Let’s begin this 19th edition of our Media Buyer of the Year with some pearls of wisdom from Warren Buffett.
Speaking about what traits to look for in somebody you’re going to hire, the Oracle of Omaha has said, “You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person: intelligence, energy and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.”
Buffett once added this: “I know people who have a lot of money … but the truth is that nobody in the world loves them. … That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life. The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. … The only way to get love is to be lovable. …”
By these measures alone, this year’s honoree as our Media Buyer of the Year, Dave Campanelli of Horizon Media, is a resounding success. Talking in the past several weeks to a number of media sellers about Campanelli, he’s clearly one of the most likable, popular choices we’ve made in the past two decades to get this award.
It becomes quickly apparent talking to Dave that he’s thought long and hard about the tough media issues of the day, and has clear thinking responses, as if putting together a difficult puzzle. So it’s not surprising to find out that in his spare time he loves the challenge of building furniture, which certainly involves puzzle-like skills to piece together successfully.
“Four or five years ago we had a house rennovation,” he says, “Going in I really didn’t know very much about construction or anything like that. We didn’t have the best experience with our contractor, so by the end I was finishing a lot of things myself, so I ended up accumulating some tools and some skills. That’s how I fell into it.”
His latest project is building a walnut dining table. And being a TV guy, he says he’s hooked on the DIY channel.“I watch everything on there. I really like the hard-core programs. Like building in Alaska. Anything off-the-grid.”
Without further ado, here’s our interview with Campanelli, 44, conducted once again by our Chuck Ross. Not surprisingly, in these days when most of the media talk is of more and more OTT competition to linear TV, and at a time when data and metrics threaten to overtake any and all media decisions, Ross and Campanelli began the interview talking old school: the value of relationships.
Dave Campanelli: It was clearly a relationship business when I started in 1998, and still is today, though somewhat less so. We are using a lot of data to inform our television buys. But the majority of what we are buying is during the upfront. Now, again, data has become a huge element of that, and a lot of the buys that we place are either informed by data or optimized throughout the year based on data. But that’s part of a much larger upfront negotiation that is still heavily relationship based. And doing business with people over time helps inform the next deal when you have that basis of working relationships. In some ways it’s more important than ever because when you are using data in television, particularly during the upfront, it’s much more complicated than it used to be. So to get through all the details of how these deals are going to work, strong relationships are an invaluable help.
TVWeek: Even as more and more buying becomes programmatic?
Campanelli: Linear television will probably never be a programmatic, automated marketplace. Inventory is too finite for the sellers to want to sell that way. For as long as linear television is still around — which should be a while — it’s going to start with relationships. And then you’ll add the other elements in, including data.
TVWeek: You’re using a lot of data now, aren’t you? The networks all seem to have their exclusive schemes to use data, such as Viacom Vantage, NBCU’s Audience Studio, Turner Ignite to a certain extent and so on.
Campanelli: Generally, with each of the networks that have those plans, when we make upfront deals with them, a certain percentage of our schedule will be allocated to get optimized by these plans across an entire portfolio. That’s usually based on the target we’re looking to reach. The networks use their data to identify what placements across their portfolio in a given week will give us the highest concentration of that audience. The idea being we will have a much more targeted buy reaching our true consumer.
TVWeek: And now add to that the conversation about OTT. From Disney Plus to Apple TV+ to other major OTT offerings in the coming months, the talk has become manic.
Campanelli: There is going to be a period of time, perhaps several years, until the dust settles. Then we will see which of these services will be successful, which are going to go away or will not be big factors, before we can make any proclamations about how they will truly affect the TV infrastructure. One thing I’m pretty sure of is that however these entities launch this year and next is not necessarily what they will look like in two to five years. What will their cost to the consumer evolve to be? Netflix spends a lot on content and keeps raising its price. As the costs keep going up for subscriptions, how will that affect subscriptions? And will any of these services that don’t have commercials, such as Netflix, come up with a less expensive alternative that has commercials, such as Hulu does?
Generally speaking, audiences are interested in tiered pricing, [including] cheaper versions with commercials. Hulu has a no commercial model, but 70-80% of their sign-ups are the commercialized version because it’s offered with a lower monthly cost.
So I can see Disney Plus and/or Netflix going to a commercial model at some point just because the economics might cause it.
The TV networks are clearly setting up clear swim lanes between their linear networks and their OTT extensions. So NBC and the NBC app is going to be separate from their streaming service, Peacock. CBS All Access is a separate entity from CBS. That gives the networks a foot in both worlds. And if at some point the cable bundle model doesn’t work anymore and we have to switch to an all direct-to-consumer world, they have the infrastructure to do that. From the advertising perspective, as long as we have an entity to sell our ads to we will — if it’s a different delivery method, we will still be there.
You ask people in a survey, they all say they want to skip commercials. But when they have to pay for the services, if one of the choices is a more inexpensive service with commercials, many choose that, just because it’s cheaper. And what is the limit people have to pay for services without commercials?
TVWeek: How does addressable advertising fit into the mix? Is it the Holy Grail? Traditional TV has been a fantastic reach vehicle, which seems counter to a targeted approach.
Campanelli: Our point of view is that addressable is a very valuable component of a larger video plan. What TV does well is reach a lot of people at one time, particularly in a live environment. That immediacy, that immediate reach, has proved out over time to be incredibly valuable to help advertisers sell products.
Let’s take for example [Horizon client and Warren Buffett-owned] Geico. If we can identify someone who is in the market for auto insurance right now, and try and convert them, that would be great. However, if we have never advertised to this person before — because they have never been in the marketplace for car insurance before — then when we hit them in their moment of need for insurance but they have no pre-existing knowledge or very little knowledge of Geico, it’s a good possibility they won’t buy Geico. Part of why Geico is valuable when a potential customer reaches that need stage is that we have been exposing them to Geico ads since their birth, basically. That long-term value of brand awareness and brand recognition — when it is time to make that decision — that equity the brand has built up is invaluable.
So addressable can absolutely fill a conversion metric, but it builds upon the value of broad-based, broad-reach television over time.
TVWeek: Horizon is the leading independent media agency, with a host of blue-chip clients, including Geico, Burger King, Corona, and Capital One. Horizon is also the only media shop you have ever worked at–you started there not too long after you graduated college–and you’ve been there 21 years. How does being at an independent shop give you advantages over media agencies that are part of much bigger entities that can include a number of media shops?
Campanelli: There are a lot of advantages to being independent. First, there is no Wall Street or stockholders or board to please with quarterly numbers. Bill [Koenigsberg] is the founder and owner and he can afford to have a long-term vision. With that long-term vision it allows us to make long-term investments, such as we are doing in the data space right now. It allows us to take the long view on client relationships. We can focus on them and not what’s going to turn the biggest profit for us short-term. Instead we can focus on what is going to keep our clients satisfied and happy and their business working over time. In our relationships with networks and the deals we do for our clients, we have the advantage of being independent and not part of a larger holding company, where deals can become shared across three or four agencies. Networks can be assured that deals that are unique to Horizon will stay unique to Horizon. Independence allows us to be more nimble and agile in the marketplace, to evolve as the marketplace evolves.
TVWeek: Earlier we were talking about data and how it fits into media buying today. One of my favorite questions to ask these days is whether we are suffering from data overload. You’re getting lots of data from clients, and then, of course, there is all the modeling done with data.
Campanelli: I don’t know if there is too much data, but I would say that there is a lack of understanding how best to use data. And what’s the right data to use? The beauty of advanced data, in terms of targeting, is that your goal is to find the most precise target possible, finding the data that will support that. So you can have the highest concentration of your audience possible in your layered TV buy. It’s hard to figure out the right data sources to use [for that]. Quite honestly, in the TV world most people are trained and experienced in TV buying, not advanced data analytics. So you have an industry of people who don’t have the background or experience in the space who are being asked to understand fairly advanced analytics and data and targeting. That’s a huge challenge — a huge learning curve for TV buyers and sellers in general.
I think that’s the biggest challenge right now — getting everyone up to speed on this space and how to use the data properly. Because that’s the thing we run across the most. The concept of how something is supposed to work sounds great in theory, but putting it into practice oftentimes kind of falls apart. And when you look back on it you [realize] oh, we weren’t reaching cat households for this cat food like we thought we were. But we had to model 80% of the audience to try and guess which ones had cats in households and we didn’t do it any more effectively than throwing a dart out the window. So it’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of asking questions and figuring out what’s working and what isn’t.
We need better, more uniform measurement across platforms. A lot of our cross-platform buys now are cobbled together from different sources when you are looking at OTT viewership and VOD set-top viewership, and combining with linear and delayed linear viewing. So we need more uniform measurement.
The shows we are buying are very important — we are picking particular shows for particular reasons. However, we do have to pivot a bit away from show specific to time specific. One of the great values of live television is reach. Reaching a million or more people with a particular ad in a particular show at a particular time — for example, Tuesday night at 8:30. As delayed viewing is a bigger and bigger piece of what we do because it’s a bigger and bigger part of how people consume, even if we are able to buy it, we don’t necessarily want to be in that [Tuesday night show at 8:30] thirty-seven days later when the consumer finally gets around to watching it. It’s more about impressions in a shorter period of time across programs or across content versus [being in] a particular show [that is watched a significant number of days later]. I think that’s the pivot that we are going to need to make. Networks can still deliver a significant number of impressions — linear plus DVR plus VOD plus OTT. We’re going to need to re-create that immediacy by delivering those impressions in a shorter period of time in different types of content, potentially, if we need to.
TVWeek: That’s interesting. So if a show is on the bubble for renewal, and a significant amount of its viewing is delayed viewing, you might say, from an advertiser’s point of view, that you’d want the network to replace it with a show that had more immediate viewing.
Campanelli: Yeah. When you look at the digital behemoths out there, Google and YouTube and Facebook, they are delivering massive amounts of impressions. TV networks can deliver a significant amount of impressions as well, but we get those impressions through the lens of a particular show or particular episode. TV networks have to get more into the game of delivering impressions through their content in a finite amount of time, and not necessarily think about it in the same way as we have historically. Historically we have thought of it as this episode delivered this number of impressions. We need to move more into a space where we think about ABC delivering a million impressions on Wednesday night. And that might be through a linear spot on ‘Modern Family,’ plus 500,000 impressions digitally on ‘Modern Family’ from older episodes. In other words, some combination of their assets. That’s the future of where we need to go to maintain the value.
TVWeek: Can you talk a little about agency-client transparency?
Campanelli: Transparency might be THE most important thing to us. Everything we do is fully transparent at all times with our clients. And while I imagine other media agencies might say that, it’s very much the case for us. If you look at our client roster and the longevity of clients we’ve had, a big reason why is our transparency with them. How much they trust us is why they stay so long, which is fairly unique in the business.
TVWeek: Finally, what keeps you up at night, businesswise?
Campanelli: The biggest thing is making sure that we are doing our best work for our clients every single day. That’s critically important, and it’s becoming more and more challenging with the current state of linear television and how people are consuming this on-demand world. What does that mean for ratings? And how can we continue to help our clients drive their business through video when it’s changing so dramatically?
On the data side, there’s a rush to use data and what keeps me up about that is making sure we are doing that right. If that means proceeding more cautiously than our competitors to make sure we are doing it correctly — so we are not wasting our clients’ money — that’s probably the biggest thing. We see a new pitch from some new data product or data opportunity almost every day. The trick is figuring out which ones are valuable, and how do you execute them properly?