What Discovery learned in 2020 about audiences — and advertiser success

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For advertisers, the operative concept regarding TV and video audiences has been that they’re complex, fragmented, but rich with opportunities — and never more so than in 2020.

Across a year when so many turned to their television and mobile devices to stay informed, find some relief and share what mattered during quarantine and months of dramatic unrest, content consumption changed. And what is virtually certain is that not all the patterns that emerged in 2020 will reset to pre-pandemic times. The devices on which people watch TV and video represent many different ways of approaching the consumer. In response, marketers need a myriad of tactics and strategies — and options from their publisher partners. 

In this new Q&A, Custom, the in-house agency at Digiday Media, spoke with Jim Keller, executive vice president of digital sales and advanced advertising at Discovery, about the changes that 2020 introduced to the TV and video advertising space. 

Custom: Looking back over the past year, what did you see happen across 2020 and the top of 2021 to audiences? How did they change and shift in terms of behaviors across linear and video-on-demand, streaming, basically any channel with which advertisers want to engage?

Jim Keller: When COVID first started, we saw a rush of consumers wanting comfort content. We saw an increase in consumption — both on our linear and our digital platforms. People were looking at our food content, our home content, our true crime and our factual content as something that was comforting and something they felt kept them grounded for what they were experiencing.

Also, we’ve been experimenting a lot with our content consumption patterns and how we’ve launched them to our consumers, deciding whether it launches concurrently on both linear and digital — or do we launch something on linear and give a sneak peek to that content a few days earlier on digital? If the audience wants to consume us on a mobile device, or a streaming app, or a linear network or on our authenticated VOD platform, we want to make sure that we’re providing them that content in the way they want it served. And then we’re working with the marketers to make sure that, as we are reacting to this audience, that we’re giving the advertisers the opportunity to place their ads in those environments.

Custom: What’s an example, emerging during all this accelerated choice and fragmentation, that speaks to an advertiser figuring out cross-platform audiences?

Jim Keller: I mean, there are dozens of examples of both agencies and marketers that are leaning into this cross-platform audience, right? I think everybody knows that when you add digital to a buy, you’re going to deliver incremental reach. And what we have seen is that, on average, when our digital assets are added to a linear buy, we’re seeing upwards of 16% lift in terms of incremental reach.

Also, we’re partnering with lots of different vendors up and down the purchase funnel to improve outcomes — whether it’s brand awareness or favorability, intent purchase, actual sales ROI or even website visitation in search engine optimization. All of those different funnels of the attribution and contribution to a media mix are important because, at this point, there’s no one size fits all for any one market. 

Custom: Let’s talk about on-screen ads and creative formats. Desktop, mobile, the television glass —  what trends do we see around innovation in the viewing environment?

Jim Keller: The first thing is, there are fewer ads. Let’s start with that. There is less clutter that exists in a given digital platform. For example, we’re currently only running four to five minutes of ads on Discovery Plus right now, which is industry-leading in the marketplace, and it’s leading to consumers having a much more positive experience. That leads them to want to lean forward a little bit, to get engaged. They also know that the ad breaks are going to be quick. They’re going to be right back to the content that they want to know and they want to love. 

Custom: When it comes to lower-down-in-the-funnel moments — actionable approaches to inspiration and then buying in the moment — can you speak about what you’re seeing marketers ask for, specifically?

Jim Keller: I think it depends on the marketer. I think some like the idea of interactive ads, where a user can get more information and lead them eventually to purchase. And then other marketers want that one-click buy. They want to be able to engage with a consumer in that moment to sell them a product or service, get a quote from an insurance company, get a quote for a new vehicle — or maybe order a pizza directly right there, in that moment.

I think that there are so many publishers that have been trying really hard to get to this viewer experience equals shopping experience equals point of purchase, and some are doing it really well. And I think that some are doing it OK. I think for us, our content puts us squarely in the pole position to kind of create something that will get people to take some action around the key passion points that we deliver on. Our core content categories — home, food, relationships, science, pets, automotive, travel, nature — inspire purchase and our advertisers will benefit from that. And many of our platforms are interactive, like the upcoming Magnolia Network. We call it “view and do” content — the goal being to promote audiences to take action. So, I expect that we will eventually find multiple solutions for different types of advertisers so that we can provide shoppable experiences for multiple categories and not just one.


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