Turner’s Data Center of Excellence Puts Data at the Center and Drives Breakthrough Organizational Alignment
Turner, one of the wholly owned companies within Time Warner, owns and operates some of the most important premium media brands in the world. Its portfolio includes niche television channels (Adult Swim), global news (CNN), and sports (Turner Sports, Bleacher Report) to kids programming (Cartoon Network) and well-known cable offerings such as Turner Classic and TNT.
When we first started working with Turner, it faced many of the challenges common to most major media companies. The rapid fragmentation of its traditional audiences who were moving to digital destinations and spending more time on Facebook, and siloed internal data that made it difficult to sell its customers advertising packages spanning digital and traditional channels.
Stephano Kim, then EVP of digital strategy and chief data strategist, was chartered by the CEO to solve the problem. His strategy was to increase revenue from audience-based sales by leveraging people data to engage with Turner’s audiences across web, mobile, and over-the-top platforms. Given the diversity of channels and outlets for Turner’s content, it was a formidable task.
“We knew we had diverse brands and compelling content as a starting place, and we also knew that our audiences were highly engaged with both,” said Kim. “The issue was that, as the industry shifted away from traditional media buying metrics to more people-centric measurement, we needed to prove that our audiences were highly valuable across the entire multiplatform consumer journey.”
The solution started with consolidating all of Turner’s first-party data across all consumer touchpoints and implementing a data management platform (DMP), which Turner used to enrich its own data with second- and third-party sources to build high-value premium audiences. Kim oversaw this pioneering effort that quickly evolved into what is now known as the Turner Data Cloud, the repository for all of Turner’s proprietary data assets.
Kim’s vision for the Turner Data Cloud was to leverage identity management capabilities and data feeds from the DMP, to ingest data from multiple sources and devices, and to stitch them into a single consumer ID that was connected to all Turner channels. Inside the Turner Data Cloud, Turner applied advanced analytics and data science to design custom audiences, model the overlap between linear cable and digital users, predict consumer behavior based on the propensity of consumers to engage with certain advertising brands, and assign lifetime value scores to virtually all its segments.
“The DMP was a fundamental first step on the way to unifying our audience data. It has become a central piece of our technology architecture in the Turner Data Cloud as a bridge to multiple consumer touch points. DMP was also a catalyst to get various teams to agree on the proper use and value of the data, identify skills and capabilities gaps to enable the data, and develop deeper insights from the data than we ever had before. We also needed the ongoing buy-in and support from leaders across sales, marketing, editorial, technology, and research, with the support of senior management. This is really just the starting point of a larger transformational journey for the company as we develop advanced use cases for content development and personalization, as well as more complex direct-to-consumer products.”
Today, the team is extending the Turner Data Cloud so it’s even more integrated into intelligent systems that support advanced ad sales products, multichannel marketing and content delivery, and financial modeling. Turner was the first major media company to embrace a center-of-excellence approach and achieve significant digital transformation years before its big media competitors understood the urgency.
“We live in a very fast-moving environment where consumers have a growing set of options when it comes to content consumption. Our advertising clients are demanding richer solutions while the velocity of technological change increases daily,” said Stephano. “We’ve tried to anchor our innovation and change management strategy around the right teams and operating models that puts both our consumers and data squarely at the center. This data- and consumer-centric model with agile execution provides us with a better chance of success.”