A+E Dives Into Outcome-Based Guarantees

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Cover image for  article: A+E Dives Into Outcome-Based Guarantees

The sun has not quite set on the day of just relying on the "dollar demo" of adults 18-49.  But Peter Olsen, Executive Vice President of Ad Sales for A+E Networks, is hoping that when it does, it will rise on the day of the outcome-based guarantee.  In time for this year's Upfront, A+E became the first network group to introduce a limited number of opportunities for marketers to take advantage of: guarantees based on specific business outcomes, a far more advanced strategy than even the most specific targeting-based guarantee.  

Altering Perceptions

While much of the industry talk during Upfront season focuses on intra-network competition for TV ad dollars, Olsen (pictured below) doesn't see his competition as other networks.  NBCU and Turner have recently made headlines for advances in both audience targeting and performance tracking, and that's just fine by him.  "We applaud the things the others are doing," he said.  "They're all great for the business."

Instead, Olsen is looking to retake territory that is now considered to be digital-only -- to steal share back from Google and Facebook and "give TV itsfair share," as he puts it.

"What we have seen, particularly over the last four or five years, is this perception that digital seems to be better at lower funnel metrics, and TV is relegated to only the upper funnel," Olsen said.  "And even that is shrinking."

This perception persists despite clients' understanding that TV advertising does work.  "What we're combatting is the feeling of, 'Oh, we have to be moving our dollars to Snapchat,'" Olsen said.  "We're trying to combat FOMO" (Fear Of Missing Out, in current culture acronym jargon).

The Evolution of the Outcome

There isn't just one cure for FOMO.  But, rather than focus on incremental steps like advanced audience targeting, last year Olsen and his team began working with partners like Nielsen Catalina and Data Plus Math to craft a scientifically sound approach to TV advertising's Holy Grail: outcome-based guarantees.

With the digital players, "there are all of these things out there that are unproven," Olsen said.  "We're trying to equip the clients with information: If something works, there's nothing wrong with sticking with it. Especially if we can prove it works."

A+E has crafted a three-pronged approach to make these guarantees a reality.  There's Precision Targeting, which handles the audience targeting for clients; the Performance team, which will assess ad effectiveness, and A+E Intelligence, a think tank that offers custom insights for clients.

"This has kind of leapfrogged a step, going from traditional demos to advanced targeting solutions to what we think is even more powerful, which is getting right to the desired outcomes that the clients care about," Olsen said.

Olsen and his team will work with marketers on identifying the outcomes that matter the most to them; be it increased site or foot traffic, the Precision team will optimize placement and the Performance team will measure whether the desired outcome was reached using a mountain of data.

That data is coming from a wide variety of sources, including iSpot, Nielsen Catalina, Data Plus Math, Millward Brown and others.  Synthesizing this data is by no means a simple process, but Olsen relishes the opportunity to take interested clients through it. "What's great about Data Plus Math is, they really know the TV industry," he said.

Demand vs. Supply

It was just a few weeks before the announcement that Olsen and his team decided to take the outcome-based leap.  All the testing done over the last year proved to Olsen that A+E was ready.

"We're willing to bet on our content, our brands and our tools to prove to clients we can drive these outcomes," Olsen asserted.  "We're comfortable with that.  The more deals we do, the more data we have, the more we can optimize on the front-end.  It's a big virtuous circle."

Although it's been less than a week since A+E made its announcement about outcome-based guarantees, Olsen said the response has been uniformly positive.  "We're talking to our biggest partners and trying to transform those relationships, and going on the offensive with smaller, emerging sectors," Olsen explained.  "Google and Facebook have become the first place that marketers now go to start to build their business.  We as an industry have to bring more clients into the industry."

The demand is there.  The technology is in place.  But only time will tell when exactly the sun will rise.

Photo credit:Benjamin Davies/Unsplash

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