How NBCU Replaced Two Words (Main, Frame)

We call this publication Real-Time Daily, because our focus is on the role technology, data – and importantly, people – are playing in making media-buying, advertising and marketing more real-time. One of those people, NBC Universal Chairman of Advertising Sales Linda Yaccarino showed that the pace of that change is accelerating for even the biggest, oldest and most legacy-dependent parts of the business. Appropriately, she explained it during the PeopleFront, Simulmedia’s people-focused answer to the Upfronts, Newfronts, and every-which-way-fronts. During a conversation with Simulmedia chief Dave Morgan, Yaccarino used two words to illustrate that NBCU has jumped from the metaphorical Stone Age of audience targeting to its current state-of-the-art: “main” and “frame.”

“Believe it or not,” she told Morgan, intoning “two of the words you havent heard used together in a sentence in a long time, and thats main frame – mainframe.”

Until two months ago, she said, NBCU’s sales organization was still operating on a mainframe computer that was anything but real-time.

“If I asked for a revenue report for prime-time, you couldnt look at it on a screen. You had to send it to a printer, which was down the hallway,” Yaccarino said, noting that the shift to NBCU’s new audience targeting platform – dubbed PAM, for portfolio access management – took three years and millions of dollars to put in place.

What does PAM do? It enables NBCU’s sales organization to look across the company’s entire portfolio of video programming assets – broadcast, cable and digital video – off a cloud-based system that can draw upon and organize audience data based on the attributes any advertiser or agency are looking to reach.

Yaccarino said the system is the cornerstone of NBCU’s shift from conventional TV ratings-based guarantees to custom audience analytics and targeting designed to deliver the actual consumers advertisers are seeking to reach.

She implied it was part of a progression from psychographic targeting to behavioral targeting to “audience-based.” Whatever you call it, she said, it is intended to enable advertisers and agencies to look across all of NBCUs properties to create the optimum mix of viewers “that [buy] their stuff.”

She described the evolution as a series of iterations that began with parent Comcast’s development of a first generation system last year dubbed “NBC+ Powered By Comcast” that enabled advertisers to segment audiences based on addressable household delivery. The current system, she said, enables advertisers to utilize either their own first-party data, or the data of certain bona fide third-party data providers, to target consumers across those households.

Importantly, she said it’s not actually real-time – yet – but that it enables advertisers to have much more flexibility in adjusting their schedules over time to ensure they are optimizing the reach against their actual targets.

You have to give Morgan credit for giving Yaccarino the platform to discuss that, because that’s pretty much what Simulmedia does too – in essence, NBCU is a competitor. Throughout the PeopleFront Simulmedia featured other “frienimies” on stage, including executives from Oracle’s and Adobe’s marketing clouds that offer similar audience-based targeting solutions. Morgan’s response: All boats rise if the market gets more sophisticated about utilizing real data about real people to target audience through television.

During his conversation with Yaccarino, he chided her about whether what she was doing was blasphemous by conventional TV sales tactics, but Yaccarino didn’t flinch, implying that NBCU, at least, is not afraid to scuttle old school approaches to market leverage in the hope of delivering marketers a better ROI on their TV ad budgets.

“For a long-time people asked me what I do for a living,” she told Morgan, adding, “I rarely say I sell ads. I tell them, ‘I sell jeans. I sell sneakers. I sell soda.’” The shift toward audience-based targeting, she implied, is just a means for her to tell more of those things.

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