Questions People Ask About Audience-Based Planning

Josh Brentan

Marketing Strategist

We recently hosted a webinar titled Audience-Based Planning vs. Index-Based Planning, where we discussed the differences between the two approaches and broke down the results of a head-to-head test of campaign efficiency.

During the webinar we received more questions than we were able to answer during the allotted time, so as a result of that interest, we thought that it’d be a good idea to publish all the questions we received, along with their answers, for the benefit of everyone who might be wondering the same things.

We’ve broken the questions down into two categories: general questions related to audience-based planning but not specifically about content from the webinar, and questions specifically about the webinar content. For reference, you can watch the webinar or download the companion white paper.

General Questions

Q: Will the marketer entertain an unconstrained buy against any network, any daypart, or any program? If so, how much are the comparisons [between audience and index-based plans] impacted when there are realistic constraints?
A: Some marketers do entertain an unconstrained buy, especially when we can highlight how much more custom-target reach they’ll receive when we let our VAMOS software platform make the selections. That said, we’re able to incorporate constraints and exclude certain programs and/or networks upon request. Even within applied constraints, audience-based planning will make more efficient use of the available inventory to reach more of the target audience than could be done using index-based planning.

Q: Is the difference between the two approaches essentially that audience-based planning takes the CPM into consideration while index-based planning does not?
A: That is one difference. But audience-based planning doesn’t just consider cost and total reach of the spot, but also the incremental reach. This is an important point, because while a spot may be cost-effective for the overall target, there might be a lot of overlap between the people we predict will see that spot and who are likely to see other previously selected spots. If a spot isn’t going to deliver incremental target reach when compared to the rest of the plan, our VAMOS platform will not select it for the optimized plan.

Q: For what verticals is it easiest (or hardest) to target category purchasers on TV?
A: It is not so much an issue of easier or harder, it just comes down to the amount of data available about a different category. For example, right now it might be hard to target users of VR headsets, but 15 years ago it was likely equally hard to target smartphone users, because neither category had that much market penetration. As long as there is sufficient data to create a statistically relevant sample size, we can build targets accordingly.

Q: What is the difference between audience-based planning and Addressable?
A: Addressable is a 1:1 advertising solution that enables brands to tailor their messaging to individual members of a given target audience. In other words, brands can show one ad to one household within the addressable universe, and simultaneously show a completely different ad to the household next door. The addressable universe, however, is relatively small compared to the scale of national, linear television. Addressable inventory is also more expensive. Audience-based planning allows brands to harness the massive scale of television to find more viewers who resemble those in their target audience. Ultimately, this expands their reach of likely purchasers and increases the likelihood of better business outcomes.

Q: Does Simulmedia have a perspective on the value of context vs simply reaching your defined audience at a lower cost? How much does context of the impression move the needle?
A: Contextual relevance definitely has a place within TV advertising. If you’re targeting cooking enthusiasts, it makes sense that you’d want to have your spots run during cooking and food-related programming. However, we strongly believe that there needs to be a balance. We’ve found that the more a brand focuses on maximizing the reach of their target audience—regardless of context—the more efficient their message delivery becomes, and the more sales they’ll ultimately bring in. From day one, we built our VAMOS platform on the idea that the more of your target audience you reach, even if just by one additional person, the better your sales will be.

Q: You addressed the fact that audience-based planning moves away from contextually relevant programming that one might focus on in a more traditional approach. How do you avoid potentially damaging program/advertiser adjacencies that you might stumble upon through the optimization model?
A: Using our VAMOS platform, we can remove unwanted networks and/or programs from the optimization consideration set. We have some advertisers who provide us with extensive DNA (do-not-air) lists of networks and programs to avoid and we’ve been successful in preventing ads from running in those places.

Webinar Specific Questions

Q: In regards to the audiences slide, isn’t 18-49 a subset of 18+? This illustration doesn’t look right.
A: 18-49 is a subset of 18+ but the slide is not designed to be a venn diagram. Rather, it’s a collection of various audience segmentations.

Q: You talked about the index metric only as it relates to the specific audience target. Can you share what the metrics were for the demo target, too?
A: The index for the demo (W25-54) was 133 for the Audience-based plan and 164 for the Index-based plan. For reference, the custom target indices of 127 and 188 respectively.

Q: It seems that Simulmedia has been leading the industry in considering metrics such as ROI (Return on Investment) and ROS (Return on Spend), moving beyond the legacy metrics of reach and frequency alone. Why was there no mention of metrics beyond reach in this presentation?
A: We attempted to make a simple test to illustrate the differences between index and audience-based planning at the most basic level. Think of this webinar as a 101-level class that sets the stage for the corollary, which is that reaching more audience should equate to more sales (or conversions however a brand defines them). At Simulmedia, we are definitely focused on the impact of ROI and ROS, and provide our advertising clients with that information, as well as well as reporting on standard media metrics.

Q: How do you get to respondent-level information from household-level set-top box data?
A: Our viewing panel is balanced to the US Census and contains a sample size large enough to represent every DMA (Designated Market Area) in the United States. As a result, we can analyze the demographics and viewing behaviors of every household, and then look for individuals with similar attributes in data-sources with respondent-level data. It’s not 1:1, but it’s a translation method which we’ve found successful when it comes to targeting and delivering custom audiences on television.

Q: Did you look at the back office administrative costs/complexity of buying 54 networks for an audience-based plan vs 23 for the index-based plan?
A: We didn’t look at the cost to execute and understand it isn’t always feasible for advertisers/agencies to procure a single spot, or even a handful of spots, from a given network. However, with audiences consuming television across more networks, brands and agencies have to expand the set of networks they consider for their plans, and find a way to efficiently buy media against those plans. Here at Simumedia, we’ve designed an automated system to allow us to execute our buys with the push of a button, sending out orders to multiple networks at the same time.

Q: How do you measure daypart conversion rates when viewers watch across dayparts? Is it a last touch attribution?
A: Our approach is to provide attribution to each daypart, regardless of overlap of the audience. For example, if a person saw an ad in primetime and daytime, both dayparts would get credit for the view and the subsequent conversion. We’re able to measure in this way due to the ability of our VAMOS platform to isolate the exposed viewers to the ad during each daypart and then understand their respective conversion/purchase.

Q: Are there some products that would be better served targeting broad demos rather than smaller, custom targets?
A: It depends on the size of the target audience compared to the size of the broader demo target. For example, if the custom target is anywhere between 60-75% of the overall broad target, then you could just as easily target the broad target/demo. This would likely be more cost efficient, as well.

Q: Is MRI your only third-party data provider partner? Do you also include any intent to purchase data in your segmentation?
A: We do have intent to purchase data. In addition to MRI, we have integrated NBI (Nielsen Buyer Insights), Oracle Data Cloud, and IRI data into our VAMOS platform, all of which provide the ability to target by purchase intent. VAMOS also gives us the ability to target a customer’s 1st party data (CRM, Purchasers, etc) via the integration of our 7MM matched households with safe havens such as Acxiom and Experian.

Q: For the audience-based target, is there a heatmap of the US showing where the impressions come from?
A: We’ve seen that impression delivery aligns closely with the DMA (Designated Market Area) sizing, meaning the most populated areas deliver the most impressions (ie. New York, LA, Chicago, etc).

Q: What if you had used the index-approach to maximize reach against target audience? Wouldn’t that have been a better comparison for the audience-based approach?
A: Again, we attempted to make a simple test to illustrate the differences between index and audience-based planning at the most basic level. There are many ways we could have structured the test, but remember, maximizing reach with audience-based planning requires an understanding of the people in the target, and the relationship of how selecting one spot in conjunction with another will ultimately deliver more incremental reach.


It’s clear from the webinar attendance and number of questions we received that there’s a high level of interest in learning more about audience-based planning and buying. We’ve written about this topic extensively, so feel free to explore our blog for further information. You can also sign up for our Tuned In newsletter, which contains monthly perspectives on the industry trends and topics we (and our clients) find ourselves talking about most, by filling out the form below.

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