Saturday, March 18, 2017

Viacom, Turner And Fox To Launch OpenAP, a Standard Audience Targeting Platform for Networks and Agencies

Viacom, Turner and Fox Networks Group are joining forces to make it easier for advertisers to use data to target ads across multiple TV networks.

Viacom's Sean Moran, Turner's Donna Speciale and Fox's Joe Marchese worked together for the past year on the new OpenAP audience targeting platform. Sources: Viacom, Jeremy Freeman for Turner, Fox

The three media giants have announced the launch of OpenAP, a web-based advanced audience platform standard for cross-publisher audience targeting and independent measurement, where advertisers can mix and match data sets to create ad targeting criteria that can be used for multiple TV buys.

For years, there has been a lot of industry talk—but very little action—about the need to create a standard audience targeting platform that will allow for more transparency in audience buying. Now, three of the biggest media companies have taken matters into their own hands to do just that.

In an open letter sent today to their clients and the industry, Donna Speciale (president of Turner Ad Sales, a unit of Time Warner Inc.), Sean Moran (head of marketing and partner solutions, Viacom) and Joe Marchese (president of advanced advertising products, Fox Networks Group) said OpenAP is “an open platform that supports industry-standard measurement sources and data, not just proprietary, walled-garden, self-governed reporting. It is consistent matching for an advertiser’s custom first-party audiences in the development of cross-publisher media plans.”

OpenAP will go into beta this summer, and the consortium said they expect the platform to factor into their upfront talks this year.

As each company has worked on their respective audience targeting platforms, they kept hearing from clients who “were hoping that we would get together to make it much more simplified and scalable for them to do business with us,” said Speciale, who said the three companies have spent the past year working on the new platform, adding “clients have really been the catalysts for this.”

“As demand for this kind of targeting has grown, adoption has been limited,” said Sean Moran, Viacom’s head of sales, marketing & partner solutions. “The buying has not been as transparent or consistent.”

OpenAP won’t take the place of companies’ individual audience targeting platforms, but publishers and agencies will be able to integrate OpenAP with their own systems. “It means that a buyer won’t have to recreate the segment three times,” said Marchese. “So we’ll create one specific advanced audience segment, and then Fox will use AIM [its Audience Insights Manager] and Viacom will use Vantage and Turner will use Ignite, and they’ll come back with plans, because we each do unique audience footprints, and we are going to want to use our specific assets in different ways.”

“We’re making significant investments here, because we know we need to be doing this,” Marchese added, “from day one, there will be multiple billions of dollars worth of inventory that will potentially be available [using these data sets].”

On the back end, said Marchese, “that exact same advanced audience is going to be able to be measured the same across all three. It removes all the pain from the audience side of this. This is what audience buying should be.” The platform, he added, “is a massive first step in getting a third-party verified source for advanced audience buying.”

Today’s announcement was short on specifics about the data used in the platform—the consortium is even declining for now to name the “leading, neutral third-party auditor” who will run the platform and developed it with Turner, Viacom and Fox’s internal product teams. But the three execs said they will provide that information at an April 7 event that they’re hosting for agencies and clients, where “we’re going to be getting down into the weeds and [offer] details of how we’re pulling the data sources,” said Moran.

For now, Speciale will say that the platform is “data-agnostic” and can accommodate any data sets, or syndicated data sets, that clients and publishers want to use.

While the ad sales execs were tight-lipped about the platform’s data sources, Nielsen said that the company will supply some of the data for OpenAP and applauded the new platform in a statement: “We support the consortium’s goals to give advertisers and agencies verified and audited reporting of delivery. This is an important part of what is needed to create openness and transparency in ad buying and selling.”

Even though Viacom, Turner and Fox created and launched the platform, OpenAP will be open to all television publishers. “Our goal is that it’s widely used throughout the industry, by media companies, agencies and clients,” said Moran. “We really believe that it’s going to be widely adopted by a lot of other television publishers.”

The more publishers that come on board, said Speciale, the easier it will be for clients to use OpenAP to buy audiences.

Right now, OpenAP will be restricted to linear inventory, but the consortium hopes that the platform will ultimately be cross-platform and cover anywhere that publisher’s premium content can be viewed, said Speciale.

An OpenAP beta should be ready by June or July, and the consortium expects that the platform will go out of beta in the fall. While it will be up to each publisher, the three companies expect OpenAP to factor into their upfront talks about inventory and audience targeting. “This just makes it easier,” said Moran.

Rival TV giants such as NBCUniversal, CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co. and Discovery Communications Inc. are not part of this initiative. But according to Mr. Moran, all media companies are “welcome to join.”

The three media companies are planning to hold an event in New York on Friday 7th April 2017 where more details on OpenAP will be revealed.

Sources: AdWeek, Wall Street Journal.
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