May 30, 2024

A More Inspired Upfront

How Inspire is leveraging the combined power of smarter ad buying and advanced technology to extract more value from its TV Upfront Commitments.

Travis Freeman

Chief Media Officer, Inspire Brands

In the quickly-evolving landscape of the restaurant industry, Inspire Brands stands out with our unique vision to build an extensible, data and technology-enabled platform that powers each of our brands, which include Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin, Jimmy John’s, and Sonic. As the Chief Media Officer, I am excited to speak a bit about our industry-leading approach to media. 

The world of TV is transforming quickly. Given the rapid rate of change, we need to leverage digital technologies to reach relevant audiences effectively and at scale, at the right place, at the right time, and with the right message. This strategy is especially important during the TV upfronts, where hundreds of millions of dollars are allocated to our partners. This is why we have partnered with the Yahoo DSP in two impactful areas that have enhanced our upfront strategy.

Identity-Based Audience Strategy 

As a company that is always thinking through a tech lens, Inspire Brands has invested in our identity infrastructure with Epsilon PeopleCloud as our cleanroom (finding new, unknown guests) and mParticle as our CPD (talking to our known guests). This allows for a more centralized, cost-efficient, and scalable audience activation and measurement strategy. Therefore, working with a partner with a robust identity backbone, which can ensure the fidelity of our audiences against the scale we desire, was non-negotiable. With Yahoo ConnectID, we saw that 99 percent of our ad spend was Epsilon enabled, reaching nearly 150 million Epsilon users. This match rate was far higher than that of other DSPs we tested.   

We've reduced complexity and costs by centralizing our audience activation into the DSP rather than individually across each publisher partner, leading to almost 20 percent lower eCPMs in Q1—with room for even more efficiency in 2024. The powerful combination of rate efficiencies and holistic frequency management improved our cost per unique user by almost 40%, depending on the brand. 

Enhanced Control 

Programmatic activation has given us a new level of control, flexibility, and coordination over our upfront commitments. By activating national and local campaigns together in the Yahoo DSP, we've improved coordination at the DMA level. We've been able to cap frequency across campaigns to prevent over-exposure, allowing national campaigns to pivot and build reach in underserved DMAs. This enhanced control has also allowed us to better balance delivery, meet spending targets, and adjust quickly as needed.

Looking Ahead

While we are encouraged by the numerous efficiencies we’ve realized through our programmatic activation strategy, we constantly challenge ourselves to continue testing and evolving. We look forward to expanding our programmatic activations by enhancing our targeting and measurement strategies. We plan to leverage the Yahoo DSP TV viewership segments to drive greater incremental reach to linear. We’ll also take TV measurement more down-funnel by measuring OTT campaigns against restaurant visitations. We believe these investments will make the 2024-2025 upfronts even better than last year. We’re proud to be leading not only our category in OTT innovation but also the industry as a whole. We look forward to continuing to push our TV partners for further innovation, transparency, and impact when it comes to OTT.


About Travis Freeman

In January 2022, Travis joined Inspire Brands as SVP, Demand Generation, Chief Media Officer, overseeing Paid Media across the entirety of Inspire Brands’ portfolio: Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin,’ Jimmy John’s, Sonic, and more. Travis and his teams encapsulate all arenas of Paid Media, including Connections Planning (Comms Planning, Audience Strategy, Influencer Strategy, and Consumer Journeys); Media Strategy + Planning (Media Strategy, Channel Planning + Buying, and Agency Management); and Biddable Media (Social, SEM, and Programmatic). By putting Humans at the center of Inspire’s strategy and speaking to them based upon what they actually want from a brand, Travis and his team are flipping tradition on its head by using Data and Technology to bring Inspire one step ahead of not only the category but the industry as a whole.

With a team of approximately 100, Travis and his team’s key responsibility is to create demand and capture it in a way that is channel agnostic and most effective – whether that be in or above stores. 

Before Inspire, Travis was the Global Head of Media at Uber, leading media across all their LOBs globally. Prior to Uber, he was the EVP of media at VaynerMedia, running their media practice across North America. Before VaynerMedia, Travis was the Global Agency Development Lead at Twitter and the Global Head of Social at Dentsu.

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