This episode provides an unusual opportunity to hear from both the media company and the media agency talking about an addressable advertising strategy for one of their advertisers, Volvo. Tobias Wolf, who as Executive Director, Client Services leads a team of media strategists and specialists across global media agency network Mindshare, and Brian Norris, Vice President of DISH Media Sales, shared some real insider insights. (The transcript has been edited for clarity and length. Listen to the entire conversation for full insights, along with all our episodes, now on Stitcher. And please consider reviewing and subscribing on Apple podcasts).
E.B. Moss: Tobias, you work across all platforms. Digital, media, marketing, mobile, search...
Tobias Wolf: Yes. If the consumer can see it or hear it, we'll give it to them.
Moss: One area that's particularly germane to today is that you really helped pioneer the advanced addressable TV space.
Wolf: That's correct. We started the first addressable test in the country, I think, back in about 2010 [note: actual year was 2008] and have since advanced our approach to the platform over the years. It has really become a mainstay for a lot of my clients in the business.
Moss: I guess it paid off, because also key to our conversation is the fact that you led the pitch for and contributed to Mindshare actually winning the Volvo USA business.
Wolf: Yes, we won the business in 2014, and did it in our real-time, adaptive marketing technology center called The Loop, which was a really interesting way to pitch a business. Adaptability, agility, and addressability were a big part of what we were talking to Volvo about that day.
Moss: And THAT paid off also because one of the first Volvo campaigns you did scored five Cannes Lions?
Wolf: Volvo Super Bowl Interception was a really exciting consumer engagement program we did that first year: every time a competitor ran a car commercial we asked people to submit a reason to nominate somebody to win a Volvo. It exploded in social media and really took over the landscape.
Moss: That was a real first...and another first leads me to Brian - a first - a founding member of the DISH Media Sales team back in 2008, heading up sales, viewer measurement, operations across both DISH and Sling TV, and the teams that include addressable, interactive, programmatic platforms. Since you know a little something about this space -- what's addressable?
Brian Norris: Yes, DISH Media Sales is closing in on our 10-year anniversary.... We had this vision that we would start a world-class media sales department and a product that hinged on leveraging the set-top box to deliver a targeted message to an intended audience. That's really part of the definition of addressable: Having the ability to deliver the right spot at the right time to the right audience. Taking it a little bit further, the other beautiful part about addressable is really the measurement piece of that....
Moss: I can see how this would be very compelling to an advertiser, so now we’re talking about a first in cross-platform addressable – [via] DISH and Sling TV. Tell us more.
Norris: We're in a very unique place in television right now: ...Content has never been better. But how do we capitalize on that fragmented audience? So, two years ago, DISH introduced a product to the marketplace, Sling TV, which is an Over the Top platform, really, and the basic definition of OTT-- Being able to deliver content across the internet. When you combine Sling and DISH in an addressable environment, it gives the advertiser the opportunity to reach an audience that they otherwise might not be able to reach. The beauty of it is being able to transact with one sales team ... [and] to deliver that targeted message to the right audience no matter if they're watching traditional television on our satellite platform or watching live television or on-demand television on our over-the-top platform.
Moss: I see Tobias nodding his head in agreement, saying, "Yeah, that worked out for me." Tell me about your experience in working with DISH Media Sales and how this kind of came to be.
Wolf: We've been working with DISH, and their addressable platforms specifically, since 2014 — since we won the business — and have had this mission of really turning around the Volvo business and targeting folks that are in market. That's where addressable TV gets really interesting, and DISH's offering in particular. [For example], you've got two neighbors, Joe and Bob. Joe gets an ad, and Bob doesn't: the one that gets the ad is giving signals through data that they're coming up at the end of their lease, or they're showing behaviors that shows that they're searching for a new car. Those are the data signals that we use - and then we're targeting Joe and not targeting Bob. That becomes a powerful tool to use for our advertisers. Now, when we're talking about cross-platform usage between an over-the-top and then a more terrestrial-delivered or satellite-delivered signal, it provides us an ability to add scale and reach to our addressable platforms.
Since then the market has grown exponentially - by probably 50, 60%. So, every year we scour the market for new opportunities to push the envelope of technology. DISH had this with Sling this year, and we were able to see an advancement in that kind of reach and scale of our programs with this. It enables us to parse up our target audiences into different segments; so, when we're thinking about, "Is this a sedan luxury buyer," or "Is this an SUV luxury buyer," or, "Is it somebody that's actually upgrading from a premium car into a luxury vehicle," the different platforms enable us to do that, coupled with data. It becomes a very powerful tool that, maybe thankfully or unthankfully, a lot of people in the industry haven't really tested yet.
Moss: The thinking is that if the ad is appealing to me personally, then it's a little bit more skip-proof.
Wolf: Well, that's the ultimate thing with media buying and advertising, right? You want to find people that are more inclined to purchase your client's product at the right time....and if we're delivering them the types of ads that compel them to put Volvo in their consideration set, that's an incredibly powerful tool that's inescapable. And, frankly, for me and my experience over the years, it's really kind of the holy grail of TV advertising, because it's the most scale-driven, impactful channel out there. And if you can deliver it with the efficiency and targetability of digital advertising, you've achieved something pretty special.
Moss: The “first” in this case was doing this across both Sling and DISH. Tell me how you presented the benefits of that, Brian.
Norris: For us it was very important, as we launched this product in the marketplace, to do it with a partner that we have a long history with. ...And what better advertiser than Volvo, who has been on our platform on the addressable side for years, right? So, for this cross-platform addressable idea Mindshare was first to mind to bring this to the marketplace. We know that there is a real interest in learning together. That's the spirit of the partnership. Like what Tobias said, it’s very important for an advertiser to know the audience that they want to go after, and really have the right data partner and the right third-party and first-party data on hand to make sure that we're delivering that message to that specific target audience that hopefully will be able to transact on the purchase.
.... We have a host of first-party data between our Sling and DISH subscribers, but on top of that, we have partnerships with pretty much every major data company in the world. So, we can go beyond the standard age and gender demographics and really get down to household demographics...But the key to this is being able to measure transactions on the backend. Did the message produce a result that was desirable for the advertiser?
Wolf: Right, and this is incredibly important for us. When we're testing new channels and new partners, or beta offerings from an old partner like DISH, it's incredibly important — as it is across the addressable platform — to be able to match back who has actually purchased a car? And look at the return on advertising spend. Historically, we've seen some incredible results. It proves the point that we were talking about: That, when you actually deliver the right message to a person, that's in the moment, and you can either move your brand into their consideration set, or you can elevate your brand within their positioning and prove out a sale, that's a really important and powerful tool to have.
Moss: Are there things that DISH Media Sales brings to the table that really sealed the deal?
Wolf: ...There's an [attractive] audience that is going to opt for satellite-delivered viewability, as well as the offering behind Sling — which is a pretty robust OTT platform compared to some of the others. The ability to take a look at what the differences might be between those two audiences and what the ROI and the return on advertising might be, based on differences in behavior, based on platform, is something that we're trying to figure out. We do several things across multiple platforms, across multiple devices, where we're dayparting across devices, and so this just blends into our overall approach on this business, on the Volvo business, that the team has: To really push the boundaries of innovation, to test new avenues and new technologies to engage with our consumer in order to drive brand perception and to close the sale as well.
We used the platform, and we used the data sets to carve up DISH's audience into specific audiences: Say 25% are in the market or showing signals for a luxury sedan like the S90 that we have in market currently. Then another percentage of the audience is looking for a smaller or a mid-sized SUV, so then we'll advertise the XC90 or the XC60. ... It's not based on the campaign itself...it's being able to use the data to parse that audience out into specific segments that are going to be more apt to engage.
Moss: Brian, that requires you and your team and keeping everything straight.
Norris: Yeah. ...And we have a world-class team both on the sales side and on the operations side to make it a seamless process for the advertiser and the agency. Part of that process is the agency or the advertiser knowing their target...[Then working] with our third-party data providers...in approximately 15 days after the flight has ended, we'll be able to provide a robust campaign summary report, for some really great learnings. (In the case of an automotive advertiser, that might take a little bit longer because of the sales cycle ... so we might extend that attribution window.)
Moss: There are other “firsts” for DISH and Sling TV...
Norris: Sling was the first live TV OTT platform in the marketplace, available to consumers. Next up, we saw an opportunity to extend reach of our DISH addressable platform so we were the first to do cross-platform addressable with Sling.
Moss:That's what we're doing with Volvo now?
Norris: That's exactly what we're doing right now. And when we talk about extending reach and scale of addressable television, we firmly believe that addressable television only works when it's other providers as well. We're educating the marketplace on what addressable is, but also educating the marketplace on how addressable is growing. In fact, eMarketer estimates that over 74 million households right now are addressable-enabled. That's really important, as the addressable business as a whole continues to grow. We can't do this alone; so it's very important that the rest of the provider marketplace, whether on the OTT side or on the traditional cable or satellite side, embrace addressable technology.
Moss: Tobias, has it been difficult to get Mindshare to ramp up, embrace, and understand? What's the education process like there?
Wolf: Mindshare and GroupM have been all-in on addressability from day one, and again, that  test that we did was the first of its kind. ...Now we're constantly building on that education to advance the ball down the field, and I preach that to my clients and my teams: Stay out in front of everything, because by the time the competition kind of figures out what we're doing, we'll be leaps and bounds ahead of them.
And Brian's exactly right. We are waiting for new providers to come online, like, "When are these guys going to do it?" ...So I think for us, it's kind of a neat and interesting and exciting landscape to have tested - and to now have part of our plans moving forward, and something that we look forward to continuing to advance and are just honestly very interested in.
Moss: What’s next, after all these current firsts...
Norris: On the DISH side...we're all about being leaders in the space and really trying to evangelize that within the marketplace to get buy-in across the entire landscape of media advertising.
Moss: Crystal ball, Tobias?
Wolf: What we're constantly trying to find out about now is engagement and viewership across multiple devices, because that's the landscape that we live in today. I think ultimately, it’s dayparting across devices, whether it's digital advertising, a print product delivered via tablet or a smartphone or a television product.... being able to deliver different ads to different people within a household.... We used to call it set-top box addressability back then: you would deliver an ad in the den to the parents, and maybe a toy ad to the kid upstairs, so, as devices proliferate...that's the nature of what I'm looking forward to: being able to deliver different ads to different people, whether they're within a household or outside of a household, wherever they are, on the face of the planet.
Norris: That’s a great point of view, because, listen, when Sling was first launched, we didn't have such a great idea on how people would consume the product: ... on their phones, their laptops, their tablets? What we're finding now is that people are consuming the product on 10-foot devices; think about Roku... Think about Apple TV... People are not moving away from the traditional TV viewing experience. It's just how they're --
Wolf: -- How they're engaging with that content.
Norris: Right, how they're receiving that content is just a little bit different.... So, with the product being two years old, really, this is all about learnings for us, and being able to provide better solutions to advertisers, better solutions to our partners, and hopefully we can grow together.
Wolf: ....and about providing an exceptional array of choice to the consumer, and then letting them figure it out instead of force-feeding them, correct?
Wolf: I mean, think about it: They could be literally driving by a dealership ... So, the ability to serve an ad right at that time, or within the content that they're engaging in...? I think an important thing to note is that given that choice, and the way that addressable is delivered, you've taken yourself out of the realm as a media person, as a strategist for a client. Out of the realm of, "We think they're going to be watching this show at this time." Right? Now the ad is delivered into a show that they are watching, into content that they're already engaging in, and the data tells us that, and then we deliver our ad based on their in-market status, so the skippability of it has been lessened greatly because of the access to that data.
Norris: Right, and it really sort of takes the guesswork out of it...You're no longer buying the program. You're buying the audience.
Wolf: Correct, and hence that's why you see the great ROI.... We'd be more shocked if you didn't see better results from addressability....
Moss: ...And one can make a good argument for brand safety, with targetability, Brian?
Norris: I think that Sling TV and the ability to deliver live television over the top has come into existence at the exact perfect time, right? At a time when advertisers are concerned about brand safety, are concerned about the messages that their messages are being placed up against, and not to mention fraud and viewability, on Sling, that none of that is of issue at all.
Moss: Any parting thoughts?
Norris: I think at DISH Media Sales...we're really concerned about how can we help educate the marketplace on using cross-platform addressable... and using addressable, for that matter: on really being able to hone in on a targeted audience and delivering that relevant message and eliminating as much waste as possible and get that message to an audience that is most likely to transact on a message.
Wolf: I agree. I just think addressable television is a fantastic tool, as a media strategist, and for our clients, and again, just the experience for the consumers. They're not seeing ads that they don't want to see in shows that they're trying to engage in. They're seeing stuff that they like watching, and the probability there is that the product will resonate with them. So no longer will you have just the wrong ad at the wrong time. I think the world of advertising is incredibly exciting... where the advancement almost outpaces your ability to learn about it. This is one of those, and the folks over at DISH have been fantastic partners going all the way back to 2014, and we've done some great stuff together, including some interactive landscapes that we built to showcase additional content and ...
We just look forward to them bringing us all their beta advancements for us to try out first, because that ... Again, that's the competitive advantage that we ... One of the competitive advantages we can get for our clients is learning about new technology and putting those into practice faster than our competition can.
Moss: I think it's a lovefest in this room and that Volvo is probably very happy that they have such a forward-thinking agency. I know, Brian, you're very happy to have an agency that embraces your firsts and forward-thinking offerings over at DISH Media Sales. I thank you both very much for these insights.