Turner and Xandr: Partners for a new generation of advertising

9 Jan 2019 - By WarnerMedia Staff

(This post is courtesy of Turner.com)

The advertising business is undergoing a complete transformation thanks to social media, streaming and VOD. What’s an advertiser to do when faced with a such an overwhelming landscape in which to reach customers?

Dan Riess, EVP – Turner Ignite, knows that ever-changing landscape like his own backyard. He has played an integral role in bridging Turner and AT&T’s advertising company, Xandr, a union that is bringing together an unrivaled and unprecedented set of assets. Valuable consumer data and insights, advanced advertising capabilities and engaged, passionate fanbases will help marketers make a real impact, and bring consumers better experiences.

Turner and Xandr just released specific details on how both companies are working together to improve the relevancy of advertising. We sat down with Dan to discuss the partnership, and what it means for Turner’s capabilities to provide marketers with unprecedented results.

Turner: Thank you so much for speaking with us about something exciting that folks here at Turner should really know more about. But first, tell us a little bit about what you do.

Dan Riess (DR): There's a group within Turner Ad Sales called Turner Ignite, and I oversee that team. Turner Ignite’s mission is to build capabilities and marketing services that solve against today’s advertising challenges. Our ad sales team works with clients and sells traditional advertising, while Turner Ignite takes it a step further to align with them on everything from advanced use of data and analytics in advertising to help our clients reach the right people, to creating custom content. We launched and run studios like Courageous, which has experienced great success in a short period, and a newer studio, Turner Ignite Studios, working with properties such as CONAN, Rick and Morty and The Impractical Jokers to help create custom content that helps our advertisers be more relevant to the people they want to reach.

Turner: Heading into CES, Turner just announced new, enhanced ad opportunities as a result of our partnership with AT&T’s advertising business, Xandr. Fill us in on what Xandr is.

DR: Xandr is a division of AT&T that focuses on leveraging the data that comes from AT&T's direct relationships with consumers on the communication side. Cell phones, broadband satellite TV service, set top boxes; they have 170 million points of conductivity with consumers.

Xandr's role is to bring that raw data, almost like “crude oil” but data, from AT&T Communications, and turn it into something viable for our client-facing advertising business. That “crude oil” data then goes to the refinery, which is Xandr. They make all that data useful for ad sales and media sales, like Turner’s business. In simple terms, it’s focus is on precision advertising. 

Turner: What does this partnership with Xandr mean for Turner and why is this important for our business?

DR: If you're a marketer and you want to develop a relationship with a customer that encourages them to buy your product, doing that is exponentially harder today than it's ever been. For example, take CONAN or Rick and Morty, the way fans experience those properties is completely different than it ever has been. Fans can find content on demand, time shifted, and can see clips, content and messaging from creators on social media every day. So, the places we actually connect with our consumers are much bigger. These new places are harder to get to and it’s much harder to understand what works and what doesn't work, because they're just not as evolved and mature as our core television or even now our core digital website business.

This information about consumers that we will now have from AT&T – this ability to measure results of campaigns and initiatives and to deliver a wider range of content types from advertising to branded content to a whole range of other things – allows advertisers to reclaim some of the effectiveness that's been harder to get at in the last 10 years. It has become increasingly difficult because consumers are in so many different places and so many of those places don't "talk" to each other or share the same characteristics as television. And so, by having all of this ability and information about consumers and about what the results are, we can help our marketers do a lot better over time.

Turner: We are in the market with enhanced ad products just six months after the acquisition – what was it like working on such an aggressive timeline?

DR: It’s really exciting. It's an aggressive timeline, but we've had a good amount of time to prepare. We have the right alignment of capabilities and assets between AT&T Communications, Xandr and Turner to pull off some things very quickly. And we have the right dedication of resources and a really good process. All of this has allowed us to get out of the gate really fast with these initial products, initial successes, initial clients who are participating, and all of this knowledge that will lead to even more value.

Turner: Tell us about the recent, and first-ever, AudienceNOW brand campaign that was powered by Xandr’s insights. What kind of potential do you see it having for future clients?

DR: For at least 50 years, television advertising has been bought and sold in a single way. Advertisers came to us and buy by age bracket. They buy either 18 to 34 or 18 to 49, or 25 to 54. The concept that a 49-year-old woman and an 18-year-old-woman, or even a 49-year-old and an 18-year-old, in general, would have the same interests, be in the same lifestyle stage, have any of the same buying habits or media consumption is very, very tenuous at best.

AudienceNOW is the tool that we created to allow people to instead, find who they want to reach. It could be first-time mothers, people in the market for a car, or even more specific than that. What AudienceNOW does is find the places across our inventory where the biggest concentration of viewers that our advertiser wants to reach are watching, at any given time, and puts their spot there instead of a place that has the most 18 to 34, or 18 to 49-year-old consumers.

Turner: We’d love to know about the strategy going into CES and how it’s changed now that we have joined with AT&T.

DR: A lot of our strategy at CES is to impress upon the marketplace that we're already up and running as separate sales forces and companies, Xandr and Turner. But there are areas where we're collaborating and those are coming to fruition very quickly, and quite frankly, drawing a contrast between other kinds of tech communications and media mergers where proof points are lacking.

In six months, we've moved very quickly to bring new value to the industry. We have a vision and it's big and it's transformative, and I think these initial successes are going to help convince people that we're on the right path and we can make it happen. I think that's going to come out at CES.

Turner: Clearly your work isn’t done, what’s next in helping create more relevant experiences for our fans through data and technology?

DR: I think one of the key things is creating more custom content with our advertisers for different audiences and delivering that directly to them, based on all the information we have and the ways we can deliver it to them now, which we didn't have in the past.

If you're on social media, you've probably bought products directly through Facebook, where you don’t even have to leave the Facebook experience. We think there is an opportunity for our clients to partner with us to actually sell things directly on social media platforms. So, social commerce is a focus now.

I think, at the end of the day, while we still sell advertising on a platform by platform basis in a lot of places where advertising lives, we can’t actually combine that into one big, singularly managed cross platform campaign. But that’s where we need to be in the near future, so we can help advertisers solve for that and make the most of their reach.