NewFronts Briefing: Google, Vizio and news publishers pitch marketers with new ad offerings and range of content categories

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual four-day NewFronts kicked off yesterday in New York City, with presentations from Google and Vizio pitching marketers on their advertising offerings. At the end of the day, IAB co-hosted a session with The New York Times to put a spotlight on news organizations to convince more advertisers to support them.

The key details:

  • Google wants advertisers to centralize their streaming ad buys to its web-dominant DSP
  • Vizio focused its presentation on its home screen, and announced new content hubs and ad formats, including pause ads
  • IAB spotlighted news publishers to get more advertisers to support this content category amid challenges like keyword blocking
  • Digiday interviewed Condé Nast’s global CRO Pamela Drucker Mann to hear how the publisher is pitching marketers this year

Google wants to “rethink” programmatic TV

“We need to rethink programmatic TV altogether.” That’s how Google president of Americas and global partners Sean Downey opened YouTube parent company’s NewFronts presentation on Monday.

Funnily enough, rethinking programmatic TV seems to mean replicating programmatic web. Google centered its NewFronts pitch around having advertisers centralize their streaming ad buys to its web-dominant demand-side platform Display & Video 360.

“Unify” is the preferred term among Google execs. Downey and Google vp of agency, platforms, & client solutions Kristen O’Hara touted the ways in which DV360 can help advertisers and agencies to glue together their streaming ad buys in a fragmented market (a top topic in the debut episode of Digiday’s The Future of TV video series).

Google’s DSP reaches 92% of all CTV viewing households in the U.S., according to O’Hara. She cited a case study in which SAP used DV360 and reached 29 million unique viewers, 5.6 million of whom were incremental.

Of course, it helps that DV360 is the sole DSP with access to YouTube, which is the predominant streaming service in terms of watch time on TV screens in the U.S. And YouTube is the beachhead on which Google is building its programmatic streaming ad business. But YouTube isn’t DV360’s only inventory source. As Digiday previously reported, Disney has signed a deal with Google to allow DV360 to bid on Disney’s streaming ad inventory through the Disney Real-Time Ad Exchange (DRAX).

In addition to expanding DV360’s inventory sources, Google is also adding to its capabilities. Advertisers can already measure brand lift and cross-media reach for CTV ads bought through the DSP, and now Google is providing cross-device conversion reports for advertisers to see how those ads led to business outcomes, O’Hara said.

While DV360 was the centerpiece of Google’s NewFronts presentation, the company also made some news by announcing that it is working with IAB Tech Lab to open-source Publisher Advertiser Identity Reconciliation (PAIR), which enables advertisers and publishers like NBCUniversal and soon Disney to privately match their first-party data sets to target ads. Okay, those ads end up being run through DV360, so this didn’t exactly deviate from the DV360 focus. But open-sourcing PAIR seems to mean that other DSPs will be able to adopt their own versions of PAIR, though it’s unclear when the open-source version of PAIR will be released. — Tim Peterson

Google also announced a feature for advertisers that uses generative AI to find audiences across Display and DV360. Called “Audience Persona,” the tool allows marketers to describe the target audience and get an AI-generated list of potential audience segments based on a campaign’s goals. Advertisers can then select from those audiences, make edits, provide future updates based on campaign performance. Advertisers can also set custom bids based on campaign goals and budgets. (Meanwhile, two major publishers announced new deals related to AI, ads and content yesterday — OpenAI and The Financial Times signed a deal to train AI systems with the FT’s content, and Axel Springer and Microsoft said they’re expanding their ongoing partnership to adopt more ad-tech tools, provide more access to the publisher’s content, test chatbots and monetize chat ads.) — Marty Swant

Vizio focuses on the home screen, new content hubs and ad formats

The home-screen takeover is taking over the connected TV ad market. At least if Vizio has its way.

The smart TV maker and CTV platform owner declined to discuss its impending acquisition by Walmart during its NewFront presentation — beyond verbalizing such — but was much more vocal in pitching the audience of ad buyers on its home screen inventory.

“The home screen is the new distribution vehicle,” said Allison Clarke, head of general marketing, national advertising sales at Vizio, during the company’s presentation in New York City.

Vizio has already been selling sponsored slots on its CTV platform’s home screen to streaming services, and it has been extending the inventory to non-endemic advertisers. The company recently opened up its Vizio Recommends ad slot to quick-service restaurant brands, Clarke said. Adam Bergman, group vp of advertising and data sales at Vizio, told Digiday that the ad format has been in beta and will launch formally in the coming weeks. There are currently no plans to expand beyond QSR and food delivery advertisers. The ad slots will be sold as part of larger buys, and there no plans to offer as a one-off, bought based on dayparts, he added.

Vizio is also adding to its portfolio of home-screen inventory. In June, the company will debut the Hispanic Heritage Collection, a programming hub aimed at Hispanic audiences that will be available for brands to sponsor, said Sean Booker, head of media and entertainment, national advertising sales at Vizio.

And this fall, Vizio will expand its home-screen inventory options by adding more video ad formats in the form of “video becoming part of the sponsored collection user flow,” said Clarke 

In keeping with the emphasis on non-traditional ad formats, Vizio is joining the ranks of streaming ad sellers to proffer pause ads, a format that Hulu introduced in 2019 and has since been adopted by the likes of NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Paramount’s Paramount+. Vizio’s pause ads will appear on its WatchFree+ free, ad-supported streaming TV service, and Dunkin Donuts, Sonic, Baskin-Robbins and Warner Bros. Pictures will be among the first brands to run the ad formats, according to Nyma Quidwali, vp of client services and inventory partnerships at Vizio.Bergman said the pause ads will be sold on a CPM basis and as part of larger campaigns, with the option to include a QR code. — Tim Peterson

Additionally, Vizio announced two new content hubs, for news and sports programming, respectively. Beginning this week, those with Vizio accounts will have access to Newsroom, a hub for the latest headlines, current events and election coverage. Vizio will launch the live sports hub later this year, which will feature real time scores, direct links into games and the ability to customize team preferences, with sponsorship and integration opportunities for advertisers, according to Lucy Sutphin, director of ads product marketing at Vizio Ads.

Spotlight on news

In a session – which, in part, featured CEOs from five top media organizations including BBC, CNN, NBCUniversal, The New York Times and NPR – a range of media and agency execs spoke about why advertisers need to support news organizations with their marketing dollars, in light of challenges such as news avoidance and distrust and keyword blocking. It was the IAB’s first session at the NewFronts dedicated solely to highlighting news publishers.

The main takeaway? News organizations don’t just cover hard news content like war. All five CEOs spoke about the other content they offered in categories such as lifestyle and culture. But publishers do cover difficult topics, and publishing execs urged marketers to not shy away from supporting that coverage due to the importance of their roles in sharing information.

The CEOs also talked about the opportunities presented by new technology like artificial intelligence. New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien said the Times is experimenting with using generative AI to create synthetic audio, so that readers can listen to The Times’ articles (which is already live to “a portion of our audience,” she said), and to scale Spanish translations, which a few podcast companies are also testing. Meanwhile, NPR CEO Katherine Maher sees opportunity in generative AI tools to help understaffed and underfunded local newsrooms.

The CEOs also took the opportunity to tout new products they will invest in this year. 

NBCU’s chairman Cesar Conde said the company will continue to invest in its FAST channel NBC News Now to reach young people with presidential election coverage. Kopit Levien said the Times will get more journalists to record video explainers on big news moments to live on the site’s homepage. CNN’s CEO Mark Thompson vaguely described a “video-led news product” for the website that the company wants to build, as well as create generative AI news experiences to help people find what they want “easier and quicker.”

Meanwhile, BBC News CEO Deborah Turness said the company is working on more “single story livestreams,” which cover one topic for platforms like BBC’s FAST channel (the channel launched in March and “doubled our reach overnight,” she noted). Turness also announced the news organization is launching a U.S. unit of its BBC Verify team – which verifies information and video content before it appears on BBC’s platforms – to focus on the elections this year.

3 Q’s with Condé Nast’s Pamela Drucker Mann 

Later today, Condé Nast’s Newfronts pitch will target specific content categories, including news, sports, lifestyle, with a significant focus on social platforms and live video, according to global CRO and president of U.S. revenue and international, Pamela Drucker Mann.

And while she said that Condé’s brands like GQ, Wired and The New Yorker, have links to sports and news, Drucker Mann told Digiday that her hope is to get marketers to rethink the way they buy into these categories, in order to also help solve some of the historical challenges.  

“We’re spoon feeding culture to buyers this year through categories that we think are going to matter the most, both in the second half of ‘24 and into 2025,” Drucker Mann told Digiday. — Kayleigh Barber

Below are highlights from the conversation, previewing Condé’s Newfronts presentation, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

What is a unique value proposition that Condé Nast is bringing to the sports category? 

There’s only so many NBA championships, only so many MLB [games], only so many Super Bowls. And so maybe we need to redefine what a live sports experience could look like. I challenge the marketplace to consider the red carpet a sport, which is probably our biggest live product. There are winners and losers on the red carpet … At the end of the day, if you think about your job as a marketer, you need to find consumers that are leaned-in and spending an enormous amount of time and your ability to build super fans is the big opportunity here. 

Why do you think advertisers should be thinking about social media in the same way they think about traditional TV advertising? 

We’re challenging the marketplace to think about buying social the way they buy TV … They’re still buying social like they bought it when it launched 15 years ago, as opposed to buying the way consumers are consuming it. 

Social [is] not on demand … Social is happening in real time. It’s always on. TV was kind of like that. It’s always on … [and] there’s only so many [commercial] spots and the game has only so much time, right? In social, it’s kind of the same thing. There’s only so much time in the day that you can stand out as a marketer. Time is really the commodity and that’s ultimately, to me, a little bit of a throwback to TV. It’s not just how much time, it’s also what you’re buying. Remember Thursday night TV? It’s not just buying NBC the network; it was buying the shows that mattered the most to consumers. 

Why is news a category you want to compete in, especially given all of the monetization challenges to that category?

If you think about what makes news an interesting product or an interesting buy, is that you’ve got all the things that you love about live … You’ve got consumers tuning in, you’ve got them spending a lot of time, but what makes it totally unappealing is it’s been very polarizing. There hasn’t really been a safe place for marketers to buy into news in the way that I think they would like to. 

Wired, under [global editorial director] Katie Drummond, she really has this desire to become a brand that’s about breaking news, especially in the world of technology that’s changing so rapidly, all day, every day. We have the scale, we have the engagement, we have the reputable brands, we have the credibility, we have the way to buy-in, so it makes it pretty easy. And we can guarantee brand safety, which isn’t something that I think a lot of news organizations [can do]. 

This post has been updated to reflect Drucker Mann’s full title.

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