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5 Questions About Programmatic Advertising

No term, arguably, is more used and misused in the media space today as "programmatic." We are only just beginning to see the impact of programmatic (defined in numerous ways and implemented in in its many forms) on the full range of content platforms and delivery systems in the televisual realm.

We have endeavored to more fully examine the impact of programmatic TV in the media space today, interviewing executives from all sides of the space to better ascertain where those on the front lines are applying programmatic and how this is impacting their businesses. Our purpose is not to compare the differences in companies but to offer an expanded look at all of the facets across all of the arenas in the programmatic TV space and to open up the discussion across verticals within the space.

In this Q&A with Doug Livingston , president/COO, U.S. International  Media, and Jim Caruso vice president, product atrategy, at Varick Media Management) we look specifically at the agency perspective

Please provide a brief description of your agency/ trading deck.

Doug Livingston: U.S. International Media is an independent full service media agency. Our trading desk is Quantum11™, a leading provider of programmatic media across all digital platforms and TV channels.  

Jim Caruso: Varick is a programmatic advertising company with proprietary campaign management software. Our clients work with multiple DSP, verification, data and creative partners, which is why we developed Alveo, which makes it possible to manage spend and optimization across different media types, such as mobile, display, video, radio, and TV.

When did your company enter into the digital programmatic space and for what reason?

DL:  We entered the programmatic space in 2011 because it provided a smarter, more efficient way to buy media. We were able to extend advertising dollars through lower CPMs and had the transparency to what we were buying. The ability to buy audiences and real-time optimization capabilities increased performance and provided many new insights.

JC: Varick was founded in 2008 as a 100% programmatic company, and have built our services, operations and technologies around the core principles of programmatic.

What did you learn from that experience that is applicable for your expansion into the programmatic TV space?

DL: It’s going to be a crawl, walk, run as the technology is developed and advertisers, technology providers and distributors work through implementation and organizational challenges. This is very similar to how digital programmatic buying evolved into the level of sophistication we have today. For instance, when digital programmatic began the buy-side expected cost efficiencies and the sell-side kept a level of non-transparency on what was being bought and held back inventory. Today, the buy side is willing to pay for premium inventory and the sell side is more transparent and premium inventory is widely available. The main difference with the TV ecosystem is that there needs to be an integration with digital technology and traditional systems.

JC: As we've learned within our digital practice, consumers are ever more mindful of how advertising speaks to them when they are digesting video content on different devices, sites and channels. Utilizing our data management platform to create a 'digital persona' of a consumers, we formulate a cross-screen solution that connects, absorbs and processes viewing data for impactful, cost-efficient consumer experiences and measurement across traditional TV sets, connected TVs and digital channels, including desktop, tablet and mobile.

As you endeavor to deploy more programmatic TV campaigns, what have been your biggest hurdles?

DL: Audience sizes get small quickly as data-driven targeting is applied, and there is a premium to this inventory that may not be practical for a specific advertiser. The consolidation of fragmented inventory sources to target will be instrumental. One reason digital programmatic works is because we can target consolidated inventory sources, apply our audience targeting and efficiently buy within a universal workflow. Buy-side programmatic TV platforms that provide a universal workflow and ability to control the entire plan will provide advertisers with the best efficiencies and measurement insights.

JC: Our job is to navigate the landscape and identify the specific, actionable, and repeatable value each platform or marketplace can provide to our clients. Unlike digital often most of the TV programmatic campaigns we have run don’t have a real-time element to them at scale – so we have to adapt our buying techniques to be able to utilize the options that are available to us. Attribution is a key differentiating element – we aren't able to as quickly and with as much specificity, tie back specific consumer actions, such as a purchase, to a specific video ad that was delivered.

Any recommendations for programmatic TV platforms to help facilitate the utilization of the programmatic concept by traditional agency TV buyers and planners?

DL: Include people with a deep understanding of TV planning and buying and more specifically the processes from planning to post-analysis and billing. Every agency has specific pain points with identifying programmatic TV opportunities and having the TV experience in the room will more easily move the conversation forward. Be transparent on the platform’s capabilities, the current phase of development and the number of distributor partnerships.

JC: Just like any new technology adoption curve, there’s a combination of continuous learning and education that needs to take place in order to figure out how to best maximize results given the current market constraints – no real-time auctions, lack of 1:1 addressable inventory, no cookies, etc. We are looking to be able to adapt learnings across platforms with as much ease as technically feasible. This includes access to raw, unadulterated data from as many sources as possible, as often as possible.

Charlene Weisler is CEO of research firm Weisler Media. Mitch Oscar is head of his own media and marketing consultancy, HocusFocus.