Netflix is turning its attention to sequential ad targeting

A year into flexing the muscles of its in-house programmatic media buying arm, Netflix is now looking at how it can further hone its cross-screen capabilities by sequentially targeting audiences with different ad content served across different devices, according to its CMO Kelly Bennet.

It’s been on the agenda for advertisers, media owners, and ad-tech firms for the past two years, as brands seek the ability to target audiences in real-time with different creative messaging based on what a viewer has previosuly interacted with across a host of different screens.

Netflix sees it as a way to move away from the “hamster wheel” of entertainment marketing where a two-minute trailer dominates as the vehicle of choice to engage potential viewers, according to Bennett, who was speaking on stage at Ad Week New York.

Through such a strategy the streaming service wants to break that "hamster wheel" apart. He added: “A typical movie trailer has a three act arc - introduce the story, bring in an element of danger, and then the conclusion.

"Instead of trying to do that in two minutes and thirty seconds how do we split it up into five, 10 and 15 seconds [of video?] How do we combine that 10 second Instagram moment with a 20 second TrueView?”

Bennett went on to suggest that this is the best way to tap into what Google has dubbed ‘micro-moments’; the short bursts of time consumers spend on different devices.

Other brands have also begun to embrace the tactic. For instance in the UK, car marque Vauxhall was among the first brands to partner with terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4, using its sequential offering, Ad Journey.

O2 tapped the channel’s first-party viewer data for its multi-pronged Rugby World Cup campaign, ‘Make them Giants’, to serve All 4 user’s a different creative element from the campaign each time they arrived on a Channel 4 property.

Harnessing its own bank of data, Netflix is currently looking to understand the way customers move through content that’s already out there. “We might think the right sequence is the linear story arc but we’ve found sometimes when consumers act out of sequence it pushes them down that conversion tunnel faster,” added Bennett.

The challenge underpinning the success of its ambitions to sequentially target will live and die with the level of premium inventory available programmatically, namely “high impact” home page video units it can buy in private marketplace deals with media owners.

“It only takes a couple of big publishers to hold out, and not offer that premium inventory, for it to stall,” he warned.

As Netflix demands a higher volume of varied content for each marketing campaign, the relationship with its creative agencies is also shifting as it seeks quality work at speed.

“When we’re trying to win these micro-moments and trying to cut shorter pieces of sequential video we’ve had to push creative partners to think more.”

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