Turner dangles commerce tools in front of advertisers

Turner wants to use its social audience data to help advertisers drive sales.

Over the past few months, Launchpad, a 40-person agency that sits within Turner Ignite, has begun pitching advertisers three new products designed to help with lower-funnel business goals such as actual sales or lead generation. These include ads which allow audiences to buy a product or register via email directly inside social posts; interactive videos that provide product information; and access to a suite of e-commerce services, including customizable online storefronts, digital commerce solutions, even warehousing and drop-shipping.

For now, Turner is not taking a cut of any transactions it drives through these new units, or claiming any kind of bounty for every email address an advertiser acquires. Instead, the commerce units are simply a different kind of ad unit that a customer can purchase for a campaign; Turner sells the branded content campaigns on a cost-per-view basis.

The new units are meant to help position Launchpad as a one-stop shop marketers can use to target both current and potential customers with messages that help them sell. Rather than a short-term grab at commerce revenue, the new offers are supposed to position Launchpad as a results-oriented partner as marketers come under increased pressure to tie their spends to business outcomes.

“Some publishers might be exploring commerce as a revenue opportunity,” said Frank Kavilanz, svp of social strategy and insights at Turner Ignite. “This is about completing a full-funnel strategy.”

Global spend on digital branded content is projected to hit $9.8 billion in 2019, according to branded content distribution platform Polar.

That rising interest has helped Launchpad grow the business. In mid-2017, Kavilanz said Launchpad had executed 160 campaigns for advertisers. Today, that number has grown to nearly 1,000.

Yet, as branded content investment has grown, so has the pressure on marketers to prove that the investments they’re making are driving business results. A Digiday Research survey of over 200 marketing executives in Nov. 2018 found that 77 percent of respondents were under more pressure to connect their marketing spend with revenue; separate research from Digiday found that a small but growing number of marketers are now asking for performance guarantees for their branded content campaigns.

This, in turn, has compelled publishers big and small to look for ways to prove that their branded content is effective in generating outcomes. “The market is asking for this,” Kavilanz said. “We need to ensure the alignment of content, ideas and marketers’ objectives.”

In a perfect world, Launchpad should be able to prove these new ads work by pointing to digital sales or leads they drive directly. But Launchpad can also plug into a host of third-party measurement tools and partnerships parent company AT&T developed for sister company Xandr to measure things such as brand and sales lift, Kavilanz said.

WarnerMedia is still in the early stages of bringing this new version of Launchpad to market. But agency observers say that, in theory, it ticks a lot of boxes.

“It feels like a place we’re moving to from a market perspective,” said Kieley Taylor, the global head of social at GroupM. “From a business case perspective, there’s a story around the scale they’re able to deliver on television and may be able to track to more performance-oriented actions.”

Launchpad’s distribution reach is also expected to grow. Its social footprint spans more than 100 channels and pages that reach nearly 900 million people, according to the company. In the fourth quarter of 2018, Turner began offering advertisers the ability to distribute that content to addressable TV and OTT audiences through Xandr’s ad targeting platform.


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