It’s like anything.  If you go shop for a car, you want to see what else is out there. Most of the accounts that are up for review are large, so that is adding to the angst everywhere.

TVB President Steve Lanzano says everybody has their own definition of programmatic buying. What’s yours?

So, programmatic grew up out of digital. It’s really about automating the process to find an audience, and serve them up an ad at the right time on the right site. It grew up in digital because there are so many publishers and so many opportunities to reach different targets that it was necessary to automate it.

Where television has gotten lost is just this sense of using that word loosely without determining what does it mean to what we do today. Programmatic is not the right word to use on the linear TV broadcast side. Automation is. 

Stations want to find a way that they can put their inventory out on a broader platform so that people could come in and not shop it, but perhaps see what is available and preselect what they think will work for them. This can particularly help smaller markets.

Say you have a small market investment of $25,000. It costs just as much labor to do a buy in that budget scenario as it does a $250,000 buy in larger markets. So I would say that some automation in our industry would be good.  I don’t think that serving up ads without having the targetability of audience is going to work in linear until you have the data to support it.

So we’re back to getting the right data to go with the ratings.

Right, you really want to figure that out. Think of the differences in newscasts. Even though they all look the same in a market, they do serve different audiences. People do put together a newscast to address certain segments and if we just look at that from a pure standpoint of, if you knew more about who those people were and what else they are doing and how they actually work with different devices, maybe in time, you will find that they are a majority of people who get all their information via television or maybe there are other ways that they choose to view some of your other content.

If they like your content, where does that content go and how else are you reaching them and how can you deliver ads with that content?  So it’s coming up with new ways to deliver this audience to advertisers because all we have right now is the demographic, which is just age and sex.

Some broadcasters think that by going programmatic, a lot of money that has been going into digital will be diverted to spot.  Do you think that is wishful thinking or is that realistic?

There is a sense that my audience should be just as good as what you are buying in digital. I agree. It’s just that it’s two different languages. So in a way, you need an exchange rate. You need to know that if you are going to go after those dollars, what are you holding?  What are you improving on the digital side?  How are you actually making this a more effective buy for the digital buyer, especially digital video?

There is actually a growth spurt in digital video requirements now, but they are two different platforms and two different measurement systems. Even a local digital site of a TV station has to find a way to participate in a much broader cross-market. For platform growth, digital buyers may not necessarily consider them because they are not going to just look for market A because they are linear unless they have a real need for that market. Most of the digital buys right now are national or they are for certain geographies that they have put together.

Comments (3)

Leave a Reply

Ellen Wycuff says:

June 29, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Perhaps not the level being asked for here, stations do have qualitative data. However when presented to most buyers, they nod politely and then in so many words say ‘I have to bring in and post it out with NSI’. Perhaps a better collaboration is not just between groups but stations and agencies.

Matthew Castonguay says:

June 30, 2015 at 10:35 am

Buyers don’t make these decisions…people who allocate budgets across media do. But in any event, the transactional buyer posting simply on NSI is doomed, just as the transactional TV salesperson on the flip side is. Can you say – programmatic?

    Brian Bussey says:

    July 2, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Nope, I cannot and neither can my clients. I asked.

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