Ancestry Finds Winning Combination In TV Plus Digital, Eyes Programmatic TV

Jay Eyunni AncestryTV has long proven to be an effective channel for Ancestry.com, a provider of genealogical software and services with more than 2 million subscribers.

And 1 million have purchased its DNA testing product, AncestryDNA. Commercials advertising Ancestry are meant to be emotional and explain the value of using the family history search site and DNA product. TV is also an effective way to reach Ancestry’s target audience, which tends to be in the 45- to 65-year-old range.

Ancestry and other digital, direct-response-focused advertisers like Match.com and Dollar Shave Club are investing heavily in TV.

But Ancestry also sees an opportunity in programmatic TV, which it will test in coming months. Jay Eyunni, director of global digital media for Ancestry and a panelist at AdExchanger’s Programmatic I/O event on Oct. 29, talked about his company’s media strategies.

AdExchanger: What problems would programmatic TV solve for you?

JAY EYUNNI: The first is the targeting piece. Programmatic TV is about finding your audience regardless of where they are. Now, we’ll buy a specific network because our audience is there, but with programmatic TV the idea is to find your audience regardless of network limitations.

The second, which is maybe a pipe dream, is to make TV buying more self-serve to allow more fluidity in how you spend your dollars. Right now, TV is bought with phone calls, relationships and upfront commitments. TV gets post logs a week later. Digital is minute-by-minute or hourly. If it were self-serve, you could spend X additional dollars if there’s some favorability or pull back based on business trends. Programmatic TV could mean that we can do things more in real time and execute faster. That’s the allure, because that’s where programmatic digital is now.

Ancestry.com plans its media in-house. What do you do in-house vs. with an agency?

When I joined a few years ago, there was an agency managing digital efforts. We took it all in-house over two years ago, from SEM to paid social and display via our DSP, with which we have a self-serve agreement.

We took a look at what we wanted to be doing. We wanted to be closer to the data. We wanted to be quicker in our decision-making, to turn things around faster and make decisions fast. We have direct relationships with our vendors.

For TV we still use an agency, because you kind of have to. The marketplace rewards having agency relationships, and it’s more difficult to do things directly. I foresee a world where a “traditional” television agency might be augmented with in-house programmatic teams.

What are you doing with digital video right now?

As we start to look at linear TV trending down, in contrast with connected TV, we are looking more and more at digital video. As a direct-response, data-driven advertiser, we’re looking at how to define success metrics in a world where media consumption is more diffuse. It has the ability to drive new customers, but also has that upper-funnel engagement effect, where we could potentially see conversions on the later side. Tying behavior to lower-funnel conversion metrics can be challenging.

We started with lower-hanging fruit for digital video, YouTube TrueView, with lower spend levels targeted to highly qualified audiences, and looked at our performance metrics there. Next, we’ll go back and do an assessment of the video networks and exchanges and spin it up [with those platforms] as soon as we feel more comfortable putting a budget against it.

Who manages digital video spend?

Digital video is managed by the offline [TV] team, but we sit closely together. When you have a couple people from digital and couple of people from offline sharing their perspectives, it becomes a hybrid effort that maximizes the unique knowledge both parties bring to the table.

I see this approach happening with programmatic TV. One hundred percent digital might be too performance-driven, and 100% offline might not be as familiar with the platforms and pricing models. As companies look at this opportunity and organizational structure, it makes more sense to create a hybrid role or team with people who have experience on both ends.

How do you measure the impact of digital vs. television? How does television amplify the effectiveness of a search or digital spend?

How you measure TV is a million-dollar question, and everyone’s got their own secret sauce. We have an in-house attribution model that helps tie all the channels together. TV is a big part of our marketing. We look at TV as a DR tool, with a brand benefit, and understand what it’s driving in terms of new visitors, new subscribers and cost per subscriber.

For TV, we’re able to see immediate performance in branded search and direct-to-site traffic [to measure people taking actions after seeing a TV ad]. Those are the most obvious ones. We do see TV’s ability to improve the conversion rate over time. When you have the sight-sound-motion of TV, and see the [display] ad 10 days later, not only do I remember, [but] with TV ads I’m more inclined to click and convert.

What else is ahead for Ancestry.com?

We’re thinking about how to use content as an asset. We know what life was like in 1800s in a particular region or what your grandparents did when they left their home country. Ancestry as a brand enables tremendous storytelling via content, and we’re looking for a model that’s similar to how banner ads or text links work to distribute that content to engage a broader audience.

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