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Turner, Fox, Viacom tap Accenture, Nielsen, comScore for ad targeting

OpenAP, the new TV ad sales targeting consortium founded by Turner Broadcasting System Inc., Viacom Inc. and Fox Networks Group, is expected to begin beta-testing this summer, ahead of its official opening this October.

During an April 7 launch event, the initiative aiming to simplify advertisers' ability to target specific, linear TV viewers, executives announced that the platform will be built and administered by Accenture Plc. During the preview at Times Center in Manhattan, media buyers also learned that data from both Nielsen Holdings and comScore Inc. will be incorporated into the platform.

As the industry’s first open platform for cross-publisher audience targeting and independent measurement, OpenAP aspires to allow advertisers and agencies to standardize audience targets and measure delivery, with Accenture fulfilling those third-party roles.

The platform is also expected to enable clients and agencies to integrate their own data and planning systems with OpenAP to identify more select audiences.

Historically, TV networks have sold ad inventory and guaranteed audience across broader audiences. Those gender and demographic characteristics have not provided advertisers with similar levels of targeting capabilities enabled by digital advertising.

With TV ratings declining in general in the face of delayed and alternative viewing options and ad-free, subscription video on demand offerings, all of the founding consortium members have been doing some audience targeting, but the idea with OpenAP is to offer marketers more scale and choices. Together, content from Viacom, Turner and Fox Networks reaches 93% of all TV audiences, the companies said.

OpenAP is expected to help advertisers identify an appropriate audience and aid in their decision whether to proceed with and then execute a plan against that target group. However, advertisers can’t purchase inventory through OpenAP. Rather, they would have to engage with the buying process with the appropriate programmers, striking deals on an individualized basis. Accenture would then verify the campaign’s delivery and posting.

"You have been the catalyst for OpenAP," Donna Speciale, president of Turner Ad Sales, told buyers during the presentation. "You've been asking us to come together to unify, to simplify audience targeting on TV and make it more scalable. We listened."

Speciale also noted that "together we have massive reach. Our content is premium and global. We have trusted brands, premium content and a safe environment for all your messages."

Joe Marchese, president of advanced advertising products for Fox Networks Group, called OpenAP "a step towards something that's very important," before quipping that "Dora can finally play with Bart. They just need adult supervision from Anderson Cooper to make sure nothing goes horribly wrong."

OpenAP has been in the works for 11 months, according to Sean Moran, head of marketing and partner solutions at Viacom. "Sometimes you can feel like you’re too close to something," he said on stage, before noting that initial reaction from the industry has been positive. "We seem to be moving down the right path."

After the presentation, Moran said he had just returned from the West Coast, where he met with the studios to discuss OpenAP, among other issues.

Moran said the consortium is pointing to a beta test in August, with two dozen clients having expressed interest in participating. "We're trying to determine the right number," he said.

Marchese said there has been "significant interest" from other programmers about joining OpenAP, but stopped short of predicting when there would be announcement to that end. "It's hard to determine when others will sign on."

Moran said he thought that would occur before the end of the upfront selling season. Speciale said OpenAP will be part of the upfront discussions, noting that a "certain percentage" of business has been written against audience targeting over the past two years. "With OpenAP, we’re going to open up even more conversations," she said.

"We are confident that they will play the same role in OpenAP. We look forward to working with the participating networks and advertisers on the broader success of this initiative," Lynda Clarizio, President of U.S. Media at Nielsen, said in a statement regarding Nielsen's planned participation in OpenAP.