One reason the TV upfront market exists is that it takes a long time between planning an ad buy and actually delivering it. A partnership between TV ad targeter Simulmedia and TiVo's TRA, which tracks TV viewing with consumer purchase data, to guarantee ad buys on preset audience targets has the potential to shake up the dynamic between the upfront and scatter markets.
"There's been a hole for guaranteed TV buys in the marketplace, and this offering is a way to begin to close it," said Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia. "If you plan your TV ad buy in January, upfront buy it in June and it gets delivered to the consumer in October, you can't activate a heavy swing purchaser of cosmetic soap easily with research."
Because of that lag time between planning and delivery, the traditional focus on mass audience segments based on general gender and age demographic modeling has remained in place. Simulmedia will guarantee – meaning that marketers and buyers only pay when the audience target is hit – buys based on TRA's data. To be clear, Simulmedia is licensing TRA's data and the TV targeter will be the only one guaranteeing the inventory sold through its system.
The guarantees will be ad hoc and customized according to the specific campaign; there are no set templates for what kinds of buys Simulmedia will be selling across the 115 million households its network claims to reach. In terms of the intelligence available to Simulmedia from TRA, it collects data from 4 million set-top boxes along with purchase information from 37 million shopper cards connected to 20 grocery retail chains, 115 million auto registrations and prescription data from more than 1.6 billion prescription orders. All of that contributes to its PRP – "purchase ratings points."
Though owned by TiVo, the DVR's households are only 20% of TRA's data, which also comes from other cable and satellite operators. Mark Lieberman, TRA's CEO, offered a hypothetical example of what a Simulmedia guaranteed TV buy based on the company's analytics might look like.
"The kind of behavior that advertisers are most interested in is purchase behavior, and that's what this is about," Lieberman said. "A buyer might select a certain class of beer purchaser and, using our data, TRA's dashboard can show them a particular program or a particular network that overindexes for beer shoppers by 20%. Then Simulmedia will guarantee that they will deliver the eyeballs of those heavy beer purchasers by 20%. That's the nature of the guarantee they can offer, but there's many ways it can go."
Morgan added, "What brands want to know is: Are they reaching their target and what is their share of voice vs. the competition? Those are things we'll be able to tell them."
The first phase will be a guarantee against the delivery of the segmented audience – say those shows that bring in heavy consumers of beer. At the moment, the buys are focused on the scatter market. Eventually, Morgan wants to add guarantees based on pre- and post-campaign purchases, which could make it more of a player in the TV upfronts.
The scatter market is starting to heat up now that the fall shows have all premiered and audience ratings numbers are either hitting the targets buyers and sellers agreed on during the upfront – or not.
"Clearly, we're going to be able to give marketers more certainty in their scatter-buying decisions," Morgan said. "They recognize there will be some degree of scarcity for these kinds of deals. But right now, we don't know if that will take some money out of the upfront, knowing that there's a better scatter product out there. Time will tell."