October 28, 2019

Ampersand’s Nicolle Pangis on TV Advertising’s Progress Report

NYC Television Week’s “Progress Report” panel, part of its Advanced Advertising track, takes the pulse of the TV advertising landscape, examining what’s working and what needs to change to transform this vital marketplace. Nicolle Pangis, CEO of TV ad sales and technology company Ampersand (formerly NCC Media), shares her POV on the topic here. To eavesdrop on the full conversation, register now for this informative series of panels and keynotes. 


Your panel is called a ‘Progress Report.’ Overall, how’s the TV advertising ecosystem doing?


It’s progressing at a faster pace than many give it credit for. There are some things not totally resolved, including how we account for a new measurement standard now that there’s more census-level data available versus the panel-level data TV has historically been traded on. But often, I think our industry gets very dramatic – maybe that’s part of being in advertising – and so we see things that way rather than being more optimistic. Yes, new data creates new challenges, but more importantly it creates new opportunities for players to lock arms and figure out a better way to work together. That sounds very ‘kumbaya,’ but I really believe that the golden age of TV is still to come.


There are companies talking to each other now in very meaningful ways that weren’t talking to each other just a few years ago. And that in and of itself says there’s going to be more collaboration and more solutions-based standards, measurements and ways to work together that will help minimize some of the friction in television advertising. These things don’t happen overnight, so I think more than anything we’ll need to be patient with one another, and be more thoughtful about not saying the sky is falling all the time.


In this new ecosystem, who stands to benefit the most? And who’s the most at risk? 


Well, as in any business, as it matures the intermediaries are the most at risk. They can function for a period of time, but once the friction is minimized, typically the buy and sell sides come closer together through platforms. So that’s one area – for example, arbitraging media in digital was very popular 15 years ago, but you can’t do it anymore. And I think the same sort of thing is happening today in television.


What I’ve seen since I’ve come to TV in the last year and a half, after spending most of my career in digital, is that the brands are pushing their agencies, in a good way, to really test and learn. And the good news is that, in advanced advertising, brands are working very collaboratively with their agencies, the measurement companies and companies such as ours, that have data and inventory in the same place at scale, to start testing new ways of expressing television budgets in ways they typically haven’t done before. Not all testing is  successful, but they’re not afraid to move some budgets to test and learn. And I’m actually very heartened that the buy side is leaning in to both the known, but more importantly the unknown, of advanced television advertising. Because it is nascent; we talk about it like it’s completely evolved. I joke that if it were a baseball game, we’d be in the bottom of the first or second inning of a game that’s headed for extra innings. 


Ampersand just rebranded from NCC Media. Why the change? What does the new branding signify? 


When I arrived here a year and a half ago, and NCC stood for National Cable Communications. We started back in 1981 by representing cable operators to work with buyers in a simple way that allowed them to scale TV buying on cable in regional marketplaces. And this company was really the first example of the defragmentation of a fragmented marketplace in television, which is kind of cool. So we stand on the shoulders of that legacy. Once we unified the cable operators, we started working with the satellite companies and the telco companies, and now work with the new OTT companies, too. So we’re not just about cable anymore, and haven’t been for a long time now.


A core principle of the company ‘s origin was this idea of bringing together market players to help everyone, both on the buy side and the sell side. And we booked more than $2 billion in revenue last year doing that. I like to joke we’re the biggest TV company you’ve never heard of. So we wanted the new name to stand for this idea of forging partnerships and bringing together players in the marketplace, since that’s our legacy. This notion of Ampersand came out of meetings when we said we were working with attribution companies AND measurement companies AND cable operators AND CTV players AND the agencies AND the brands. We wanted to bring this notion of connectivity of the marketplace so everyone succeeds together, and that’s how we settled on the name.