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. 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.

  2. There’s no excuse for my kids to get blasted with Trojan condom ads while watching the Adams Family channel. Kid-targeted shows should have kid-appropriate ads.

  3. When the same block of ads airs every 5 minutes, and NOT at a natural break in the program content, there is absolutely no circumstances under which that could be considered a “positive” thing for anybody who is not criminally insane.

  4. You got to be kidding me…. the same ads over and over, every five minutes? And Rich Calacci gets paid to do these useless, mindless ads. Trojan condoms…
    Do you even consider the fact that children are watching the TV also? Can’t he just find something normal to sell? Not just outrageous sex related things.
    Over and over. Kind of like Nazi brainwashing or something ….. just wrong. Need to learn to be a little more creative with these Pluto commercials. Put some effort into your ads. Do something cute or funny, or creative or something for kids or families….. Maybe target your audiences, do something…. We live out in the middle of nowhere and get this junk. Very poor advertising!

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