Advertising Is Fundamentally Misunderstood: Pluto TV’s Calacci

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Pluto TV’s OTT streaming service is free but ad-supported, and chief revenue officer Rich Calacci believes that as long as those ads are properly targeted at the right audience, viewers won’t mind.

“I don’t think there’s an aversion to commercials or advertising broadly. I think it’s fundamentally misunderstood,” says Calacci, speaking with BeetTV at Advertising Week in New York. “Advertising that isn’t directed at you or doesn’t speak to you is simply ineffective advertising.”

Pluto TV, which launched in 2013, streams over 100 channels through its app available on platforms like Apple TV and Roku. In March, Viacom acquired Pluto TV for $340 million to further build out Viacom’s own ad-supported streaming services. At the time, Pluto TV reported having 12 million monthly active users across devices.

Calacci explains Pluto TV’s value proposition as three-fold: For consumers, it’s a free service with limited commercial interruptions; for content owners, it’s a potential home for content that might otherwise go unwatched for lack of platform rather than audience; for advertisers, it’s a channel with fast, effective reach.

“[When] you have a story to tell, you have to tell it to the right people, under the right circumstances,” says Calacci. “While branded content can be effective on certain platforms, at the end of the day a recorded message that’s written, directed and delivered by you is most valuable.”

Getting advertising stories to the right people under the right circumstances, however, falls under what Calacci considers a “war going on in business around identity.” Pluto TV’s addressable audience identities fall into two camps: Physical geographies and digital geographies.

  • Physical geographies mark audiences by their location using customers’ addresses. That identity is useful for advertisers promoting a product or service available only in select locations.
  • Digital geographies track device IDs, meaning it links customers to information like age group. Advertisers looking to reach a more specific demographic beyond location can use that to get their content in front of the right people.

What this bifurcation allows Pluto TV to do is customize ad offerings to any region, any location or any distribution path. “That’s the foundation of addressable TV,” says Calacci.

This video is part of a series of interviews conducted during Advertising Week New York, 2019. This series is co-production of Beet.TV and Advertising Week. The series is sponsored by Roundel, a Target company. Please see more videos from Advertising Week right here


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1 Comment
  1. Nonsense. Advertising, even if targeted and relevant, is unwanted and unsolicited. Ads are intrusive, like any interruption. You can always count on an advertising executive to believe that his product is not really a nuisance. Commercials are the ants at a picnic. Otherwise, I would not bother to mute the audio for live ads or skip over the recorded ones.

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