Nine plans to revolutionise media buying with the launch of 9Voyager

It was teased at the 2018 upfronts, but Nine’s SME media buying platform 9Voyager has finally hit the market. In the lead up to today’s launch, Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston met with some of the people involved to see how the platform came together.

9Voyager was first mentioned at the Nine upfronts in October 2018. Sold as a self-service ad platform for small to medium businesses (SMEs), it came off the back of 9Galaxy, Nine’s automated trading platform. There’s another piece of tech at play here too – 9Predict, which analyses 78m data points each day to predict ratings for the next 12 months.

It’s all this tech that’s given Nine the room to reveal 9Voyager – a first of its kind in Australia and among the first in the world. It’s a self-service platform for SMEs, allowing them to purchase TV and BVOD advertising for the first time without the use of an agency. And Nine has aimed to make it as easy as possible.

“There are 2.1m SMEs out there, 51,000 of those would be considered medium-sized businesses, that’s 20 to 200 employees. 91% of those are already advertising and 50% are already using self-service platforms to buy on Facebook and Google,” says Nine chief sales officer Michael Stephenson.

It’s those medium-sized businesses that Stephenson is targeting specifically with 9Voyager. Currently they’re not buying TV advertising because of the cost and a lack of knowledge around what’s available and how to access it, so Nine is aiming to make 9Voyager as simple as possible. Incredibly simple. So simple, you can purchase advertising in under five minutes. Gathered media watched it happen at the briefing – $15,000 worth of TV advertising purchased in under five minutes.

That need for simplicity has created what could be considered a somewhat restrictive platform. The minimum spend is $15,000, which gets you a free 30-second ad created through 9Voyager partner 90 Seconds. That ad is actually necessary, because users can’t bring their own creative to the platform, although Stephenson says that is part of the plan for phase two. They also can’t use the creative from 90 Seconds elsewhere.

90 Seconds

Geoff Massey, 90 Seconds global partnerships director for agency/media, says the partnership makes perfect sense for the company. 90 Seconds already works on TV advertising for brands like Bupa and Dan Murphy’s, so this is just a further extension of what they’re already providing.

“We came together about 10 or 12 weeks ago and Nine briefed us pretty clearly that they wanted TV to be a viable option for SMEs and provide the simplest possible means of doing that. We built an API that allowed us to connect our two platforms so it’s a seamless customer journey, and we customised our platform to be an extension of the Voyager experience,” Massey tells Mumbrella.

Once the client data is provided to 90 Seconds, the process begins and the client is delivered a viable TVC within three weeks, a turnaround that may sound quite shocking, but 90 Seconds brings together 150 global staff, a cloud-based workflow and 13,000 fully-managed creatives.

“The frontline for us are in-house producers. In Australia we have eight in-house producers, they manage the production in-house and everything else is done by our creative network. The producers hold the hand of the client, so the first thing they’ll see once production commences on their Voyager journey, is their registration email for the platform, then they’ll get a call from the producer,” says Massey.

There are three very simple different processes, shoot and edit, edit only, and animation, which again removes the confusion of choice from the user. 90 Seconds has already done the guesswork – it has examples to view, and the platform prompts the user through every approval process and lets them see where the commercial is as it gets made. 90 Seconds also handles the CAD process, and its own quality control rules still apply here, with the aim that clients should feel safe with the final outcome they receive.

Each additional $15,000 spent gets the client another TVC, so long-term clients who are looking at seasonal campaigns will have that option. As the next phase rolls out, it’s expected there will be more customisation and the ability to bring your own creative, but for now, it’s all about the simplicity.

Viewers guaranteed

9Voyager can be used to purchase advertising across Nine off-peak, 9Go, 9Gem, 9Life and 9Now. A purchase doesn’t let advertisers choose the split between those platforms – that’s automatically decided depending on the demographic, market and budget entered.

Nine has tried to minimise the steps in the process. After creating an account using an ABN, the user just needs to select when they want the campaign to begin, where they want to target it, input the budget and some information for the creative, and pay using a credit card. The interface gives real-time analytics, and schedules are provided daily so consumers are able to tune in and watch their ad go to air. The platform uses 9Predict data to tell users how many spots they’ll get, how many viewers they’ll reach, and show the split across the duration of the campaign.

Those viewer figures are a guarantee. If you’ve been promised 100,000 views, that’s how many you’ll get. The automation of the platform, provided by the 9Galaxy tech, means everything is concrete, Nine says.

Once a user has clicked purchase, paid with their credit card and pocketed their Qantas Frequent Flyer points (one point for every dollar spent), they’re put in contact with 90 Seconds, where they have complete creative control over their advertisement.

Tim Rose – director of Sales, Michael Stephenson – chief sales officer, and Stephen Kyefulumya – group director of enterprise and data Solutions. Photograph by James Brickwood.

Creating 9Voyager

Not only was 9Voyager created in Australia, it was created as part of a hack-a-thon. Nine’s group director of enterprise and data solutions, Stephen Kyefulumya, led the team behind the creation.

“With a hack-a-thon you get 24 hours, we give all our people 24 hours to do whatever they want. It enables you to be creative, do something that breaks the mould. In autumn last year we started brainstorming ideas for the next hack-a-thon and we came up with this idea that we called 9Brief, which was based off the Galaxy platform and would be an ecommerce website allowing sales reps to go to market and input campaigns on the go,” Kyefulumya tells Mumbrella.

From there, the feedback was that it was a great idea, but that it wasn’t instantly marketable. But Stephenson seeing the potential, gave the feedback that it would be good for anyone to be able to use the platform. Kyefulumya and his team went away, built that, and created the beginnings for 9Voyager.

“We kept on coming back with iterations and we’d say ‘How about this?’ And they’d ask for it simpler. ‘How about this?’ ‘Simpler. It was an ongoing narrative about how to make it as simple as possible,” says Kyefulumya.

“We believe SMEs deserve to have access to someone like us with premium brand safe content. We truly believe that the combination of TV and BVOD is the best way to build your position in the market. Nobody is saying stop advertising with Google or Facebook, but we’re allowing them to broaden their spending and broaden their horizons.”

Kyefulumya stresses that 9Voyager wouldn’t have worked without 9Predict or 9Galaxy, meaning it needed to be this place and time for it to work to the level Nine believes it will. The team have already been on a tour around the world, showing the technology to leading media, and the plan for the future may include licensing the product to other companies.

Stephenson is clear that the network has minimal expectations for 9Voyager. Despite the fact that those SMEs who are the target audience are already spending $200,000 in advertising, this is an unexplored region. Beginning today, Nine will roll out an advertising campaign for 9Voyager, fronted by Ian Healy, pushing the ease of the platform, and the hope is that SMEs will flock to it. Nine hasn’t said what success looks like for the platform, and maybe that’s because they don’t know. 9Voyager takes Nine into untested waters, and the industry will undoubtedly be watching to see if it works.

“9Voyager will give SMEs access to Nine’s premium, brand-safe inventory allowing them to reach the millions of Australians who access Nine’s content on live TV or on demand every week to grow their business,” concludes Stephenson.