How TBS, TNT plan to use first-party data to boost digital ad sales

Six months ago, Turner networks TBS and TNT began working with 21st Century Fox’s TrueX to test interactive ads with desktop visitors. In testing, 25 percent of people have opted to interact with the ads to have fewer ads interrupt their viewing, while those ads command a CPM “that is significantly higher than your standard mid-roll,” said Karina Kogan, svp of digital media and products at TBS and TNT.

Now, as TBS and TNT plan to officially adopt the TrueX ads, Kogan is exploring how the networks can find other viewers who are more likely to interact with those spots, so she can better tailor content recommendations to digital viewers and improve ad targeting. Underpinning that effort is the work TBS and TNT began last year to collect more information from people, such as their names, email addresses and phone numbers, in order to tie what people do on its digital properties to those identities.

“One of our core strategies is to move from being data renters to data owners,” Kogan said.

When Kogan joined TBS and TNT in January 2017, her first priority was ensuring the networks’ digital distribution spanned the major channels by having mobile apps and OTT apps. That work is nearly done; the networks’ Xbox apps are the final piece and are set to launch in May. So last summer, Kogan turned her attention beyond building up the networks’ digital audiences to building out the data it had on those audiences.

First, she hired CRM platform Braze to manage TBS’ and TNT’s first-party data, and use that data to send personalized push notifications and recommend content in the networks’ apps. The networks started running CRM-like campaigns earlier this year, said Kogan.

TBS and TNT have run direct-response ads across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Snapchat that tease their shows and ask people to download the networks’ apps, enter a sweepstakes or otherwise complete a form that gives their information to the networks. TBS and TNT can then use that information to find other people who may also be interested in their shows and providing their information through the platforms’ lookalike-audience ad targeting tools.

Beyond adding more people to TBS’ and TNT’s digital audiences, Kogan wants to use the first-party data to make the networks’ digital properties more valuable to viewers and to advertisers. That can mean the type of ad targeting typically associated with Facebook and Google and less so with linear TV.

“Unfortunately, the bar is really low for TV ad targeting, so any improvement is a good thing,” said Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen. But it can also mean different types of ads for different viewers based on how receptive those viewers would be to a given ad.

“Maybe over time we find what are the characteristics of those 25 percent of the people [who opted for TrueX-powered ads] to make sure we’re really optimizing for them, and stop bothering the people who never want to engage with that type of ad,” said Kogan.

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