Better Data Can Help Advertisers Avoid Cringe-Inducing Ad Placement

You're watching TV with the family and having a nice moment. Then all of a sudden a commercial comes on for an erectile dysfunction drug, or a preview for a horror flick. You interrupt your blissful reverie with a reflex reaction, knocking over the chip bowl in a mad dash to change the channel. And now you have to explain both the commercial and your crazed reaction to your children. Fun times with the family indeed.

Parents too often find themselves caught off guard during commercial breaks by advertising that is inappropriate for children. This is obviously bad for the parent, but it's bad for advertisers too, because they have failed to reach their consumer.

For marketers, there is an easy solution by thoughtfully matching product advertising with the compatible programming. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found marketers can increase ad effectiveness up to 30% by placing it in the right programming context, and that 10.7% of viewers changed their opinion about purchasing a product based on the programming context that the advertisement was displayed in.

This insight was a game changer for Crown Media Family Networks, home of Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. By targeting the broad range of advertisers with a family friendly message, Crown Media has driven up sales by 20% and nearly tripled profitability since 2010. In turn, by advertising on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, these family-friendly brands are speaking directly to their target audience and driving consumer sales, achieving a high ROI without additional spending.

But what about other non-family oriented brands and channels? This is where the palate concept comes in. Most traditionally think about palates in the context of food and beverage. We like to think of it as your sense of 'taste' broadly in many categories, including media. The premise is you can predetermine what you like or not like. And that we can create distinct groups of people with similar palates.

Paul Ekman, a noted American psychologist, pioneer in the study of emotions and the discoverer of the "micro-emotion" chronicled in Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, found six universal expressions or emotions — anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. He also has a broader list of emotions that include amusement, contempt, contentment, embarrassment, excitement, guilt, pride, relief, satisfaction, sensory pleasure and shame.

Because both programmers and marketers aim to engage their audience through one or a variety of these emotions, the alignment of congruent programming and advertising content ensures that everybody wins, including the viewer. For example, Hallmark might be focused on happiness and sadness, the CSI series highlights anger, disgust, and fear, while reality TV might hit a wide variety of emotions. All brands also have their version of a brand architecture/pyramid which have 'emotional benefits' that aspire to provide or solve for one of the emotions above.

In a perfect world, media buyers would have access to an algorithm that would allow them to pinpoint the perfect programming environment for their product. Media spend would remain constant, while advertising effectiveness could increase by as much as 30%. This more precise approach would mark a significant improvement over the traditional demo-targeted media buying methodology.

The good news is that much of this information is increasingly available thanks to big data integration of what people buy and what people watch. Companies like Nielsen (parent company of my firm) and others are starting to offer these service. For instance, Nielsen Catalina Solutions has integrated data of what people are watching (via Nielsen's people meter television data) and what people are actually buying (via store membership card data) into a single-source database of households. Brands are not only finding interesting insights on what shows their buyers are watching, but they are using it to drive incremental sales without spending more on ads.

Deloitte noted that targeted TV advertisements likely represent less than 0.1% of global TV advertising revenues — less than $200 million out of a $227 billion advertising market. Until the industry at large catches up, this signifies a tremendous opportunity for those marketers willing to shift their tactics to set a new bar and get a huge jump on their competition.

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