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tl;dr:

Corduroy matches a brand’s target audience with premium original IP that is developed, produced, and hyper-targeted to specific audience segments based on exclusive data, tech and audience insights to create original sponsored content.

The Problem:

For those who don’t know, the old television advertising model was based on a captive audience that would sit through commercials before, during and after the programming they were watching on television. With the continuing shift to digital, DVR’s, connected TV’s and content subscription services, the old model is certainly obsolete, if not broken.

John Landgraf, CEO of FX even said so recently during his presentation at the summer Television Critics Association press tour. He went on to explain how difficult it’s become to launch a new series with the breadth of options and platforms today’s viewers have at their fingertips. There is no money for season two if the series doesn’t grab a decent size audience out of the gate. Viewers have too many other options to give content a second chance even if the show really hits its stride in the middle of season one.

Rupert Murdoch prefaced this back in 2009 when he said, “Good programming is expensive and can no longer be supported solely by advertising revenue.” Platforms like HBO, Amazon and Netflix have built out formidable subscription models driven by creating high quality, niche content.

As Scott Timberg explained recently, “Now there’s another screen, or you can watch it later. You get more different kinds of choices. There’s more good TV, more bad TV; there’s an explosion of niches. It’s not just that TV got smarter: TV got more everything.”

The Solution:

Since today’s viewers can now skip ads online and on their digital cable boxes, there is ever-increasing value in the proposition of making relevant and engaging content that viewers actually want to watch. There has been an explosion in high quality original and sponsored content in recent years. Sponsored episodic content in the realm of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” is the natural progression from traditional models to digital ones: high quality original content paired with a brand sponsor.

We then posed a question: what if the skippable ads themselves were short, sponsored shows with a message and target audience that fits with that brand sponsor? When executed correctly, we realized we could incorporate audience data to inform both the creative and targeted distribution with the intention of creating the next Drunk History or High Maintenance by distributing to focused audience segments.

Malcolm Gladwell noted in his book “Blink”, that both “All in the Family” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” both tested horribly in small focus groups but were huge successes as soon as they aired to larger audiences in the natural viewing environment of their own homes. By hyper-targeting distribution with scale across social media we can effectively audience-test original content to core audience segments with the goal of incubating new shows.

Audience Data + Technology

The 2013 documentary film “Terms And Conditions May Apply” estimates that it would take about a month to read all of the information in user agreements individuals “agree” to in order to use online services such as iTunes, Facebook and Google. The Patriot Act inadvertently created multiple revenue streams for owners of audience data by requiring it be collected; Edward Snowden or not, we appear to be headed toward a future where we share more and more of our personal details online.

Ads can be digitally delivered to you based on multiple factors including: location, language, age, gender, buying history and viewing history.  Using audience data, media buyers can target an ad to someone based on their browser history suggesting that they are in-market for a home mortgage, for instance. Simply by going to certain sites or filling out an online form I may be opting-in to more personalized ads, but at the end of the day an ad is still an ad and audiences will view them as such.

American Essayist Wendell Berry once wrote, “That computers are expected to become as common as TV sets in “the future” does not impress me or matter to me. I do not own a TV set. I do not see that computers are bringing us one step nearer to anything that does matter to me: peace, economic justice, ecological health, political honesty, family and community stability, good work.” With Wendell’s argument in mind for weighing whether certain technology is improving our lives or simply replacing innate human interactions, we will inevitably find it more valuable to use audience data not only to target ads more effectively, but to create ads that are more effective.

Usually when companies preach ad tech and audience data, their goal is simply to make the existing content serve with better context and relevance. We offer the ability to actually use audience insights to create content with which the target audience is more likely to engage: better for brands, better for audiences and game-changing for the networks.

Incubating Pilots in a Scattered Landscape

All of the networks and platforms are fighting for a splintered viewership. We are approaching the problem from where these audiences are already: social media. By focusing our efforts on highly targeting content via pre-roll on the Facebooks and YouTubes of the world we are able to benefit from the built in engagement and “like” system for which social media thrives.

What better way to focus group a new show to 20 million millennial females interested in fashion than on social media or as an ad before similar content? Furthermore, if you have the ability to know that this audience segment mentions a particular topic more than others it could be a good topic to create a show around, and then distribute to that specific audience.

Fox Sports is guaranteeing distribution across platforms in their new branded content initiative and others are beginning to see why high quality branded and sponsored content with guaranteed viewership is the way of the future. We are simply taking this to the next level by using audience insights to develop and match premium original content with brands for digital distribution and we’ve created a slate of original IP and formed partnerships with leading entertainment producers and production companies to develop and produce our shows.

Social networking sites are all striving for more and more ad relevance and context as well as higher quality content on their sites. By utilizing this approach, a brand can be associated with premium original content that reaches its target audience and engage viewers in a meaningful, memorable way across devices and platforms.