It's not often that someone in media moves from sales to research, but Nora Shimmel, who began her career in broadcast spot sales, is one of those rare talents. Currently working as the senior research manager at Comcast Spotlight, Shimmel has found that adding viewership data to her arsenal of research systems has greatly heightened her ability to parse the tuning habits of television audiences and "use data to drive successful campaigns for our clients in ways that are feasible and that our sales team can execute." Comcast boasts a platform that "gives us a lot of levers that we can pull to execute a TV buy in several ways for our clients, depending on their goals," she noted.
Shimmel has just completed a seminal study on the best practices for driving tune-in and building loyal viewers in a time of almost limitless entertainment choices. This data-centric study, which surfaced four unassailable best practices, enables Comcast Spotlight's media and entertainment clients to better target the right audiences at the right time on the right platform.
The Basis of Best Practices
Shimmel explained the process of forming these best practices through research analyses: "The best practices came about as a result of the expansion of our conversion studies. We joined our ad-exposure data with our de-identified viewership data to … drive show viewership for our clients for all aspects of television, whether live or in a catch-up strategy."
Using Comcast's viewership data to do that, at first manually, required several groups within the company to coordinate their efforts. They quickly standardized the process and could see "what trends there are, what methodology is most consistent, what works and doesn't work," Shimmel said. Her group analyzed and tested 36 campaigns across all genres and networks, checked for synergies and conflicts between programming types and networks, monitored the trends and outcomes, and identified four general truisms that best drove results to benefit clients.
Shimmel explained that, within Comcast, they can access viewership data from 17 million homes, resulting in ample data from which to draw conclusions. "We don't have to model anything. We have true viewing data at our fingertips." It took about a year of hard work to analyze the results and formulate conclusions.
The Four Best Practices
According to Shimmel, these best practices are the recommended ways media and entertainment clients should think about investing in TV. The research behind these best practices has proven to drive tune-in and overall content viewership.
The four key best practices that Comcast Spotlight has crafted to ensure a successful advertising campaign are:
Take a sustaining media approach. Shimmel notes that this is specifically for episodic programming; it's different for an on-demand movie. "For episodic programming, we recommend five to seven weeks of sustaining media, promoting multiple episodes, as well as live and time-shifted viewing," she stated.
Viewing is fragmented and getting more so. "People are watching in so many different ways; the idea is to give them an opportunity to catch up to find out what your show is about." She added that live viewing is important, but there is also value in time-shifted viewing in the plus-three window and even further out for viewers to catch up. Having a sustained media campaign allows for the content to reach more people and results in a better lift in ad conversion.
Multiplatform touch drives superior tune-in. Once a multiple-week media approach is applied, the next question is where the campaign should run. "Twenty-five of the 36 campaigns were running on both linear and [video on-demand]. We bucketed the exposed households into linear-only, VOD-only or exposed to both," she continued, "and frequently we saw that the 'exposed to both' [group] had the greatest conversion rate." She attributed this to two things: increased frequency exposure and the differences in mindset when watching on one platform versus another.
The study continued with campaigns that ran on one or two platforms compared to those that ran on three or more. "The exposed lift compared to the unexposed was nearly double for plus-three campaigns," she concluded. "You need multiplatform to grow your reach and to find people in the right moment to take action."
Invest in platforms strategically. Knowing that a campaign needs to run on multiple platforms, the next step is to determine which platforms are most impactful, how they should be layered and how this can best fit into the budget. "We looked at how the different platforms work; the difference between an average reach versus an average lift. For a local campaign, the conversion rate may be a little lower overall, but the lift may be very high. You need to have the broad coverage but also hammer home with a niche strategy," she advised.
Build target audience segments wisely. Shimmel recommends taking time to determine which target audiences are performing the best, as well as which segments might be a target that was not previously considered. "Knowing that we are recommending niche on top of broad audiences, we were starting to see a lot of don'ts, such as … only targeting a previous season's viewers who are already invested in the show." Clients must expand their range beyond those previous franchise viewers; for instance, use conquesting to find viewers to grow your incremental households, she advised. "Using data is the best way to do that."
Having these best practices provides a strategic roadmap to improve overall performance for both media companies and advertisers in this ever-fragmenting and increasingly complex media world. "We want to continue our efforts, monitoring trends and getting even deeper data to look at time of year, for example, as well as additional analyses, to inform catch-up strategies and binging and other ways to grow consumption," Shimmel concluded.
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