How Disney built its Audience Graph to meet data demands

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Disney Advertising Sales has seen demand for data capabilities grow with clients: The number of campaigns using data of any kind to target audiences has increased 56% during the past year, representing 110% revenue growth. 

To bring all of its information on the people who watch its content onto a secure platform and to help marketers target audiences with the right advertising, the media giant is using the Snowflake Data Cloud. 

Lisa Valentino, executive vice president for client and brand solutions at Disney Advertising Sales, told  VentureBeat how her organization is using Snowflake technology to help develop its proprietary Audience Graph, which helps advertisers identify distinct segments of the audience and to place commercials across Disney’s media.

Using Snowflake’s Media Data Cloud, Disney is a new clean room, which offers brands a single location to securely access data on hundreds of customer segments across the entertainment giant’s entertainment services. Global brands can use Disney’s data-modeling capabilities to undertake deeper insights on the commercials they intend to run.

Valentino explains how she and her team expect to develop these capabilities in the next few years.

VentureBeat: How did Disney Advertising Sales get involved in data?

Lisa Valentino: Our interest in data goes back five or six years. We invested in building an Audience Graph that takes all the signals from all the endpoints that touch our consumers. It’s a proprietary graph that we’ve built. We have a team of data scientists inside the company that understand the mechanics of data and can ingest data points – such as consumption and demographics – across all our brands. And what we’ve done with that data is create prebuilt segments that clients can transact against. So today that Audience Graph delivers over 2,000 pre-populated segments that advertisers are buying against – and that business is up almost 200% year-over-year.

VentureBeat: Why did you need a technology partner?

Valentino: I think it’s important to recognize the privacy standards that we hold ourselves to at Disney. And, frankly, it’s prevented us from doing business in certain ways in the past because we hold ourselves very high from a data and privacy perspective. We needed to know where our data can be trusted, where we can have the right legal rigor around it, and we very quickly identified that was an opportunity with Snowflake. Clean rooms allow us to check the privacy box, which then allows our data to sit in a way that is anonymized and doesn’t transfer out of a Disney ecosystem. And so, it is changing the conversation we’re having with partners.

VentureBeat: Why did you select Snowflake?

Valentino: Our relationship with Snowflake started about 10 months ago. What we love about Snowflake is the flexibility and fluidity of the platform, and the ability to manipulate data inside that environment. It’s super-easy to use, and it’s got even easier with some of the applications that they’ve built on top of the platform. Those factors are what drew us to an initial strategic relationship. Of course, we’re going to do business with other partners in the space based on clients and agency direction, but we have a strategic alliance with Snowflake that we’re proud of. And the same data team that built our Audience Graph is now continuing to influence the architecture of the Disney/Snowflake partnership. 

VentureBeat: What kinds of benefits has that relationship created? 

Valentino: The big benefit is the recency with which data gets updated. For our clients, the real-time nature has a big impact on performance. The depth of knowledge has changed the conversation with clients, because we now go to market from a category standpoint – we are very much selling to automotive customers, travel customers, pharmaceutical customers. And the ability to get specific about the segmentations that work for those types of verticals is a very different proposition. 

VentureBeat: How does your data help advertisers target the right audience?

Valentino: Some of the work we’re doing with Snowflake means we’re able to match up Disney’s first-party data against another client data set. That match-up allows them to understand how to buy Disney differently; what are the unique opportunities to go beyond content and demographics, which are the traditional factors when buying advertising on linear television. So, the insights that Snowflake and Disney bring together to the market is transformational, in terms of how to use our data to inform a whole new way of tapping into the 200 million people that we reach. 

VentureBeat: Is there an example of how that relationship works in practice?

Valentino: We just acquired the rights to the NHL. There’s a subset of folks who consider themselves avid NHL fans. Clearly, there’s demand for that inventory from marketers and we sell advertising against it across streaming and linear. But what folks don’t realize – and this is something we found through our Audience Graph – is that NHL fans over-index against certain types of comedy shows and streaming series. There are so many other ways to find avid NHL fans outside of the game window. So, those are the types of consultative insights that our Audience Graph can deliver in real time and help clients think more strategically about what they do with us. How this Audience Graph informs global strategy is an opportunity that we’re super-excited about.

VentureBeat: How will the platform develop in the future?

Valentino: The speed at which this marketplace is shifting and changing is unbelievable. We now have a huge Audience Graph that is sitting inside a clean room environment, which can enable a level of insight that we’ve never been able to deliver to the marketplace at the speed at which we’re doing. That’s all taken place in the last few years. I think the ambition for the project is to be able to use the clean room from pre-planning insights to measurement. That’s a long-term approach that we’ll develop through our partnership with Snowflake. We spend a lot of time with the Snowflake team on what’s coming next, and development and innovation. We want to make sure our use of the technology goes well beyond insights.

VentureBeat: How will your data platform give you a competitive advantage?
Valentino: We’re going to be using data and technology in a much closer way. As a client, you’ll be able to take the insight we provide and then buy advertising automatically. What we’re pushing – and we’re working closely with companies like Snowflake and our own data science team on this – is to accelerate that process. Brands will be able to act on the insights we provide in real time and understand the impact it has on their sales channels. And this is a trajectory – let’s call it a two-to-three-year journey that takes us from interesting strategic insights to activation to attribution-type measurement, which is really the end game for so many of our Fortune 100 marketers.

Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz