How AI Tells Better Audience Stories

Machine learning can help sales teams use data as a differentiator
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Pity the poor sales reps in a media and entertainment company. They’re tasked with bringing in more and more revenue for their organizations, yet they compete in an extremely crowded and noisy environment. Worse, the entire sector pitches the same generic data — number of visits or views, gender, time of data, etc. — beefed up with commoditized syndicated segments, such as sitcom fans and news junkies. How can sales-team pitches stand out when they tell the same story as everyone else? It’s simple. They can’t.

Tim Burke, Affinio

Tim Burke, Affinio

What M&E sales teams need to do in order to break through the noise is to tell better stories about audiences. Storytelling wins pitches, as we’ve seen over and over. Most M&E companies try to do just that, which is why they have dedicated ad-research teams tasked with looking for insights in their mounds of data and slicing their audiences into segments as best they can on behalf of advertisers. But I’ve yet to see any research team that isn’t overwhelmed by requests, a situation that’s not likely to change given the advertiser’s appetite for finding the “right” audiences. With these teams overloaded and in reactive mode, sales teams end up missing out on sale opportunities and losing deals because they often can’t get the insights and compelling story they need to close them.

AI-Assisted Selling

This is precisely where AI — specifically unsupervised machine learning — can help. Take a company like CNN, which sees consumers across multiple touch points: website, mobile app, OTT, TV on-demand, etc., all of which generate massive amounts of first-party data. AI can be used to proactively sift through data sets quickly and efficiently, and identify meaningful insights based on connections between users and similarities in their behaviors. Graph technology can automatically identify insights and aggregate these signals so that M&E research and sales teams can find stories in their data at a glance. This means sales teams have more, and better, stories to share, and can become more like a consultant to the advertiser, which is far more strategic and valuable.

AI lets sales teams unlock all of the interesting, nonintuitive stories that are buried inside the company’s massive consumer data. Humans are multidimensional creatures; a viewer may be a mom who is an avid fan of a cooking show, but she may also be a horse fanatic who lives to ride. Another viewer may be a sports fan, but when he’s not watching the game he’s in his basement workshop tinkering away at a DIY project. Put another way, this M&E brand doesn’t just have two obvious audiences, cooking and sports enthusiasts, it has many nuanced audiences all within the existing user base. By unlocking new insights at scale, M&E sales teams can tell new and differentiated stories to advertisers.

Going further, M&E sales teams can leverage that data proactively to create net new opportunities instead of simply responding to existing briefs. For instance, they can create a custom audience and pitch it to a brand that has never advertised with any of their properties before. Or they can cater segments to a brand’s specific campaign goals, such as growing brand awareness among specific audiences.

More interestingly, M&E companies can advise advertisers of the additional affinities shared by an audience, which the brand can then use to drive message development. Let’s say an M&E company discovers that viewers of a science-fiction show also have a strong affinity for steampunk and animal rights. This insight helps the advertiser align campaign and content strategy with the natural interests of the audience.

Win-Win-Win Scenario

By telling better stories with their data, M&E companies break through the noise, close more deals, become more strategic and drive higher-value inventory to the advertisers that want to align with these unique audience segments. Brands can cater their messages to touch on the additional shared affinities within their target audiences, which will make their ads inherently more interesting and relevant. That, in turn, means the audience members themselves enjoy an overall better experience. That’s a win for everyone.

Tim Burke is CEO of marketing strategy platform Affinio.

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