NBCUniversal Launches One-Stop Shop for Data-Driven Ad Targeting

What is Audience Studio? NBCUniversal wants to make it easier for advertisers to use data to target audiences more precisely across TV, digital and social media. The media company, owned by Comcast Corp. , is introducing a new division called Audience Studio, which is dedicated to helping marketers employ data for ad targeting purposes by tying together four different ad buying products NBCU has introduced over the past few years. Audience Studio is being led by Denise Colella, NBCU’s senior vice president of data platforms and strategy who is in the midst of putting together a team of specialists for the new endeavor, including several planned hires.

Does Audience Studio Have a Data Management Platform? In addition to the group of ad targeting experts, at the heart of Audience Studio is a new “data management platform.” It’s basically a set of digital tools that advertisers will be able to use to match their own data with data from NBCU and third-party sources, in order to put together ad targeting segments, such as new moms in the market for a family friendly car. Marketers can then use that information to direct their advertising to those groups on TV and the Web.

What Four Offerings Does Audience Studio Include? Audience Studio will essentially tie together four recently launched NBCU ad offerings: Its Audience Targeting Platform lets advertisers target specific audiences on linear TV, and NBCUx is a similar product for digital media. NBCU+ Powered by Comcast provides marketers some access to Comcast set-top data for ad targeting purposes. And Social Synch helps brands extend the reach of their ad buys across various social networks.

Why Is Audience Studio An Interesting Opportunity for Marketers? Until now, a marketer looking to take advantage of two or more of these tools might have had to input data several different ways and come up with different definitions of potential ad targeting segments. Brands were largely then left to try to match up the segments manually. As more advertisers look to employ data-centric ad strategies across multiple media outlets, the process has the potential to cause major headaches, according to Krishan Bhatia, executive vice president of business operations and strategy at NBCU.

“If before you had this Chinese Wall between groups, with this, you are permeating that,” Mr. Bhatia said. “Going forward, a brand can now align their data inputs and outputs.”

What’s the Most Difficult Part of Targeting the Right Audience Segments? Naturally, advertisers want to eliminate any potential barriers when trying to increase their use of sophisticated targeting. Yet one complaint some buyers have raised recently is that they are worried that the each of the big TV companies will build its own unique systems and processes for data-driven advertising. That level of complexity might hold back the overall market’s potential, these buyers say.

In fact, some have advocated for a single technological solution that all the big TV players could employ for data-driven ad buys.

With Audience Studio, will NBCU be accused of going its own way? Mr. Bhatia said that he’d be more than willing to listen if such a broader effort were under way. But, we don’t have the luxury to wait for that solution to emerge,” he said. “We’d be the first people to think through how we might use that to help our clients. But right now we want to establish a leadership position and let our ad clients use any sort of data you could possibly imagine for advertising.”

MY POV: With yet another possible target marketing option in the marketplace, marketers need to take a really close look at the technology their currently have. It may mean that they do a “bake off” and determine, by comparing actual results, what technologies and platforms will really serve their needs to not only target the right audience, but also to increase lead conversion rates. The good thing is marketers have more choices than ever. The bad thing is, marketers have more choices than ever.

@Drnatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

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