GroupM launches addressable TV company Finecast in Canada

GroupM, the media buying arm of WPP, announced the Canadian launch of its addressable TV company Finecast Thursday. Its North American debut follows earlier rollouts in the U.K., where Finecast was first introduced in 2017, and Australia.

Finecast allows brands to “precision target” audiences in connected TV households via standard TV channels, video-on-demand services, over-the-top (OTT) services and gaming consoles.

Using audience segmentation tools, Finecast will enable GroupM clients to show different ads to different households watching the same program, “thereby reducing ad wastage, driving effective CPMs and minimizing costs.”

It is a compelling proposition for advertisers: The targeting capability of digital advertising, mixed with the cachet and brand-building power of TV, all in a brand-safe environment.

Finecast will launch with distribution across the major broadcast groups Bell, Rogers, CBC and Corus, and platforms such as Tubi, Amazon, Roku and Samsung. Additional partnerships will be announced later this year.

The company has also secured data partnerships with Environics Analytics, Mastercard and other third-party suppliers.

At its 2017 launch, GroupM promised advertisers that Finecast campaigns would be “inherently viewable, running on TV screens within high-quality, brand-safe content with no ad blocking.”

Addressable TV’s ability to finely target audiences could potentially reclaim some of the ad dollars flowing to digital, which has become the dominant advertising channel in the past decade. In its “This Year Next Year” report earlier this week, GroupM said that TV’s ad revenue would grow between 1% and 2% in the next five years, with dominant advertisers increasingly shifting incremental budgets to digital channels.

Finecast’s future success is predicated on its ability to deliver highly targeted ads to relevant consumer segments using everything from socio-economic status to life stage, purchase and financial data. Finecast claims access to more than 180 targeting segments.

Speaking at the Campaign TV Advertising Summit in the U.K. this week, the company’s managing director, Harry Harcus, said it continues to see a “huge amount” of interest in addressable TV from clients.

Harcus said that Finecast has run more than 3,000 targeted campaigns for more than 250 clients since its debut, generating 3 billion addressable impressions in the past year alone. “It is a real thing, it is really happening, and advertisers and marketers are really engaged with it,” he said.

Last year, the U.K.’s Sky Media issued a white paper entitled Five Years & Forward, which collated five years of findings from its own addressable TV system AdSmart, which launched in 2014 and has delivered more than 17,000 campaigns for more than 1,800 advertisers via more than 100 addressable channels.

The study found that addressable ads led to:

  • A 48% reduction in channel switching compared to standard ads in the first three positions of a commercial pod;
  • A 10% increase in liking TV ads;
  • A 13% increase in emotional response to ads; and
  • A 10% increase in spontaneous recall.

In a report earlier this year, the global advertising research body WARC estimated that just over one-third (36.5%) of global internet users now have access to a smart or connected TV, and predicted that global advertisers would spend approximately $9.7 billion on addressable ads delivered via set-top boxes and OTT services this year. While that represents a 38% increase over 2019, it is just still 3.3% of the total TV ad market.

However, there are numerous signals from the industry that addressable TV is poised for broader penetration. Earlier this year, Nielsen in the U.S. announced the beta launch of its new addressable TV platform with programming groups including A+E Networks, AMC Networks, CBS, Discovery, Fox, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia. Nielsen said that the beta would run for the first half of the year, with its commercial launch planned for later this year.

Participating networks will plug the Nielsen solution into their respective workflows, processes and tech stacks, and clients will review everything from ad inventory and campaign management, to audience targeting, dynamic ad replacement and measurement across the viewing continuum (ie: calculating audiences across live, nearly live and on-demand).

“By executing addressable test campaigns via Nielsen’s beta environment, TV networks will gain insights to inform their sales strategy ahead of the upcoming TV season,” said Nielsen in a release.

WARC’s data editor, James McDonald, said in December 2018 that addressable TV would “be the next stage of evolution” for the medium, while GroupM Canada CEO Stuart Garvie said today that Finecast will “inevitably add more value to consumers and advertisers.”

What tends to get overlooked in such breathless pronouncements, of course, is how consumers feel about their personal information being utilized so that they can see a targeted ad for the new Ford F-150 during The Bachelor. 

Advertisers like to proclaim that consumers love to see smart ads that are particularly relevant to them; if we’ve learned nothing else from The Bachelor over the years, though, it’s that love doesn’t last forever.

Chris Powell