Sree Nagarajan Discusses the Buy Side of Brand Investment

CEO Sree Nagarajan recently contributed an op-ed to MediaPost discussing the importance of focusing on the buy side of brand investment, rather than just the sell side.

Read more here: Buy Side, Where Real Money is Made, Seldom Talks

Yes, Virginia, there is a Black Friday programmatic segment

New 3rd-party Holiday segments available via ODC

Here at AffinityAnswers, we specialize in creating audience segments. But not just any audiences – these are audiences with a predicted high likelihood to engage with a brand, event, show, team or celebrity. We do this by collecting billions of active, social engagements, then use this data to discover audience affinities. The result is predictive branding, the latest evolution of programmatic advertising.

Ready or not (professionally and personally), the holiday season begins in earnest next week. We know you’ve “been good” and completed your holiday campaign planning, but even the best media plans sometimes have scaling or pacing issues. To help you reach the right audience, AffinityAnswers has created seven holiday segments: Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, New Years, and Hanukkah to complement our 1,500 other segments covering many categories: auto, CPG, retail, finance, travel, TV, radio, print, music, movies, sports, games, celebrities, etc.

To sculpt these holiday segments, we aggregated the social affinity audiences of dozens of brands relating to each of the specific holidays. For instance, the Thanksgiving segment contains brand audiences such as Butterball and Macy’s, where Christmas segment is made up of audiences of Christmas movies, TV shows and Christmas-related brands.

All the above 3rd-party audiences are available via our partner, Oracle Data Cloud, and can be purchased directly from your DSP or digital buying platform; just search “Affinity Answers” to find our branded segments. Additionally, we can tailor bespoke audiences for you for any future programmatic campaigns.

If you would like help strategizing which affinity segments will work best for your next campaign, including your holiday efforts, simply email us at  We’ll help you select the best segments for your campaign goals.

ActivationPlanner™ FAQ

FAQ Contents

    • What is the ActivationPlanner™?
    • Where do I find the ActivationPlanner™?
    • How much does the ActivationPlanner™ cost?
    • How are segment recommendations determined?
    • What are AffinityAnswers data sources?
    • What are TrueAffinity™ and Likelihood to Engage (LtE)?
    • What’s the difference between an in-category segment and a top affinity segment?
    • I would like to customize the recommendation from the ActivationPlanner™; can I do that?
    • How do I buy the segments you recommended?
    • What is your pricing model?
    • Do you have segments available other than your recommendations?
    • Can you create a custom audience for me?
    • Is there a minimum spend associated with buying AffinityAnswers segments?
    • What media channels can I activate your audiences against?
    • What if my brand does not show up in search box of the ActivationPlanner™?
    • What do I do if I need help building segment recommendations?
    • These recommendations are useful from a planning standpoint; how can I see more?



What is the ActivationPlanner™?

ActivationPlanner™ is an app created by AffinityAnswers that displays affinity-based audience segment recommendations.  It is specifically designed to make it easier for Brand Media Directors, Media Agency Planners, and Programmatic Buyers to discover and activate the digital advertising segments predicted to be most effective for programmatic branding by AffinityAnswers TrueAffinity™ algorithm.


Where do I find the ActivationPlanner™?

ActivationPlanner™ is available for free at


How much does the ActivationPlanner™ cost?

Free, and publically available on the AffinityAnswers website.




How are segment recommendations determined?

Traditional look-alike modeling uses static attributes such as demographics to extend audiences. The resulting audience, while frequently large, does not tend to perform well for any brand campaign metrics.  In contrast, the act-alike modeling performed by AffinityAnswers looks at observed consumer engagement behaviors to predict which audiences show affinity towards your brand and thus are likely to respond better than an average population.

Recommendations are made using our TrueAffinity™ algorithm.  TrueAffinity™ is a proprietary brand interaction metric created by AffinityAnswers that indicates the strength of active, mutual engagement between brands’ audiences over time. The higher the score, the more receptive that brand’s’ audience is to messaging and content from the other brand.

So, this is the brands that your customers like, whose audiences also have affinity for your brand.  To think of it in the simple terms of a middle-schooler, it is like finding out that someone you like has a crush on you as well.

Our TrueAffinity™ score is measured on an exponential scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest.  In general, any score above 7 is a very strong mutual affinity measurement, but keep in mind that a TrueAffinity™ of 8 is much higher than a 7 due to the exponential scoring.


What are AffinityAnswers data sources?

To measure TrueAffinity™ and make segment recommendations, we use the vast amounts of public social data across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as the world’s largest focus group.  Social engagement provides a way to capture both the conscious and unconscious influence a brand has on consumers.  By analyzing the active engagement and affinities of this 2 billion+ person audience, we can predict – at scale – how effective a brand’s marketing will be at engaging their target audience.

Our algorithm is built to cut through noise of social chatter and ingest data only from active user engagements, allowing us to understand true brand affinities.  With our algorithm, we can uncover relationships between brands that no one knew existed.

We track and catalog the relationships between 60,000 entities including brands, movies, shows, celebrities, teams, athletes, bands, musicians, and digital properties




What are the TrueAffinity™ and Likelihood to Engage (LtE) scores?

TrueAffinity™ is a proprietary brand interaction metric created by AffinityAnswers that indicates the strength of active, mutual engagement between brands’ audiences over time. The higher the score, the more receptive that brand’s’ audience is to messaging and content from the other brand.  TrueAffinity™ is measured on an exponential scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest.

Likelihood to Engage show how much more likely a member of the affinity segment shown will be to engage with your brand’s content as compared to an average consumer.  These predicted scores can be anything from 2-10 times more likely (low number of bars shown) to hundreds of times more likely (full bar count shown).


What’s the difference between an in-category segment and a top affinity segment?

The output of the ActivationPlanner™ displays affinities in two semicircles.  The inner circle displays top in-category segments for the searched brand – great for conquesting campaigns.  So, if you are a CPG brand, it will show other CPG brands. The outer circle shows high affinity brands, media, and celebrities – great for extending reach.


I would like to customize the recommendation from the ActivationPlanner™; can I do that?

Yes, customizations can be done after you Sign In.  If you do not like a specific recommendation from the ActivationPlanner™, you can get additional recommendations by clicking the swap icon shown on each affinity brand.   Or you can completely remove the recommendation by clicking on delete icon.  This functionality is also detailed in the product tour when you first visit the ActivationPlanner™.  And to start over, simply hit refresh on your browser.

Also, we can create custom recommendations and segments for our clients; simply email us at




How do I buy the segments you recommended?

The recommendations shown are not simply theoretical – these are actual audience segments currently available for purchase via Oracle Data Cloud (BlueKai).  Finding your audience is as simple as typing “Affinity Answers” in your DSP’s audience search interface and then narrowing down to a specific brand from the segment list.  For more advanced use cases, such as customizing your target reach, contact us at and we’ll help build your plan.

Note: our previous company name was Colligent, so we may still show up in some DSPs by that name.


What is your pricing model?

We use a CPM pricing model, so you are only ever charged for audiences as they are used.  The exact CPM for an audience can be obtained from your DSP.


Do you have segments available other than your recommendations?

Yes, even though we have over a thousand audience segments available on Oracle Data Cloud, this is just the beginning of the audience modeling that AffinityAnswers can do for a brand.  If you would like more recommendations, or to try some of our non-brand segments (like Black Friday or Christmas), or to have us build a bespoke segment for you, just send us a note at


Can you create a custom audience for me?

Yes, just send us a note at  We can create a bespoke audience around your brand, a competitor’s brand, or an event.


Is there a minimum spend associated with buying AffinityAnswers segments?

No.  Our DSP channel partners all charge on a CPM basis.


What media channels can I activate your audiences against?

The segment recommendations shown can be used for any type of programmatic advertising – display, mobile, video, etc.

AffinityAnswers‘ audience recommendations can also be used for non-programmatic media, such as television and social media buys or partnership / endorsement opportunities.  And if you have 1st Party data, we can model affinities for that data too.



What if my brand does not show up in search box of the ActivationPlanner™?

Even though we track 60,000 brands, sometime a few fall below our radar.  If the brand you are interested in does not show up in our search bar, contact us at and we will get it added.


What do I do if I need help building segment recommendations?

Contact us at and a member of our Client Support team will be happy to help.



These recommendations are useful from a planning standpoint; how can I see more?

We have a more robust SaaS tool, the Affinity Activation Platform, which shows the full TrueAffinity™ relationships of all 60,000 brands we track for planning purposes.  We provide access to this platform for free to clients who buy an annual minimum commitment of impressions using our segments.  Contact us at and our Business Development team can get you set up on the platform.


Are You Ready for Some Football (Brands)?

With the exception of tonight’s Giants / Vikings game on ESPN, week 4 of the NFL 2016-2017 season is in the books.  Though my team, the Panthers, is not having the same success as last year, the networks carrying the games are still doing well and charging premiums for commercials during NFL broadcasts.  As detailed in a recent AdAge article by Anthony Grupi, NFL games are cord-cutter Kryptonite – the ad rates are at an all-time high.  In fact, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” was last year’s most valuable 30-second primetime spot.

The AdAge article also detailed the top NFL ad spenders from last season.  These brands clearly see the NFL audience as a great opportunity to build their brands.  And while ad success can be measured in lift in cars or burgers sold, here at AffinityAnswers we can track the affinity growth of the brands with the NFL during the season in which the ads ran.

The table below shows the largest NFL ad spenders (AdAge’s source is  Verizon was the top spender at $132 million with Fanduel in 9th at $70 million.  On the x-axis, we measure each brand’s TrueAffinity™ with the NFL.  TrueAffinity™ is a proprietary brand metric created by AffinityAnswers.  It measures the relative level and intensity of mutual affinity between two brands on an exponential scale from zero to ten.  As a rule of thumb, a TrueAffinity™ score of seven is usually considered a strong relationship.  Here we see all nine brands have a decent level of affinity with the NFL, though we do see some players performing better than others.  The logos represent their TrueAffinity™ at the start of the season; the arrows representt TrueAffinity™ at the end of the season.

NFL Ad Spend

The first standout we see is McDonald’s, who’s TrueAffinity™ score was about 8.75 for the entire NFL season.  This is likely due to the brand’s higher transaction volume as well as local-market franchise campaigns ran with individual NFL teams.  Verizon and Fanduel have the next two highest affinities.  Fanduel makes logical sense.  Fans of a sports fantasy site have a high overlap with fans of professional football.  Verizon, interestingly, saw declines in TrueAffinity™ during the last NFL season.  This may be a signal that Verizon should reexamine their campaign, or try to further penetrate the NFL audience by running parallel, targeted programmatic campaigns (AffinityAnswers offers an NFL audience and individual team audiences via our activation partner, Oracle Data Cloud).  Since TrueAffinity™ is a relative metric, it may also mean that Verizon competitors are making a move into the NFL market.

In the center of the chart all the automotive brands are clustered above 7.5.  All four saw affinity growth with the NFL during the season, with Nissan getting the most bang for the buck.  Auto insurer Geico is also at this same general TrueAffinity™ level, but saw a slight decline as the season progressed.

And finally Southwest Airlines stands out as the biggest mover during the 2015-2016 season.  They started the season with a TrueAffinity™ score of 6.8, but ended at 7.6.  Their campaign clearly resonated with the NFL fan base.

These are just the top advertisers, and there is much more we can discover if we analyze the full marketing and advertising plans of these brands.  If you are interested in seeing more, you can discover more affinities to the NFL with our Affinity Explorer tool, or just drop me a note at  To find and activate NFL audiences in your DSP, just search for AffinityAnswers branded data.  Or email and we will walk you through the process.

Online Ad Targeting Using Social Affinity: Chris O’Hara in AdExchanger

This week our advisory board member Chris O’Hara published a column in AdExchanger that gives a good overview about how social affinity facilitates a more complete understanding of your consumers. Here’s the link to his post:

Social Affinity Data: The Key To The Fabled ‘360 Degree View’

As Chris makes clear in his column, social affinity data on its own can create penetrating new insights into your audience. But it gets even stronger — and creates that holistic 360-degree view — when it’s integrated with other data sets such as ratings, purchase history, and social listening, as in this diagram:


Social affinity data chart
Our 360-Degree View of Affinity Data


Understanding Your Audience through Social Affinity

This has been Affinity Answers’ bread and butter for a long time now, to the point that we see the world this way automatically. From working with our clients, we know that the 360-degree view grounded in social affinity data produces better results for entertainment marketers, ad sales pros, and others. But as we have new conversations with entertainment and media companies, we realize that a lot of people don’t realize that such a comprehensive integrated view of the data is even possible.

That’s why Chris’s column is so important. As he puts it:

I believe that understanding social affinity data is the missing piece of the “360 degree view” puzzle. Adding this powerful data to online viewing, buying, and social listening data can open up new ways to understand consumer behavior. Ultimately, this type of data can be used to generate results (and measure them) in online branding campaigns that have thus far been elusive.

Want a full view of the people who are predisposed to love your brand? Understand what you both mutually care about through social affinities — and measure it.

Please take a few minutes to read the AdExchanger piece, and then tell us: How could you put this comprehensive data view to use?

Are You An Index Or Alpha Marketer?

Marketing on the quantitative side can be treated essentially as investment management. Thus there are parallels marketers can learn and apply from the investment world.

In the investing world, there are two competing approaches –

  1. Index investor. Believes you can not beat the market, so buy a piece of every stock in an index (e.g., S&P 500).  Your return thus tracks the overall return of the stock market index. A key driver for the index investor is aversion to risk. They do not want to under perform the market even in the short term.
  2. Alpha investor. Believes you can beat the market by careful selection. While a whole lot of people think they can be alpha investors, less than 10% realize alpha returns over long term (e.g., returns that beat the market averages such as S&P 500). A key risk alpha investors embrace is volatility – possible short term under performance for superior long term over performance.

If you treat media buying similar to stock market investment, you can also put the approaches into two camps –

  1. Index marketer. Goes for average returns to ensure they don’t under perform. When you use the recommendations from media companies on what to buy, their default optimization is to achieve average performance for every client. Let’s take Google as an example. If you did a campaign with Google Display Network (GDN), they would recommend a CPC (Cost Per Click) based campaign with specific publisher categories and user interests to target, that are optimized for average performance across a large inventory. Thus you would get the reach you need for an average performance. For a typical 0.10% CTR, if you bought at $1.00 CPC, 1,000 impressions translate into 1 click at a cost of $1.00 to you. Thus it is equivalent to a $1 CPM as well.
  2. Alpha marketer. Aims for superior returns by leveraging data or insights about their audience and the specific media. In the GDN example above, buying based on CPM instead of CPC would help you achieve superior performance, provided you have superior targeting and/or creative. For example, if you bought 1,000 impressions at $1 CPM and had superior CTR at 0.2% (due to better targeting), you essentially got 2 clicks for the same price of $1, resulting in $0.50 per click. Note that dropping the bid to $0.50 CPC above would not have gotten you the same result. You would just get much less impressions (or none at all). Why does this work? Any ad network such as GDN buys impressions from publishers and sells you at CPC typically arbitraging the CTR you are expected to get with the purchase price from the publisher. Buying on CPM essentially bypasses the default optimization (index marketing) for superior returns (alpha marketing).

A rule of thumb is if you are not sure what you are doing, index marketing is the route to go. If you are in the 10% that really knows what you are doing, venture into the world of alpha marketing. Be prepared for the bumpy ride that this approach will give you!

The Most Insidious Trap in New Media Targeting

Is it –

  • Fuzzy strategy?
  • Unclear target segment?
  • Bottom fishing for cheap inventory?

While they are all valid issues, the sin that is most insidious and common is aiming for relevance but buying reach instead. Various media research and targeting tools available in the market today make it easy to get reach with some relevance based on demographics or other criteria. This is especially true on mass media such as TV where the measurement currencies use demographics as the main means of selecting audience. In the evolving world of fragmented consumers, this buys you reach but not relevance.

On the digital side, many targeting tools are available such as cookies and keywords that make it possible to select audience based on relevance. However, most such tools are provided by the media companies themselves or by third parties using data supplied by the media company. Their recommendations tend to optimize for reach first, since it serves the need of the media company to sell more reach and the buyer’s willingness to buy that reach provided there is some relevanceThe net result is audience optimized for reach first and then relevance.

Programmatic buying methods tend to optimize for cost more than relevance. This is helpful in selecting from a sea of commodity inventory but we are still looking for the relevance needle in the cheap inventory haystack.

So how do we buy relevance and reach on reasonable costs? It turns out that starting with relevance first and then adding reasonably priced reach is a far more effective mechanism than the other way around. This means we are first looking for clusters of inventory that are highly relevant to us and are priced reasonably. Pooling many such clusters together then gives us the reach we need.

This can work regardless of your media or targeting method. For most social and video, you can buy relevance clusters using keywords. For display, you can buy the cookie pools that are mapped for relevance to your target segment. For traditional media such as TV, Radio or Print, you can buy the most relevant choices by mapping the keywords to respective media properties.