Virtual TV upfronts: 3 ways that social data can impact your pitch
COVID-19 has pushed a big change in how networks and advertisers are partnering during the 2020 TV upfront season. Learn how conversational intelligence can play a role in media programming and ad buying.
The 2020 coronavirus outbreak has had a huge impact on how brand reps everywhere are doing business. For the entertainment industry specifically, that meant postponing the in-person springtime upfronts - splashy, star-studded annual gatherings where TV execs pitch their new programming to advertisers - that typically allow them to prepare for their busy autumn launch season.
What do you guys miss most about going into your office or office functions? Me - I miss going to the UPFRONTS every year!!! Best Party you will ever go to in NYC. Last year, I had the pleasure of sitting 3 feet away from Idina Menzel singing "Let it Go" It was SOOOOOOOO amazing!— 🍷🌊 PamelaNYCXOXO 🍷🌊 🇮🇹🍷 (@PamelaNycxoxo) August 11, 2020
Like many other industries, TV broadcast networks had to plan for a new future when traditional marketing strategies were thrown for a loop in 2020.
The biggest industry names - from ABC to WarnerMedia - had to rethink how they’d be both choosing and showcasing their content for the next year. Being in-the-moment has become essential for business survival in 2020, so how can television broadcasters plan ahead (and secure ad revenue) when no one can really say what lies in store just yet?
One way that the media industry has been able to track the types of content that viewers are looking for is through examining social data. Companies like Talkwalker provide consumer insights that can help marketers at networks and agencies alike understand what audiences want to see, and what kind of stories they’d like to hear. As major networks have shifted to virtual upfronts - making the pitching experience much less flashy - it’s essential to have as much info as possible on what their viewers want to see so that they can make the case to advertisers to invest in it.
TV upfronts have seen an uptick in online conversation this year, even without the usual celeb sightings and “big ideas” from networks on display.
So what kind of metrics are media players using to understand what their audiences crave? How does social listening come into play during the virtual pitch? Here are three types of social data that the entertainment industry has harnessed in their upfront season to prove content concepts and bring advertising partners to the table:
1. Social media mentions
Perhaps the best way to understand the impact of your marketing is knowing how many people are talking about you. The same idea goes for media companies, who track mentions of their programming across social platforms to understand what people are saying about their content. Now, broadcasters are showing advertisers how they can apply this to their product ads and placements in upcoming programming.
With so much uncertainty about the future of TV and film production, many broadcasters used their upfronts as an opportunity to present data to advertisers rather than “big ideas” for new shows. For example, ViacomCBS used their upfront to speak about the impact that viewer data can have in proving brand awareness for their advertisers. Media companies can use conversational intelligence tools to track advertiser mentions alongside commentary about their programming to show how viewers are getting exposed to their products
By tracking mentions month-over-month, broadcasters like ViacomCBS can distinguish the high and low seasons for their networks and plan ad strategies accordingly.
Product placement has always featured heavily in networks’ ad revenue, with 75% of all broadcast network shows featuring a placement of some kind. Even when it’s unintentional, a product placement can lead to increased brand awareness and revenue:
I’m starting Game of Thrones, please no spoilers. I already heard about the Starbucks cup that shows up in an episode and I’m mad that was ruined for me.— Teddy (@Teddy_Taylor27) August 17, 2020
The accidental placement of a coffee cup in an episode of “Game of Thrones” last year ended up netting Starbucks $2.3 billion in free advertising.
This gives broadcasters a huge advantage over other forms of digital advertising (i.e. search and display ads) that many marketers have been focusing on in recent years, and removes concerns around brand safety and click fraud that media buyers have faced. Tracking mentions around product placements can give advertisers a way to understand how consumers are engaging with their brand, which has been limited in 2020 due to the lack of experiential marketing that many of them typically rely on.
Another benefit of social media mentions tracking? TV execs can prove the popularity of their programming easily with data showcasing how much people are talking about their content. This will put their advertisers more at ease with so much else that’s up in the air around the future of television production.
2. Demographic analysis
Tracking what your audience is saying about your product is important, but knowing who is saying it is just as essential. For TV programming, network execs use demographic data to make decisions on what content to invest in (or divest from). Social media data plays a big role in that.
The Spanish language broadcast powerhouse Univision used their upfront as an opportunity to show advertisers how much they’ve expanded their presence in the US this year. By giving data points around who is engaging with their shows, news coverage, and digital programming, the network showcased their growth and potential reach in new markets where other media outlets have struggled.
“Enamorandonos”, one of Univision’s most popular shows, has seen an uptick in international reach this year - an appealing stat to advertisers.
Univision made the case for the importance of content that is culturally relevant during their upfront, and is looking to other nations for inspiration. The network has used demographic data to launch programming that’s based on popular international content, and is planning to produce new shows in 2020 that already have big followings in other countries.
They’ve tested out adding non-Spanish shows to their lineup in recent years, like the Turkish series “Amor Eterno”, to great success. Now Univision plans to implement that strategy even further in the 2020-21 TV season by creating adaptations that reach the new audiences they’ve brought in.
Did you see Eternal Love? Itwas Amor Eterno on Univision ! That novela had me sucked in and in my feelings the entire time. Turkish Soaps are the best.— Eve (@Eviil23) August 17, 2020
As international television hits become more accessible, networks can use social demographic data to track their popularity across new markets.
By harnessing the power of demographic data on social platforms, media planners can find new audience bases and understand how to engage current viewers even further. This allows TV networks to bring agility to their planning and get creative during a time where new programming is a gamble from a production standpoint.
3. Conversation tracking
Alongside mentions and demographic data, tracking conversational themes on social media has a big impact on brand strategy. For TV networks, this can mean investigating conversations about programming and new products and services they’re launching.
NBCUniversal used conversation trends to help them both generate chatter around their TV upfront this year and to promote their new streaming platform, Peacock. The network tied in one of their most popular series, “30 Rock”, to remind advertisers of the power that fandom can play in future programming investments.
Even though “30 Rock” went off the air in 2013, online mentions for it have not stopped. During the COVID-19 quarantine, there’s been an even bigger upswing in conversation about the show as people binge watched the series to pass the time.
Quarantine Day 1: I'm going to read Infinite Jest— Aaron (@BobbyBigWheel) March 14, 2020
Quarantine Day 1 and 5 minutes: I'm going to watch 30 Rock reruns all day
Many “30 Rock” fans used their time at home to rewatch this old standby.
NBCUniversal harnessed the nostalgia that online conversation around the show is currently driving and created a “30 Rock”-themed upfront that engaged media buyers and the average TV viewer alike. By bringing back the show’s stars and having them embody the roles they had played in the series, the network generated even more conversation about their upfront and drove excitement for an event that traditionally only has industry people talking. And with more people discussing NBCUniversal through the “30 Rock” tie-in, the network was also able to get eyes on its streaming service launch and help advertisers see the impact that television can have on brand awareness:
The attention driven by the “30 Rock” upfront correlated with an increase in mentions around NBCUniversal’s new streaming platform, Peacock.
TV networks like NBCUniversal can examine brand mentions alongside their television programs to understand what types of products and companies viewers associate with their shows:
This brand theme cloud shows the companies, products, and competitors that people online are mentioning alongside “30 Rock” in discussions about streaming the show recently.
Identifying conversational trends will help networks understand what their viewers are craving in programming lineups for the coming year, but it can also help them prove the visibility that advertisers will receive in their partnerships.
While there are only three tactics for social media listening outlined here, broadcast and media companies have countless ways to use conversational intelligence to their advantage as they plan for an uncertain production future. TV upfront planning shows that many networks are already using social data to inform their decision making. By investing in social media monitoring tools, they can deepen their relationships with viewers and advertisers alike.