TV has long been the place where advertisers go to get the broadest audiences in media. But NBCUniversal is touting it as a venue where Madison Avenue can also find some of its narrowest.
The company, which has spent months pressing advertisers to envision deals that encompass both traditional TV and new-tech streaming, is planning for a year in which half of all advertising agreements are based on a search for niches of consumers built around an interest in a particular product or attribute, not on typical definitions such as viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. Such audience pockets might develop around people in the market for a new car, or a consumer interested in attending a first-run movie. New technology NBCU is unveiling aims to provide new ways to reach viewers through a single buy across linear and streaming, rather than with separate plans for each.
The market is “moving away from narrow age and gender definitions to strategic audiences,” says Mark Marshall, chairman of NBCU’s advertising and partnerships unit, during an interview. The company hopes its new technology, developed with input from the nation’s big media-buying agencies, will help advertisers streamline their buying. “We have clients that have been running against advanced audiences in digital and also in linear, but they are bifurcated. They have to optimize against two separate plans,” says Marshall. “Now we actually have the opportunity to look at a combined plan to show what percentage we are delivering on linear and what percentage we are delivering on digital, and where the overlap is.”
NBCUniversal isn’t the only media conglomerate betting on such developments. Disney has long projected that the bulk of its advertising deals will be for so-called “addressable” inventory, or advertising that can be dispatched to a particular geographic location or customer thanks to the interactive nature of streaming video. Amazon’s move to introduce an ad-supported tier to its Prime Video is likely to bring more inventory to the fore.
Such maneuvers are likely aimed at helping to bolster Peacock, the NBCU streaming-video hub that will be the company’s first point of distribution for the Paris Summer Olympics later this year. In a sign of NBCU’s vision of TV’s future, Marshall lured Alison Levin, a longtime senior Roku ad-sales executive, to lead sales of inventory across national, local and sports. It’s one of the most prominent sales jobs in the industry, and media buyers take her hire as a sign that NBCU will be working more intently on ad plans tied to marketers’ search for the most likely audience for the products and services they hope to sell.
NBCU says nearly 60% of its advertising clients use audience-based buying to drive some activity, and that it has seen a 25% increase in the number of ad deals based on such techniques over the past year. The company says inventory available in the first quarter of 2024 connected to its new technology has sold out “across all major categories, including tech, auto, and retail.” NBCU plans to expand access to the audience-buying technology in the second quarter.