This is a guest post authored by Andrew Tint, Programmatic Partnerships at DISH Media.
The market predicts that CTV advertising spend will hit $10B in 2021, and will continue to grow as the COVID-19 crisis accelerates cord cutting across the nation. What once was just a box to be checked is now a strategic vehicle for audience-first, scalable buys. The renewed focus on CTV presents brands with a channel full of untapped opportunity.
Five years ago when I started at SpotX (my previous employer), and SLING TV first debuted, OTT audience targeting wasn’t a priority due to the lack of unique users and premium supply. Today, I’ve since joined the SLING team and see that nearly all campaigns running on SLING are targeted on a 1:1 household basis and can be easily integrated with DISH Media’s addressable technology.
So, what changed to make this possible? It’s the growth and renewed focus on identity, and its implications for targeting strategies.
You’re so vain you probably think this ad is about you
Identity refers to an individual person as defined by their demographics or behaviors. Data management platforms (DMP) and publishers are able to anonymize cookie data, email addresses, and other relevant information to create user personas to form large scale targeting segments. Clients can then leverage segments like “auto intenders” or “couples married with kids” to ensure they hit the right audience at the right time. As the saying goes:
“You’re only as good as your trusted data.” – Michael Scott
The cornerstone of any successful advertising campaign is making sure an ad actually reaches a relevant, engaged user. Identity allows buyers to move beyond the run-of-network, broad-reach approach often adopted when testing out a new advertising medium. Using first-party data to align a target with a user’s identity sparks more interest in the product and ultimately garners better ROI.
Most consumers don’t hate ads, they hate irrelevant ads. According to Epsilon, 90% of consumers find personalized ads appealing. Simply put, knowing you’re only hitting the audience your ad is most relevant to makes your buy stronger.
There are two main ways identity data can be integrated into campaigns: contextual and data targeting. Contextual covers a broader approach, while data gets more precise and to the point.
Let’s break it down:
Content, content, context
Contextual targeting utilizes identity data on viewership behavior and consumer habits to group networks and content by what a viewer is likely to watch. For example, a couple looking for a new house watching home improvement shows on HGTV will also likely watch Property Brothers on Discovery and other real estate and home improvement shows, so those networks would be part of the same contextual target. Targeting on a network level allows buyers to combine broad reach while still hitting numerous relevant users. Contextual buys allow marketers to narrow their campaign focus to hit their core and have a chance for prospecting potential clients for a lower price point than a data buy.
Additionally, using a provider’s first-party data can help add a lot of color to these buys. At SLING TV, we create auctions by matching our subscriber data to a brand’s audience to create contextually relevant, high indexing, and scalable segments. Our clients have seen a lot of success bringing identity information into their campaigns, especially when they’re looking to accomplish an awareness or reach goal.
In one case, a client that covers alcohol brands once told me that if all they bought were hyper-targeted ads, then it would be much harder to appeal to new customers and build name recognition with consumers in their early twenties and new to bars. As a result, they always keep a line item dedicated to contextual buys for brand awareness.
That always stuck with me — because he’s right. There are times when buying based on broad characteristics or indices can make a campaign more successful, it just depends on the brand’s KPIs. Sometimes identity insights can, and should, be leveraged for a contextual play to help build awareness, but it should be done strategically so the advertiser isn’t just throwing their product at a wall and hoping it sticks. Always evaluate the intention of a campaign before deciding how to construct your target.
First-party data remains king
On the other hand, data-targeted buys allow marketers to zero in on their precise audience, and even reach them on a 1:1 household level. Today, audiences can be activated via first-, second-, and third-party identity data that can be pulled from the clients themselves as well as the DMPs and distributors they use. Most DSPs have relationships with multiple vendors, and with a click of a button, your buy can be matched with a data set for “people with brown hair who shop at JCPenny twice a week.”
On the surface, the marketplace can look very complex. With hundreds of providers all claiming to have unique proprietary tech, it can be hard to sniff out true value. When building a data campaign, deterministic data should be at the top of every buyer’s wish list. First-party deterministic data has the cleanest data sets, which make them more reliable and precise for campaigns than modeled third-party data. This true, deterministic identity won’t be disrupted by any cookie apocalypse (sounds delicious) or identifier for advertising (IFA) changes. For SLING, it is our secret weapon.
SLING TV is a subscription-based vMVPD with permissioned first-party data that can be activated in a private marketplace (PMP) fashion. This data is constantly updated based on viewing trends, and allows us to give real insights to our clients when developing their campaigns.
From our data, we know that SLING users stream live TV at a clip of four hours a day. This unique, unduplicated viewership gives buyers one billion scalable opportunities against first-party data every month.
Finding the identity balance
A common concern around audience buys is how it will impact scale. When we talk about scale being limited with targeting, it’s because buyers are combining heavily contextual network lists with super granular audience segments. For true success, a brand needs to trust the data they’re using (this is why first-party subscriber data is so valuable) and trust the platforms they run on.
The main success of audience-first buys, no matter how narrow or broad, is eliminating waste. Think about it: if a campaign reaches 50 people but only 10 of them are within your target, 80% of the dollars spent on the campaign did not add any value. On top of that, spending more does not guarantee the additional viewers will be within your target, meaning additional dollars spent can be additional dollars wasted.
If the campaign utilized identity for an audience buy, the return on investment would be significantly higher. By removing the TV watchers that likely won’t buy your product, you don’t shrink the scale of your campaign, but instead boost its efficiency.
While this may sound counterintuitive, we’re at a point with OTT where prioritizing identity data allows for more customization and precision to get your campaign in front of the audiences you’re looking for. The bottom line is, buyers need to define what they are looking to accomplish, and we will help them achieve those goals. Here are some tactics we have employed with our clients recently:
Client concern: Brands that typically target sports fans need a new way to reach their audiences with sports canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SLING solution: By pulling our viewership data, we identified other networks the sports fans were watching and built out targeting recommendations for a contextual campaign. Clients were still able to reach the audiences they sought out, and for a lower price than they would have paid in our live sports auctions. The contextual avenue allowed clients to maintain a brand awareness focus while keeping the user’s journey on our platform in mind.
The second strategy we used was to create a segment based on our viewership data and layer it onto SLING auctions to target users who usually watch major sporting events. This allowed brands to get more granular with their audience and hit those same users who, with certainty, would have been watching the premium upcoming sporting events that had been paused due to COVID-19.
Client concern: An agency’s client is wary about confining their target to a specific descriptor and limiting the scale of their campaign.
SLING solution: A brand trying to target male runners will generally buy across sports networks—ESPN, Fox Sport 1, NBC Sports—as they speak to a well-known archetype. To use myself as an example, I am a runner too, but the only TV I watch is reality TV. Hours of Momma June, Vanderpump, and 90 Day Fiancé fill my tiny one-bedroom apartment with sounds of Lala using the acronym PJs in reference not to sleepwear, but private jets.
If a buyer focuses on individual consumers by using data in their campaigns they will be able to access additional relevant, unique users beyond the archetypes. In the example above I’m a valuable user, and with an identity-focused approach, I would be shown the agency’s ad regardless of my consumption habits. With SLING’s transparency around network, genre, and content rating, advertisers get even more insights and data points that can also help to improve future buys.
No longer do we have to put audiences in small, rigid boxes built out of what we think we know about the end user. Instead, we use identity data to create a segment range that encapsulates the full range of what the target can be.
A whole new audience world
Content and data have never been more important when activating programmatic on an OTT platform. Efficiency is the industry’s top priority right now, and there is no better way to achieve that than with an audience-first strategy. Advertisers must understand the objectives of their strategy to decipher the best way to achieve them.
Being able to quickly forecast and create access points is key to the success of any programmatic auction. I urge buyers to work with partners you trust and leverage identity data to optimize your campaigns and embrace the power of OTT.
SLING TV can create first-party auctions in a matter of hours against segments including demo, interests, gender, HHI, ethnicity, marital status, and more. Connect with us and let us help you strategically integrate your audience’s identity into your next campaign to make a real impression.
About the author
Andrew Tint leads SLING TV’s programmatic initiatives at DISH Media. In his role, Tint manages SLING TV’s programmatic revenue strategy and sales efforts across SSPs and DSPs while supporting internal AEs agency programmatic conversations. Prior to DISH Media, Tint was an Account Director at SpotX where he managed SSP sales and strategy at the holding company level, and has also held roles at UM.