Upfronts 2016: Viacom 'Datafront' Puts Research Center Stage

Counter-programmed against ABC, session explores demography, bias, purchase intent

Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2016

In a decidedly odd counterprogramming move during the biggest week in the TV ad business, Viacom opted to convene its first "Datafront" in the middle of broadcast upfronts, directly opposite ABC's Lincoln Center pitch to media buyers.

The event at the company's Times Square headquarters offered an hour-long collection of keynotes exploring the evolution and future of ad targeting. While it featured the requisite jokey videos, comedian emcee (Natasha Leggero of Comedy Central's Another Period) and open bars, the Datafront played more like a mix of grad-school seminar and company town hall. The goal, above all, was to assert that Viacom's well-fortified research team is more relevant than ever as networks court Madison Avenue's billions.

"Data has always been present" in TV's ad-sales negotiations, said Ross Martin, Viacom's executive VP of marketing strategy and engagement. But now, researchers "are moving from the back room to the board room, and that's exciting."

Bryson Gordon, Viacom's executive VP of data strategy, discussed how Viacom is trying to "reverse-engineer targets for advertisers" using "a system that learns from its experience."

Read more at broadcastingcable.com.