Corus’ Mark Leslie on how addressable TV is changing advertiser expectations

Speaking at DX3, the company's VP of research and consumer insights looked at how developments that have already been made in addressable TV and how it's changing advertiser demands.

Mark Leslie, VP of research and consumer insights at Corus Entertainment, knows that relevance has always meant targeting “the right ad to the right viewer.”

But, as he discussed in his talk on day one of DX3 Canada in Toronto, “Next Gen Advertising: How Data Will Drive Media Buying Efficiency,” the definition of the right ad, the right viewer and how to reach that viewer is changing rapidly.

“We think in this day and age it’s really important to move away from selling advertising spots that reach many, many people to really selling audiences,” said Leslie. But, he immediately followed up, that ideal still requires massive transformation in terms of technology, processes, pricing and partnerships.

Corus has spoken previously about the value of programmatic and addressable advertising, as well as the factors still challenging its implementation in Canada. At FFWD Ad Week 2017, Corus’ director of strategy and business development Spencer Charters shone a light on the process of programmatic advertising, stating specific tech challenges that stood in the way of full implementation.

Leslie’s talk this week contextualized the issue of data use in TV buying to the present. With all the talk about what could be done if only and what might be a reality someday, Leslie pointed to the various efforts that are already underway and what kind of results they’re yielding thus far.

The four main products Corus is working with currently are linear optimization, cross-platform targeting, dynamic insertion and addressable television.

Linear optimization is done primarily through set-top boxes. Using the data from STBs capturing live and playback viewing habits (which are in more than 450,000 TV homes) paired with postal codes, Corus has created more than a dozen standard segment groups based on behaviours and demographics. Some of those segments, such as “fashionistas” and “home improvers” are more valuable to specific advertisers, whereas some more demographic-based groups such as “middle-aged achievers” (groups with a relatively high household income and high rates of education) are seen as valuable to an overall high number of brands.

“This is certainly much more rich targeting than your standard 25 to 54,” said Leslie.

Understanding segmentation better, said Leslie, can actually flip which shows are the most expensive to buy advertising on. He pointed to the top Corus specialty shows with audiences 25 to 54, which included Vikings, Alone and Oak Island, that would normally carry high advertising rates when simply looking through the lens of how many people watch the show. “Looking at it through the filter of the segment of middle-aged achievers, it’s actually a totally different set of shows. The effective cost that you’d pay to reach your true target or a more defined target is significantly less.”

Mark Leslie SmallLeslie also briefly touched on cross-platform targeting, which incorporates STB data with data from Corus’ digital properties to hyper-target consumers on digital platforms, and dynamic ad insertion, which is centered around VOD content.

But the the most advanced product Leslie outlined is addressable television, which is currently in a testing stage with Cogeco.

The landscape for addressable television is a lot clearer in the United States, which Leslie acknowledged, because of fairly different laws, processes and infrastructures in place.

But Corus managed to apply the technology in 180,000 household across six regions in Ontario late in 2016. The product allows advertisers to simultaneously substitute up to four different advertisements within the ad spot that would reach different targets.

“Let’s say you’re Home Depot, you buy a spot on a regional network for Ontario,” he explained. “Within this footprint, you would have the ability to substitute four different ads. So in one area, you might put in something for home renos, and you might put in something for barbecues based on what we know about how their customers behave in this geographic region.”

As of right now, Corus’ addressable experiment offers targeting by geographic region or by four different life-stage demographics. While he didn’t have any specific results for how it has fared thus far, he said Corus is committed to rolling out the solution on a national level.

And, he said, while much has been made about what could happen someday or what would be great in ideal, he was adamant that TV has entered into a “new era.”

“Mass reach in television delivers eyeballs, but we know that TV is changing. We need to help advertisers cut through the complexity and identify their audiences.”