The company that usually talks to advertisers about properties like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Get Up!” and Goofy spent some time last week chatting with them about technologies that will probably be never mentioned on any of those programs.
And yet, for Madison Avenue, the tech lingo is fast becoming more important than the entertainment.
As more consumers get their movies, dramas, comedies and even live sports and news from video delivered by broadband, big media companies are rushing to follow them — and help advertisers do the same. Walt Disney Co. has unveiled a suite of new products that lets sponsors buy across TV and digital with more ease and also place their commercials with greater precision.
“This year is the year of the streaming wars,” says Lisa Valentino, executive vice president of client solutions and addressable enablement for Disney Ad Sales, in an interview. “We expect the volume against our streaming supply will only continue to grow.” The company believes that over the next five years, most of its business across linear and digital will be automated, conducted in what is known in the industry in “programmatic” fashion, and is working to give clients what they want in advance of the annual sales session known as the upfront, when U.S. TV companies try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory ahead of their next programming cycle.
“Our clients have been asking for an easy way to make and execute digital upfront commitments across all Disney inventory,” says Tim Sims, chief revenue officer of The Trade Desk, in a prepared statement.
Disney isn’t the only one working toward such goals. Many media companies are folding assets once separated by divisions under a single umbrella. As audiences splinter around programs and behaviors, advertisers want to give these smaller groups commercials that are more likely to appeal, and crave technology solutions that can help accomplish the task. NBCUniversal has in recent weeks brought its local station ad inventory under its central ad-sales efforts, and is planning a technology conference for advertisers later this month.
Disney debuted what it calls its Disney Audience Graph that helps advertisers identify distinct segments of audience so they can place ads based on things such as buyer behavior, household characteristics, and psychographics. The company says the number of campaigns using data of any kind to target audiences has increased 56% over the past year.
The company also unveiled what it calls its Disney Real-Time Ad Exchange, a buying system that allows advertisers buying programmatically to bid more easily for the audiences they wish to target.
“We have the opportunity to democratize TV advertising for a broader set of clients that could not necessarily access it historically,” says Jeremy Helfand, senior vice president and head of advertising platforms for Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, in an interview. “We are really excited about being able to open up these large-scale environments for advertisers of all types, whether that’s small and medium sized businesses or local advertisers.”
Many media companies are hoping for a new dynamic after seeing ad dollars clawed back in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising Sales, says she expects new outlays from advertisers who cut spending last year, especially movie studios and travel advertisers. “I think there’s going to be a significant amount of demand in this marketplace,” she says, but advertisers are interested “in making every impression count.”