When It Comes to Currency, A+E Networks Is Leaning Into a Flexible Future

By A+E Networks InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: When It Comes to Currency, A+E Networks Is Leaning Into a Flexible Future

As the world of media continues to rapidly evolve, measurement currency remains at the center of industry debate. Traditional methods of measuring audience delivery and campaign success are inadequate in the face of rapid changes in consumer behavior and fractionalization of audiences across platforms. While everyone accepts that reality, their approaches to solving the currency problem have shifted significantly over the last few years. From the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement (CIMM) to the newly formed Joint Industry Committee (JIC), momentum seems to be building around a future that is not based on improving or promoting a singular currency, but in paving the way for a complex, multi-currency mediaverse.

For its part in this matrixed-currency future, A+E Networks is expanding on its business outcome guarantees to advertisers and offering them a unique opportunity to better understand alternative currency measurement. The omnichannel media powerhouse believes that as the consumer enjoys unlimited choice, so should marketers. "We're not in the business of forcing anyone's hand down one path or another. We are learning today, so we will have smarter deals and transactions for tomorrow, next year and the year after that," explains Roseann Montenes, A+E Networks' Head of Strategic Audience Solutions and Alternative Currency Measurement.

The effort is in part a response to "challenges to not having optionality in the marketplace," adds Suzanne Persechino, Senior Vice President of Ad Sales Research. "There are a lot of different individual solutions, but they lack scale, or they lack competitive benchmarks … but at the heart of it really is just a desire for innovation for both the buy and the sell side of the business. That optionality is something that I think we can all agree is good for the marketplace."

The free-flowing exchange between Montenes and Persechino is a window into the lockstep relationship A+E Networks has cultivated between sales and research operations in solving the currency question. Where methodology matters on one end, activation matters on the other, and the programmer has astutely aligned its executives for the challenge. Persechino points out that having "interoperability among all the different parts of the business that are going to transact or use this data from an enterprise perspective" requires a "certain level of checks and balances" and "executive support."

The task is admittedly daunting. Consider the upheaval involved when the ad-supported media industry pivoted from Nielsen's average minute audience to average commercial minute audience + 3 days (C3) in 2007. The waters being tread today are exponentially more complicated involving not just variations in metrics or vendors based on platforms (different industry standards for analog vs digital), but competitive suitors within the same platforms (Nielsen, Comscore, iSpot, Samba, etc.). The traditional questions about accuracy, representativeness and universality are now being considered alongside the concerns of a big-data enabled world, namely technology & infrastructure, interoperability, privacy, transparency, governance and transaction flexibility, and cross-platform measurement, integration and stewardship. The challenges are considerable enough to invoke paralysis and stasis.

While other publishers and programmers are quickly making commitments (and headlines), A+E Networks sees it differently, preferring depth over primacy. It's not so much about the "what" or the "who" they partner with, as it is the "why." With a remit of driving business outcomes for marketers, the programmer is laser-focused on pinpointing the value of alternative currencies for individual clients in the contexts that are most meaningful for them. "We are really trying to get deep into the facts behind the measurement," Montenes explains. "There are different values, and there are different pieces to that puzzle that just won't fit together and make sense. We're trying to explain that and be educators in the market for our clients."

The key, according to Montenes, is flexibility. "We're not going to force a client into any particular direction," she says.

Going into the 2024 Upfront, A+E Networks will be launching a client-first, flexible approach to testing and learning with various forms of currency. To date, clients can activate with A+E against iSpot, VideoAMP, Nielsen BDS and Comscore. The expectation is that alternative currency reads will be made available on a case-by-case basis, depending on strategic goals. Persechino's team will be charged with pressure-testing capabilities and designing consistent measurement solutions, regardless of how impressions may be "graded."

Ultimately, the programmer believes that with the gift of time, testing and collaboration, a large pool of solutions will eventually yield to a smaller subset of consistent, dependable options. Marketers in the automotive, retail and QSR categories have already begun leaning into currency conversations with the A+E teams.

In the not-so-distant future, it's possible that advertisers and their agencies will be specifying their preferred currency solutions in much the same way they've delineated their content preferences. A+E Networks is building for such an inevitability. "We're ready to meet the moment," says Persechino.

The new thrust in currency conversations is about pioneering flexible, innovative and sound currency solutions for its advertising clients. Although challenging, Montenes sees no reason why they won't continue to be a "one-stop shop to get marketer deals done."

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