NEW YORK — During a star-studded night that saw cameos from James Marsden, T-Pain, Tracee Ellis Ross and Marcus Mumford, “Thursday Night Football” stood out as the crown jewel of Amazon’s NewFronts presentation. Heading into its second season hosting the coveted primetime program, Prime Video is introducing advertising solutions that promise a level of interactivity and precision that has excited brands since live sports made the jump to streaming from the more rigid confines of linear TV.
Among the biggest developments shared at the event, which was held in-person at David Geffen Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center, was the unveiling of an audience-based creative tool that allows advertisers to simultaneously target ads at different cohorts based on geographic, demographic and behavioral data. Describing the product on stage, Amazon Ads’ Vice President of Global Advertising Sales Alan Moss said that an automotive brand could run an ad for a sports car aimed at younger adults, a spot for an SUV tailored to more outdoorsy consumers and a general audience commercial, all within the same 30-second ad position.
“This is a first for NFL audiences,” Moss said during the glitzy presentation to advertisers, media stakeholders and agencies, which stretched on for nearly two hours.
Football fans tuning in through Fire TV devices will also soon see interactive video ads that can be engaged with via voice command or remote. Viewers can request more information be sent to their phone or email, as well as add products to their Amazon cart or make a purchase without having to get up from the couch. Fire TV recently surpassed 200 million in global unit sales, Amazon announced.
These enhancements show Amazon capitalizing on the flexibility afforded by digital, as well as flexing the billions of first-party data signals it wields across an ecosystem of browsing, streaming and shopping. The news comes as Amazon plans to air the NFL’s first Black Friday game in November, seeking to link one of its biggest media bets to the frenzied holiday spending weekend that includes Cyber Monday. The Black Friday broadcast will be available to any U.S. viewer, not just Prime subscribers.
As Amazon looks to court more dollars from the traditional media arena, demographics came into focus at the NewFronts. Football viewers on its platform are, on average, eight years younger than NFL watchers on TV, according to Moss.
“Our content is attracting younger adult audiences who are more affluent, engaged and incremental to linear and other streaming TV,” said Moss. “You simply can't reach many of these fans anywhere else.”
Deepening the roster
Amazon deepening its football playbook comes as its streaming offerings hit fresh levels of popularity in a broad sense. The company now reaches an average monthly audience of over 155 million customers across properties including “Thursday Night Football,” Freevee, Twitch and Fire TV.
“That's inclusive of customers you won't find on linear TV,” said Colleen Aubrey, Amazon Ads’ senior vice president of ad products and tech. Nearly 11% of viewers, on average, of Amazon streaming TV campaigns are incremental to linear, according to Nielsen findings cited by the executive.
Other streaming providers, including Netflix and Disney+, have introduced ad-supported tiers that have ramped up competition with Amazon. Freevee, which was rebranded from IMDb TV last year, is the ad-supported counterpart to Prime Video’s premium, ad-free model, “Thursday Night Football” excepted. Freevee has recently uncovered some major hits, including “Jury Duty,” which premiered in April, along with “Judy Justice” and “Bosch: Legacy.”
The total number of hours streamed on the platform increased 68% year-over-year in 2022. Amazon said it plans to port over 100 Amazon Original series and movies, including “Reacher” and “The Wheel of Time,” to support the service, and teased a slew of new programming at Monday’s event.
Amazon is using Freevee to test an interactive pause ad format that features shoppable calls to action when the viewer takes a break. Another solution touted at the NewFronts was brand storytelling, which allows advertisers to tell a richer narrative through sequential streaming ads that executives said can deepen consideration.
As marketers try to track the success of their newfangled streaming efforts, Amazon is adding VideoAmp and iSpot as measurement partners. The goal is to gauge impressions and reach across screens, including out-of-home and local stations. The company has been working with Nielsen on “Thursday Night Football” ratings, and reportedly run into some tensions with the measurement firm.
A data powerhouse
Powering all of these bells and whistles is Amazon’s central pitch around data. The e-commerce giant’s profile has risen in the advertising world based on its ability to deliver more precise messages leveraging proprietary shopper information. Amazon’s ad sales segment saw revenue up 23% year-over-year in the first quarter to $9.5 billion, a rate of growth that bested analyst expectations and was far ahead of digital rivals like Google and Meta Platforms.
Amazon has used its data know-how to build out technology such as an Amazon Marketing Cloud (AMC) clean room solution that allows advertisers to combine their own data inputs with Amazon’s. AMC’s audience tools are rolling out globally at a point where more brands are grappling with targeting challenges brought on by the planned deprecation of cookies next year and tweaks to other key identifiers.
“Pick your poison: Media fragmentation, ad identifier changes, incomplete insights, measurement complexity — the list goes on,” said Aubrey when teeing off the NewFronts. “As a result, advertisers struggle to create that perfect harmony. In my experience, the best results occur when customers receive an ad that is eminently useful.”