NBCUniversal and Sky, both now owned by Comcast, are unifying their advanced advertising capabilities under the AdSmart brand in what is the first joint advertising initiative since Comcast acquired Sky. The AdSmart solution includes NBCUniversal’s Audience Studio, which is a combination of optimised linear audience discovery and targeting (but still using one-to-many broad reach on national TV), one-to-one addressable TV on broadcast infrastructure, and one-to-one targeting against streaming content. Sky contributes AdSmart, which supports addressable TV advertising in broadcast and streaming TV and is the undisputed market-leading solution for addressable TV in Europe. This means that AdSmart technology will be deployed outside Europe for the first time.
The subtle name change means this is no longer Sky AdSmart but AdSmart (from Sky, from NBCUniversal) and the two companies are leveraging their scale to take the first steps towards creating what they call an unparalleled global solution for advanced premium video advertising. “AdSmart will enable global brands and businesses to easily activate targeting and optimisation solutions to reach customers around the world and measure results across NBCU and Sky’s extensive portfolios,” a statement says.
“Over the years, Sky has built a suite of advanced advertising tools, and we’re excited to share them with international marketers in the United States,” said Andrew Griffith, Group Chief Operating Officer at Sky. “Together with NBCUniversal, we are launching a global product unlike anything the market has seen before, that combines the quality and reach of TV with best-in-class addressability.”
Linda Yaccarino, Chairman of Advertising and Partnerships at NBCUniversal, comments: “The world is getting smaller, and the opportunity for international marketers to make an impact with consumers is getting bigger. The industry has demanded a global premium video offering, and now one will finally exist.
“NBCUniversal and Sky are committed to setting the highest possible standards and transforming the ad experience,” Yaccarino continues. “Bringing our advanced advertising solutions under one global structure is the first step in our journey.”
Indeed, AdSmart is viewed as the start of an advanced advertising partnership that will deliver unprecedented value and scale from a media organisation. The Sky and NBCU teams will take insights and learnings from each other and apply them in their own markets. Thus, Sky will be looking to apply the best-in-class linear optimisation platforms used in the U.S. by NBCU in Europe.
The AdSmart solution now includes the following capabilities:
- Linear optimisation – NBCU and Sky can each enable advertisers to optimise their linear spend against a rich selection of consumer segments for enhanced delivery to target audiences through the unparalleled reach of national TV, leveraging Comcast set-top box data in the U.S. and Sky set-top box data in the UK for a total data set of more than 50 million households.
- Addressable television – NBCU and Sky can each enable advertisers to target precise consumer segments through addressable TV for ads delivered directly to target households over broadcast infrastructure (e.g. via satellite or cable).
- Digital targeting – NBCU and Sky can each enable advertisers to target precise consumer segments across digital platforms for ads delivered directly to target users through premium online content.
- Contextual alignment – NBCU is piloting AI-powered contextual media planning for TV, aligning brand messaging with highly relevant scenes across national programming to enhance ad effectiveness and give consumers what it calls “a more organic viewing experience”. This forms part of the combined AdSmart solution set. You can read more about NBCU’s contextual intelligence solution here.
There are a few points to emphasise from this development. First, the determination to create a global solution for international brands. This will help Sky and NBCU compete with global digital platforms like Google and Facebook for data-driven advertising solutions. When the companies say AdSmart will enable global brands and businesses to easily activate targeting and optimisation, the ease of use is important. Marketers are faced with growing complexity in the multiscreen, multiplatform world, with their audiences fragmenting. They want solutions that help them find their audiences and execute against them with a minimum of extra fuss. The ease with which you can make big multi-market buys is one of the advantages Google and Facebook have exploited against TV.
Secondly, by combining their solution set, both companies strengthen their ability to offer advertisers a best-in-class continuum, ranging from classic linear TV through to optimised buying of mass audiences (with better audience discovery and segmentation, but where all viewers of a programme see all ads) through to one-to-one targeting . Few people believe targeting will take over from mass-reach, but it will complement it. Marketers will want the ability to buy mass audiences, and sometimes target to a greater or lesser degree. One common use of targeting is to top up the number of times you can hit lighter TV viewers via reach-all campaigns, so the mass and targeting campaigns need to be closely integrated.
Third, the expectation that Sky will bring AI-based contextual placement of ads into content to the UK is noteworthy in itself. Channel 4 is already working on similar technology. (see story). Having two rival solutions not only brings competition but adds credibility to the concept.