Life in the Fast Lane



In the early days of EZPass, I knew a few people who balked at the idea of handing over their personal information to the Bridge and Tunnel Authority. These same people were also among the last to finally create an email address, and stop writing physical checks to pay most of their bills. The technology then wasn’t what it is now, and the level of protection has significantly improved. Today, far fewer people use the cash-only lanes, and the EZPass lanes are always backed up.

Data collection and protection has long been essential to both the marketer and the consumer. An adequate level of protection helps build trust between customer and brand; if that trust is tested, the customer will move to a competitor quickly. In some cases, the level of trust is almost as important as the level of product quality. A product like EZPass has had its ups and downs, but states have made great strides to collect and protect consumer data.

Data collection is a vital part of the direct marketer’s job, but how we use that data is just as important. For example, being able to collect enough data to create a “heat map” of interest in a product can go a long way toward making decisions on advertising spend. And a robust consumer database can help bring future products to market.

Data security should be top-of-mind. No one wants their information to be easily accessible to the world, and direct marketers must take extreme measures to make sure that doesn’t happen. Data is useless if you don’t advertise to the correct audiences, however. And at this time of year, the advertising opportunities available on live TV are top-notch.

Some of the most effective media buys in DRTV are available on live broadcasts, and spring’s many sporting events offer opportunities to target extremely engaged audiences. For example, March Madness has grown into a spectacle over the last 20 years, and this year’s tournament will be carried on CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV. Along with network airings, live streaming will be available for all games, and together, that translates into extremely high viewership levels. Audiences for March Madness in 2015 grew 10 to 15 percent from the previous year.

Next up, as the college season comes to a close in mid-April, the NBA playoffs begin, airing on ABC, ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV. The 2016 games had some of the highest numbers in recent memory, as the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 3–1 deficit to the Golden State Warriors and brought a championship to the city of Cleveland for the first time since 1964.

The NHL playoffs also kick off in April. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins have played well all season, and are looking to repeat. But the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, and New York Rangers will pose a threat. While the ratings are a fraction of what the NBA playoffs provide, hockey draws a very loyal viewer.

Rounding out live sports are the Kentucky Derby on May 6 and the beginning of the MLB season. “The fastest two minutes in sports” draws consistent numbers every year as the first leg of the Triple Crown, and the baseball season promises to be an exciting one with the Chicago Cubs as defending champions for the first time in more than 100 years. If the MLB can hold on to even a portion of the record numbers generated by last year’s playoffs and World Series, the 2017 season will be a winner for marketers.

Sports isn’t the only place to put your springtime spend, however. The 2016-2017 season is producing large amounts of scripted programming, too. May finales usually produce some of the top-rated episodes of the year. Veteran programming such as NCIS, The Simpsons, Grey’s Anatomy and Law & Order SVU promise exciting endings to their seasons that are sure to generate spikes in viewership.

Track your campaigns across channels and use the information to focus targeting and inform future buys. Data is key to putting products in the EZPass lane to success.