First 'PeopleFront' Puts People, Not Demos, in Front of Ad Execs

Originally posted in MediaPost

In what either was the last upfront pitch of the 2014-15 or the first of the 2015-16 TV buying season, real people – not demographic ratings or the TV shows they are supposed to represent the audiences of – took center stage during Madison Avenue’s first PeopleFront. The event, which took place Tuesday evening on Lower Broadway in Manhattan, was hosted by Simulmedia and featured some real people representing big brand and television networks, as well as the real consumers they are trying to reach.

“I’m not just a demo, I’m Richard,” said Richard Boyd, one of a half dozen regular consumers who described their actual selves to an auditorium full of Madison Avenue ad execs, as the screen behind them superimposed traditional demographic descriptors. Boyd was described as an “African American male, 18-29,” but described himself as a college student who just completed his junior year, loves sports and sheepishly confessed to loving reality TV shows such as “Real Housewives” and “The Kardashians.”

“My name is Jack, I’m not just a demo,” quipped Jack Myers, chairman of MyersBizNet, as he took the stage to lead a conversation with industry leaders in a session that followed. “I’m 55-plus,” he conceded, adding, “which from a demo perspective means I’m completely irrelevant.”

He began with a one-on-one interview with Steve Hasker, global president of Nielsen, which earlier in the day announced a deal to partner with Simulmedia to develop ratings for measuring the audiences of niche cable TV networks currently unrated by Nielsen ( see related story in todays edition).

Hasker – a former McKinsey exec who joined Nielsen five years ago to help drive innovation – ticked off a litany of Nielsen milestones, including Tuesday’s deal with Simulmedia, a second announcement Tuesday about Nielsen’s “global measurement solution,” the launch of its Online Campaign Ratings, and its social measurement service with Twitter.

Hasker acknowledged that most Nielsen clients “want to move beyond demographics,” adding that “they want to get buyergraphics” that “link ratings to purchase behavior” – but he said there is a paradox between marketers who want to define their audiences in real people terms and “researchers” who still want to utilize demographics, because of their ability to efficiently represent large segments of the television audience in a practical way.

He cited Nielsen’s joint venture with Catalina Marketing, which links Nielsen’s TV ratings with Catalina’s loyalty card data. He also cited a similar joint venture with an undisclosed “major credit card” marketer tying credit card purchases to Nielsen ratings.

While the event was hosted by Simulmedia, a group of advertisers and TV network research executives moderated by Myers also cited innovative people-based targeting being developed by Rentrak, TiVo’s TRA, and others.

Yin Woon Rani, vice president-integrated marketing at Campbell Soup Co., applauded the trend, noting that while big consumer marketers like Campbell invest great resources in understanding real people to create and target their advertising messages, it typically gets lost in the wash when they go to buy and allocate media based on conventional demographic media ratings.

Mark Kaline, a long-time client-side media executive who most recently was global media licensing & consumer services director at Kimberly-Clark, implied that marketers often aren’t involved enough in pushing for the changes needed to tie media audience measurement to their actual consumers, but he said he is seeing signs that big brands are finally embracing the notion of actual audience-buying.

He said the emergence of programmatic online and mobile audience-buying has been a key part of that. He said many marketers initially approached programmatic because of its potential cost-efficiencies, but he said they ultimately discovered how much more effective it could be.

“People thought it was about the cost savings, but what it’s actually about is building the data,” he said, likening audience data-based programmatic buys to “sharpening a saw.”

“Each time the saw cuts deeper and deeper,” he explained, adding: “It’s not just about the initial CPM hit. You’re going to find value in places you didn’t know you’d find value.”

It’s the same logic some of the more progressive TV suppliers are using to rationalize shifting from conventional demographics to actual audience-based targeting.

“By not using this data, we are leaving TV yield on the floor,” said Howard Shimmel, Chief Research Officer at Turner Broadcasting, who along with Discovery Communications Executive Vice President-Ad Sales Sharon O’Sullivan, said they are embracing the shift. “If you target the right audiences, you get higher ROI for an advertiser’s return than if you don’t,” he explained.

Shimmel said Turner will begin testing that in the field starting next week, as “three agencies, seven clients and 21” brands that cut upfront deals with Turner based on actual consumer targets.

As serious and research-focused as the upfront presentation was, it wasn’t without its light moments. It ended with an obligatory rooftop cocktail party, but it began with a presentation by Simulmedia’s Morgan who ran a reel of fictitious TV shows it was developing under a new “Simulmedia Studios” division. The shows, which he said were developed by utilizing Simulmedia’s unique data insights, included “CSI Brooklyn” (an investigative crime drama about a serial killer of hipsters set in Williamsburg), “World’s First Analog Digital Comedian” (starring, say no more, 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander) and “Dirk Brewster: Intergalactic Bounty Hunter” (a reality show about, that’s right, an intergalactic bounty hunter).

“Now that I see it up on the big screen, maybe we should stick to data-driven audience targeting, and leave great programming production to others,” Morgan quipped.

Interested in getting the latest from Simulmedia?

News, insights, and events sent straight to your inbox!