Dec 02, 2019

Emerging technologies and big data are allowing advertisers to better engage TV audiences across multiple screens.

  • Break It Down is a series where we dissect the topics, technologies, and jargon that matter most to marketers and advertisers.

For years, marketers have relied on manual processes between human ad buyers and sellers to advertise to target audiences. Now, programmatic advertising, or automated advertising, is upending that tradition.

“Programmatic offers the ability to put advertising that people will actually care about in front of them, and to do that in a way that is repeatable and scalable,”  says Julian Zilberbrand, evp of advanced media at Viacom.

Programmatic ad technology simplifies the ad planning and buying process by using data and analytics to serve ads to the right audience at the right time. It’s already transformed online advertising, making it easy for millions of personalized ads based on where people shop, which cities they live in, and what they search for on social media to populate the internet.

As new TV formats like VOD, OTT, and CTV proliferate and viewers’ TV content consumption continues to fragment across screens, personalization at scale requires a data-driven approach. The ability to buy television programmatically—while still in its infancy—signals another shift in traditional TV advertising thanks to technology.

Here’s what that means:

What it is:

Programmatic TV advertising is a TV ad buy that uses data and automation to target consumers more efficiently. It’s backed by software technology that offers access to data on highly targeted, high-value audiences. The data helps determine which ads are most relevant to a specific consumer.  

For example, a pet food advertiser may specify that it’s targeting females between  24-35 with an income of at least $75,000 who also own a dog. This is a level of precision that traditional demographic measurements—just females under 35—could not have achieved. 

Why it’s important:

The adoption of programmatic means advertisers are able to get incredibly granular with their audience targeting. Some TV networks, cable operators, buyers, and vendors consider TV inventory to be undervalued, but more specific audience targeting will help boost that value.

"Programmatic offers the ability to put advertising that people will actually care about in front of them, and to do that in a way that is repeatable and scalable."

Julian Zilberbrand

EVP of Advanced Media at Viacom

The advantages:

One of the biggest advantages of programmatic is better targeting of potential customers. For marketers who want to reach audiences at scale, TV is still the place to go. Combined with programmatic technology, marketers advertising on TV can reach very specific subsets based on income, previous purchases history, and hobbies, as well as age and gender.

The technology also allows for better management of the planning, buying, and measuring processes, because everything is consolidated in one place and much of it is automated. Consumers can also expect more relevant ads, making them much more likely to engage with them.

The drawbacks:

There aren’t consistent methods for applying data across media owners or measuring cross-platform reach and performance. And, success still depends on the quality of the strategy, data, and the creative that is served to the customer.

Much of the holdup also requires publishers, advertisers, and vendors to overcome several ideological and technical challenges and embrace this change.

The kicker:

Programmatic TV (PTV) ad spending is expected to reach $4.7 billion in 2020—up from a current level of $1.7 billion. That means massive changes in how buyers and sellers approach media buys. But expect a slow-moving adoption as publishers, buyers, and sellers adjust to and accept the new technology and better understand how it can make their lives easier.


Note: In this article, television is defined as any brand produced content provided via high-speed Internet connection, cable, and/or satellite provider.

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