The rise of smart, original scripted content in non-traditional formats has launched a fierce battle for viewership among online and television outlets. As more media outlets offer more ways to consume high-quality entertainment, in more places and at nearly any time of day, how do networks fight successfully for their viewers’ attention? For many, it means expanding their offerings and activating new strategies.
So, when a global entertainment company finds early success in adding original scripted shows to its current menu of reality programming, new viewer acquisition — and retention — becomes paramount, especially between seasons, when viewers’ attention is under attack from a variety of sources. How do marketers cut through the noise and create excitement around the start of each new season?
For A+E Networks, the answer lay in leveraging big data.
A+E Networks, which includes leading cable television brands like History, A+E and Lifetime, and counts 330 million viewers worldwide, had long found success with reality TV programs like “Project Runway” and “Duck Dynasty,” but introduced the scripted drama “Vikings” on the History channel to compete with programs like HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
Coming from a largely unscripted background, A+E couldn’t afford to chance riding viewer loyalty into a successful third season for the drama’s third season. It needed a new tool to drive eyes to the show.
“At A+E, we have to do things more efficiently and smarter than our rivals to win,” explains Aaron Smolick, senior director, audience data strategy and CRM. “Our goal is to apply data across all aspects of our enterprise and the content lifecycle to improve marketing, ad sales and the audience experience.”
The network had already implemented the Salesforce DMP's next-generation data management platform (DMP) to power marketing for all its networks and websites, and Smolick and his team now needed to activate that data. They used Salesforce DMP's Audience Data Management solution to get there.
A+E and Salesforce DMP laid out a two-part campaign leading up to the “Vikings” Season 3 premiere on February 19, 2015. Part one was a “catch-up” campaign that would drive the audience to view episodes from the first two seasons. The other was a “tune-in” campaign to drive a massive audience to the first Season 3 episode.
The first step was creating “seed” segments of “Vikings” fans with data based on past viewership, as well as mobile app usage data drawn from the Salesforce DMP Mobile Data Activation tool. Next came audience augmentation — fanning out for new net prospects using the Lookalikes modelling tool, the Audience Discovery tool and by integrating data from second-party fan base sites.
“Data is a big part of our strategy, so having a robust DMP that we could trust to capture, store and analyze 100% of our data was absolutely essential,” Smolick says.
In total, Salesforce DMP delivered 90 million display impressions and nearly one million video impressions over the course of the campaign, in which eight different audience segments were targeted as part of the campaign.
The success of the campaign for ‘Vikings,” says Smolick, “is helping us build momentum internally to increase adoption and execute our data activation with Salesforce DMP at scale.
The data delivered. For its Season 3 premiere, “Vikings” was the top-rated cable show with 4.6 million Live+3 viewers. Traffic to History.com on February 19 was the second-highest ever for the channel, with more than 1.1 million uniques.
A Salesforce DMP partner, Samba TV, performed linear tune-in attribution to measure the lift in viewership that resulted from the targeted campaigns. The post-campaign analytics showed significant efficacy in reaching the target demographic, based on critical advertiser metrics like age, gender and household income.
“The ‘Vikings’ campaign was our first real foray into data-driven marketing, so our main objective was to prove the effectiveness of this approach and demonstrate the value of our data,” Smolick notes. “When our efforts with Krux are successful, it helps us accelerate A+E’s transformation into a completely data-driven media business.”
Krux is now working with A+E to roll out similar campaigns across A+E Networks. Additionally, as a digital content publisher, A+E is working with Krux to create audience data products that allow it to monetize its online consumers and re-target the “Vikings” fan base across all A+E channels.
“The success of the campaign for ‘Vikings,” says Smolick, “is helping us build momentum internally to increase adoption and execute our data activation with Krux at scale.”
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