Omniplatform Media Buys Are Complicated

Station sales staffs today face the challenge of delivering the traditional type of buyer connection with viewers even when those viewers are consuming video across multiple platforms. Here are suggestions offered at MFM’s Media Finance Forum 2016.

TV stations, other traditional audience delivery platforms, and the advertising community are all in the same place in their relationship with digital media advertising; it’s complicated. One of their greatest challenges is finding a simple solution for marrying television programming’s ability to attract the audience the advertiser wants with ensuring that viewers become paying customers.

These really aren’t new relationships and TV’s successfully managed them before. Consider its decades long and successful history with direct response — PI (per inquiry) — ads and infomercials. The difference today is finding a way to deliver that same type of buyer connection when viewers are consuming video across multiple media platforms.

Further complicating the relationship is that selling a car or getting someone to visit a restaurant requires a different level of engagement than simply picking up the phone to order a Ginsu knife or any one of Ron Popeil’s compelling products.

The challenges around demonstrating TV’s added value in an omniplatform media buy was one of the hot topics at last month’s Media Finance Focus 2016, the 56th annual conference for MFM and its BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association.

Sessions included a discussion during which Ana Townsend, assistant controller at Bonten Media, and J.W. Linkenauger, director of advertising support operations for Sinclair Broadcast Group, described how station groups of all sizes are trying to meet expectations from local marketers.

The Need For Omniplatform Metrics


One of the challenges they discussed was the lack of metrics that demonstrate how a TV buy helped to make the sale. Echoing a common refrain across the industry, Townsend reminded attendees: “We need an easy way to retrieve the data and perform the analytics advertisers want.”

Linkenauger agreed, saying: “We should be making it easier for our buyers to buy and our sellers to sell but instead it’s becoming more difficult.” That’s one of the reasons Sinclair created a data warehouse that helps to ensure company-wide consistency in how the media buys are processed and coded.

A big part of the problem has been ensuring advertisers are using consistent metrics when valuing their cross-platform video buys. In a session concerning total audience measurement, Tony Hereau, VP of audience insights for Nielsen, used the example of initial reactions to a news story last fall from Yahoo and the NFL that a game streamed online generated 15.2 million unique global views.

That’s an impressive stat when compared to the average audience of 17.6 million for a national broadcast, which was what was shared in the press release. But since, as Hereau pointed out, TV audience numbers are based upon an average commercial minute, “an apples to apples comparison would lower those 15.2 million unique views to an audience of 2.4 million global viewers, including 1.5 million from the U.S.”

As these comparisons suggest, digital viewers are still a small percentage of the total video audience when using consistent cross-platform metrics. Hereau told conference attendees that the firm’s preliminary Total Audience Measurement analysis has found the digital component of a cross-platform TV show added anywhere from 1.6% to 2.4% of the viewers for those TV shows.  

Automating And Integrating Ad Management Systems

As Sinclair’s Linkenauger noted above, very little about omniplatform selling is easy for a station’s account reps. Bonten Media’s Ana Townsend said her sales team typically has to enter much of the data involved in making a cross-media buy manually.

That’s a stark contrast to digital media’s potential for providing the full spectrum of analytics, purchasing, proof of performance and traffic and billing processes using lightening fast automated and integrated solutions.

For Linkenauger, integrating yield management into these automated processes is also going to be critical in order for stations to participate in the shift toward programmatic media buying. The panelists agreed that yield management metrics will allow stations to sell more of their premium inventory via programmatic tools as well as lower the risk of undervaluing the remnant spots that are currently being sold via automated platforms.

Programmatic will become even more important when stations upgrade to ATSC 3.0. Centriply President Scott Stansfield predicted that offering the geo-targeting and interactive advertising available on other digital media platforms will allow stations to sell spot TV for three-times their current value.

Culture Change

Another big challenge raised by Townsend and Linkenauger is shifting both sellers and buyers from focusing solely on TV spots. Townsend said Bonten added a digital media sales consultant to its ad sales teams to help ensure a client’s digital ad budget isn’t being allocated to another media provider.

In addition to increasing the total media buy from current customers, the strategy has been helpful in selling the station’s digital media inventory to local businesses that have never considered TV. Over time, the stations are able to show these clients how adding TV to their omniplatform purchases will improve their ROI.

Bonten’s approach also illustrates the role of culture change in getting an organization to adapt to the omniplatform world. Someone with a lot of experience in this area is Jason Taylor, who led the transition to digital at newspapers owned by WHECO Media and Gannett prior to becoming president of GateHouse Media’s Western U.S. publishing operations and its GateHouse Live! events division.

In a highly charged keynote, Taylor reminded conference participants that it isn’t just the company’s sales reps that gravitate toward the familiar way of doing their jobs. Adopting an omniplatform mindset requires company-wide culture change. His list of ways that financial and credit managers need to be part of that change includes such activities as:

  • Sitting in on sales meetings and helping to resolve the roadblocks that are getting in the way of selling digital.
  • Conducting ride-alongs with sales reps. “Just doing one a month would help to ensure you have seen how each member of the team is adapting to the new offering within a year’s time.”
  • Holding product knowledge contests with the station’s personnel. “Don’t be worried about giving away too many prizes if you ask them to recall last night’s top local news story; when we first tried this, our sales people weren’t able to recall the top three stories that ran on page one of the Sunday paper.”
  • Be involved in your local communities and put them first. “I am always surprised when I see TV stations focusing on national news stories within the first minutes of their broadcasts; that’s a missed opportunity and your competition isn’t likely to make the same mistake.”

You will be able to read more of Taylor’s recommendations in the July-August issue of MFM’s The Financial Manager (TFM) magazine, which will be mailed to our members early next month. The digital version will be available on the MFM website later in July.

With six keynote speeches and more than 80 sessions tackling issues including becoming an omniplatform media provider, our attendees came away with, as we promised in our conference theme, three days packed with the “knowledge, networking, and new ideas” that will help them to be leaders of change within their stations and companies.

Sharing some of that wisdom with you helps us fulfill MFM’s educational mission. We can take full advantage of opportunities like ATSC 3.0’s role in omniplatform audience delivery only if we have the tools, training and commitment they require.

I invite you to participate in the MFM mission by becoming involved with the association. Like all good relationships, omniplatform advertising, the ATSC transition and other initiatives — including accounting for the impact of the spectrum auction — are going to take some work to be successful.

Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her column appears in TVNewsCheck every other week. You can read her earlier columns here.

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