ViacomCBS Tries to Simplify a Complex Video-Buying World for Advertisers

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Eddie Guy for Variety

ViacomCBS is joining the parade of media companies trying to simplify their increasingly dizzying array of video offerings to advertisers.

The company, created from the merger of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. late last year, will this fall launch a new product called ViacomCBS EyeQ, a system that allows advertisers to purchase commercial inventory from across the company’s various digital-video offerings, which include ad-supported video hub Pluto; the many CBS digital holdings; and Viacom’s digital assets.

“When you are in the market with six or seven different products, it becomes incumbent on you as a seller to make it easier for your clients to understand what they are spending and how it is working,” says John Halley, chief operating officer of advertising revenue at ViacomCBS, in an interview.

Madison Avenue has a surfeit of video opportunities, and the task of placing commercials alongside all of them can be daunting. In the case of ViacomCBS, it may have been even more so, as the company, merged less than a year has had to move quickly to meld its portfolio. Executives have worked to create a unified buying system since shortly after the last CES, says David Lawenda, ViacomCBS’ executive vice president of digital sales and strategy at ViacomCBS, in an interview.

The new system may help the company in its quest to prove the combination of CBS and Viacom is better than each entity remaining apart. Viacom has long burnished advanced advertising products that help clients use data to place their commercials more precisely, while CBS sports some of TV’s most popular pieces of content. Advertisers and media buyers have been eager to see how the combined company stitches such offerings together.

“Our scale in premium digital video is literally as big as anything else in the marketplace, plus there’s the fact that we have covered every conceivable passion point: news, sports, tech, gaming, music, kids and every demo,” says Lawenda. ViacomCBS has been making the new system a talking point in its current discussions with advertisers as part of the TV industry’s annual “upfront” sales process, when TV networks haggle over the next season’s ad prices with Madison Avenue.

But competitors have also made strides in these areas. NBCUniversal’s “One Platform” allows advertisers to buy digital and linear inventory together, while Walt Disney has in recent weeks taken steps to pair its Hulu video-streaming hub with its various cable and broadcast networks.

The new EyeQ system will support several different types of transactions, including programmatic, and lets advertisers employ several different ways of aligning commercials with content. Marketers can buy according to special content segments, such as news, sports or kids; consumer demographics; consumer behavior; and creative executions, which might  encompass live experiences, or work with influencers.

Marketers can use the digital-ad management technology to limit how many times a commercial might appear in front of the same consumer, the executives said, a growing complaint among advertisers who use streaming video  -and the people who see their ads.

“With this transformative platform, we’re creating a smarter and effective way to deliver seamless access to our leading content portfolio and unparalleled reach in a unified buying environment – which is exactly what the digital ad market has been asking for and sorely missing,” says Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer, ViacomCBS Domestic Advertising Sales.