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Audience Deficiency Unit (ADU)

What is an Audience Deficiency Unit (ADU)?

An Audience Deficiency Unit is a contractual allocation of advertising slots offered to an advertiser or advertising agency at no cost. This allocation compensates for a shortfall in viewership that occurs during and/or after the initial contract period of a national guaranteed deal.

How do Audience Deficiency Units (ADUs) work?

Imagine you’re an advertiser who secured a guaranteed impression deal with a network. In exchange for what you pay to run an ad schedule across that network, the network guarantees that across all airings, it will deliver 1 million impressions.

In an ideal scenario, the campaign delivers over 1 million impressions — and both parties are happy. But a network can underdeliver a guarantee due to a number of factors, including:

  • Rating shortfalls
  • Unforeseeable event (presidential address, breaking news story, etc.)
  • Technical difficulties

This is where ADUs come into play. To compensate for the difference, the advertiser will receive Audience Deficiency Units. In this scenario, this may look like ad inventory offered to get the ad in front of the extra 500,000 viewers still owed to the advertiser, for example.

Do advertisers have a say in what ad inventory is offered as compensation? So long as it’s not stated otherwise contractually, yes. It’s not uncommon for advertisers and networks to negotiate their ADU package. Advertisers should treat ADUs as if it is inventory they are buying fresh. Going back to the example above, if you know weekend lifestyle shows on a particular cable network are highly effective for your advertising efforts, and late-night talk shows on a different channel also perform exceptionally well, you should focus on these dayparts with the network while negotiating the ADU package.