Turner International, whose brands outside the U.S. include CNN International, Bleacher Report and Great Big Story, has spent the last year developing its internal tech so that advertisers can target audience segments spanning all its news, sports and children’s digital properties, across 200 countries.
Turner has set up a new digital ad sales unit called T1 in London to run the new offering. For now, T1 will be run by a handful of dedicated employees, who will draw on resources across the business. More staffers will be hired to create a team of 20 people dedicated to T1 by the end of this year. The team will comprise sales, consultancy and operations experts, and while most of them will be based in London, some appointments may be at other international Turner offices. A new commercial director will be appointed to run the division in the coming weeks, according to the publisher. No changes will occur to existing local and regional ad sales teams, according to Turner.
Previously, advertisers could book campaigns separately across each brand and locally by market. Now, should an advertiser wish to target sports fans, for example, it can do so easily across all Turner International sports brands, including CNN Sport, Bleacher Report, Eleague, Esporte Interativo and Copa90, which Turner partly owns. Likewise, advertisers can tap audiences across Turner’s kids portfolio, which includes Cartoon Network and Boomerang, along with CNN International, TNT, TBS and Great Big Story.
The launch of T1 is timely, just months away from when Turner’s newly acquired UEFA Champions League and Europa League rights begin — something agencies are anticipating. “The more rights someone owns, the greater their ability to leverage multiple properties for the benefit of advertisers,” said Misha Sher, vp of sport and entertainment for MediaCom Worldwide. “They can now go to market with a compelling proposition around sport or millennials that sits across multiple properties that they own. That’s appealing for both the media owner and the advertiser.”
Naturally, giving access to audiences spanning all its titles is a major scale play for the media owner. Across all its owned and operated digital international properties, Turner collectively has 200 million monthly unique users, which includes its reach on Copa90, according to the company. But to compete with the scale and acute audience targeting that major tech platforms like Facebook offer, Turner must also compete on data targeting. All campaigns run via the T1 division will offer the kind of targeting CNN International Commercial offers, including segment building, demographic and content-vertical targeting. The only genre that won’t be available for targeting is the children’s titles, for regulatory reasons. Advertisers can also access the Audience Insights Measurement packages developed by CNN International Commercial, which offer deep campaign reporting such as beyond click-through rates. This includes monitoring what sites people have been on before arriving on CNN, what articles they have clicked on from social platforms before coming to CNN, and which articles match client data such as search terms individuals have used to arrive on a particular brand client’s site.
Quality publishers have actively touted their brand-safety credentials since the YouTube scandal last year brought the issue, which has long dogged user-generated content platforms, into the mainstream. With Turner’s business rooted in TV, it’s pushing brand safety — long a hygiene factor in TV advertising — hard in pitches.
“Many clients are now reappraising the impact of chasing scale in an underregulated digital environment,” said Rani Raad, president of CNN International Commercial. “Many are rightly concerned about the environment their messages are seen in and how their brands are being associated with devaluing content. We are providing a scaled-up offering built on some of the world’s most trusted and responsible media brands.”
For agencies, any media owner that offers a compelling content proposition and a brand-safe environment has an advantage, Sher said.
The T1 team is also working on unifying the ad tech stack so that advertisers can easily view, access and execute their own global, regional and local ad campaigns across the different Turner properties. Turner had already opened up the ability to execute programmatic campaigns across all its properties, though the focus for T1 will be to sell branded content and other direct deals across mobile, video, display and native formats.
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