Turner’s Upfront – More Glitz, Programming and Data with Fewer Ads

With a stage designed by Atomic, a star cast that included Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Charles Barkley, Conan O’Brien, Samantha Bee, Anthony Bourdain and even a CNN drone, the Turner Upfront was filled with energy, glitz and over 2,000 agency executives. It was quite a spectacle. 

After a crowd warm-up by Anderson Cooper, Conan O’Brien and Charles Barkley, things got down to business with a presentation by Donna Speciale, President of Turner Ad Sales. Her message was - more content integration, context, storytelling and therefore engagement and attention with less clutter. She spoke of her company’s efforts to merge the use of data and analytics with content creation, “We are offering more content, more solutions and bigger results. We are a data driven content creation company that puts consumers first.” 

Merging data driven solutions with content creation is something of a theme this upfront as other companies have also announced such initiatives. But in addition to this, Turner’s efforts also include a less cluttered environment by reducing the ad load. This is a bold and welcome move in an industry that has come to rely on more and more ads to meet their guaranteed advertiser commitments.  In addition, in a nod to the contentious issue of accurate digital content viewability, Speciale noted that when Turner talks about online views, they refer to a thirty second length, not three seconds. 

Speciale announced that “bold, engaging, less cluttered content” that are then matched to brands and “paired with smart data solutions” are all part of a new initiative at Turner called Turner Ignite. This is a powerful marketing platform where they will test, optimize and learn more about cross screen behaviors. “But,” Speciale added, “This isn’t new. We have been doing this type of targeting now resulting in $50 million in media spend. And it is a pure audience guarantee. We offer provable ROI guarantee outcomes.”
Turner is applying more digital data to TV and putting it to work with their brands. One such initiative is the roll-out of Team Coco Digital Studios for branded content. This will help in the development of native content for advertisers during breaks with branded storytelling. It is possible that such content can help in maintaining viewership through the breaks in addition to their shorter pod lengths.

The full program included sizzle reels and programming announcements for News, TBS, TNT, TruTV and Sports and highlights from other Turner properties such as Adult Swim. Highlights include a new Wyatt Cenac comedy, People of Earth, about a support group of people who have had alien encounters for TBS, Animal Kingdom, a drama starring Ellen Barkin and The Alienist, a crime drama set in late 1800s New York City for TNT. 

Delivery of quality content with a lower ad load and the ability for greater brand integration for advertisers could lead to Speciale’s hope for higher ad rates. "Branded storytelling and shorter breaks have driven significant performance lifts,” she said, “The experience is everything."

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