NBCUniversal has taken another significant step towards fully unified planning, execution, campaign management and reporting for linear and digital television with the launch of One Platform. Starting at the Upfronts this year, this holistic trading platform will support the purchase of audiences against demographics or more specific attributes for either broad reach or targeted campaigns – with the option to match custom advertiser segments – and deliver those audiences from inventory across the whole NBCU content portfolio through any screen. The cross-platform execution will be backed by an all-platform audience guarantee.
NBCU has outlined some distinct audience buying options for One Platform: Network/daypart deals across broadcast and digital; standard demo (Nielsen) buying across broadcast and digital (as many screens as you want); data-optimised (Nielsen) demo buying of linear TV; audience-based buying against custom segments across all screens, which includes addressable TV. The last two come under the AdSmart brand (the AdSmart brand is only applied to addressable in Europe).
These buying options provide a planning continuum that only an advanced, data-driven television company can offer. An advertiser can now combine the different campaign strategies they need into what is an inherently cross-platform buy – unless they choose to buy only certain screen types, which they can still do. One Platform is therefore a vision of the future – optimised planning with the legacy siloes that separate linear and digital removed.
Cross-platform measurement is being upgraded from what NBCU has offered until now. CFlight, which counts impressions on every screen (and only counts a fully completed digital ad) will be expanded this year to cover co-viewing of streaming content, which is particularly important given the rapid growth of connected TV viewing (and therefore the likelihood of multiple viewers around the same big screen for streamed programming). CFlight will also now measure linear network (channel) viewing outside the home and short-form video.
The integration of multiple attribution solutions means measurement of exposure on all screens is linked to business outcomes for marketers – which by itself is a major development. Dashboards show the impact of impressions both in-campaign and post-campaign.
Speaking about the market reaction to One Platform, Laura Molen, President of Advertising Sales & Partnerships at NBCU says: “This [platform] is centring every conversation on business impact, where it should always be focused. This is giving our teams and clients the chance to think differently.”
The vast majority of NBCU clients already buy across both linear and digital today, with each providing unique characteristics they are looking for. That means the impact of the new solution will be large and immediate.
Linda Yaccarino, Chairman of Advertising & Partnerships at NBCU, says One Platform “is the first singular platform that will allow marketers to transact with us in a unified, technically sophisticated, data-driven way that actually reflects the consumer behaviour and experience.” She believes the new system is transformational, sets a new benchmark for the entire industry and cannot be matched for all-screen, precise targeting at global scale. Brand safety is taken for granted and NBCU says the transparency of television has moved into the digital sphere.
“Until now, there has been a value trade-off for marketers. Storytelling and premium content or scale. Targeting or reach. Technology or safety. Not anymore,” she said during the One Platform launch announcement. “For the first time ever, marketers will have the best of both worlds, all in one place.”
Highlighting the potential for Sky and Peacock inventory to be included in One Platform (from the pan-European Pay TV giant and NBCU’s new ad-supported streaming service, respectively), she claims: “This is the convergence of all screens at a scale that is staggeringly different to anyone else in the marketplace, in a world with increasingly limited opportunities for brands to reach scaled audiences. Enthusiasm in the marketplace has been overwhelming.”
Beyond unification of digital and linear, One Platform ensures that every impression can be data-informed, and multiple campaign strategies can be used via the same system. NBCU says it has “reinvented how we transact in the marketplace.” There are several transaction models under the ‘One’ umbrella:
1/ Broad-reach audiences. This covers network and daypart buys across all NBCU premium video (meaning broadcast and digital).
2/ Buying against Nielsen age and gender demographics across as many screens as you want in a single campaign, with a single demographic guarantee.
3/ Linear optimisation using Nielsen demos, which means using data to define more precisely the homes where that target audience resides. This is applied to national, broadcast TV campaigns across the linear portfolio and is a newly developed, in-house solution. This is part of the AdSmart suite.
4/ What NBCU calls advanced target audiences, which is audience-based buying against custom segments, for national (linear) TV campaigns and across digital. This is where an advertiser can start seeking out people who like cooking or are in-market for a certain kind of car, or take holidays in Europe, etc. This includes addressable TV advertising. Long-form and short-form video are covered. Advanced target audience buying was already available but now comes under the One Platform umbrella.
Tom Winiarski, Executive Vice President of Planning & Monetization at NBCU, comments, “We can accommodate so many different strategies and demands, thanks to our content and reach. Our partners are excited to be in the driver’s seat.”
NBCU noted three vendors that are helping the company to unify and improve planning. 4C Insights is helping in the effort to reach preferred demos or advanced target audiences cross-platform, optimised for unduplicated reach. Operative is helping the media owner to unify its ad product catalogue, rate card management and planning tools “so our teams can deliver proposals and plans to our clients with greater ease and efficiency across every investment.”
FreeWheel (which is Comcast-owned, like NBCUniversal) is unifying scheduling and trafficking of campaigns for concurrent linear and digital execution. FreeWheel’s role will lead to more effective pacing and delivery, at scale. NBCU says all this new technology, plus its own in-house developments, “will make buying and trafficking linear and digital buys as simple as turning on the TV.”
One Platform will be the gateway to all NBCU inventory, although much of the Peacock launch inventory has already been sold, so will not be available via this platform at the 2020/21 Upfronts. From 21/22 it will be part of the unified buying mechanism.
Mark Marshall, also President of Advertising Sales & Partnerships at NBCU, concludes: “One Platform helps clients follow consumers and transforms inventory from a static legacy plan to a streamlined, data-informed, dynamic experience. Clients and agency partners are overwhelmingly positive about it.”
The move towards more deeply integrated linear and digital planning and buying is the headline story here, but it should not mask the full purpose of One Platform, which also incorporates the very diverse campaign strategies that are possible via NBCU.
One Platform provides the continuum of solutions that an advanced, data-driven television company can now offer, something that sets television apart from Google, Facebook and all other born-digital media companies. None of those have access to broadcast linear TV.
The siloes that separated broadcast and digital have been removed, so the various broad and narrow campaign strategy options, and the ability to combine these and move seamlessly from one to the other, is an inherently cross-platform exercise now.
The linear/digital unification is not an end in itself – it is a means to achieving the real goal, which is more efficient and effective media planning and execution, made simple, in a world where television is a multiplatform experience.
At Future TV Advertising Forum 2018, Linda Yaccarino pointed to the data-driven transformation of TV advertising and declared that TV now has the magic and the maths – with the magic being great storytelling and context. If there is a race is to provide brand-safe advertising against truly premium content, with transparency, data-smarts and huge scale, then TV is starting to look like a good bet to win it.
NBCU and its One Platform have just provided another proof-point for the thesis that TV is back on the front foot and, in fact, is ready for a renaissance.
It is worth pointing out that OpenAP (of which NBCU is a key member) recently announced the 2.0 version of its multi-broadcaster planning platform, which until now has been dedicated to audience-based buying of broadcast linear TV. v2.0 integrates digital inventory and so provides another great example of how linear and digital are slowly converging.
In Australia, VOZ combines cross-platform audience measurement and planning in a single system, with advanced audience targeting, and this is also shared by multiple broadcasters (you can read about its full capabilities here). One Platform joins these in what is now a growing collection of truly next-generation planning solutions.