Standardize Content Object for Programmatic CTV: Small Change With Big Impact

Julio Acosta PubMatic
(Image credit: PubMatic)

Programmatic video ad spend in the US is projected to reach $43 billion in 2022 compared to CTV’s $19 billion, but CTV is growing fast. So fast that it's causing major headaches for buyers and sellers, who are juggling complicated point solutions and untested processes and drowning in unstandardized data. What's more, advertisers often don't have visibility into what they're buying, making it hard to justify increasing the budget.

Take a simple example: a brand wants to buy on NBC’s Peacock platform, but they only want to buy prime-time sitcoms, not morning shows, sports or news. The meta-data that’s universally available on linear buying channels – like show title and description – isn’t available for programmatic CTV, so they aren’t able to select specific content at any scale. In other words, a programmatic CTV buyer can’t pick what content to bid on. That’s starting to change, but accelerating this shift will require coordination across buyers, sellers and middlemen.

Julio Acosta, senior director, product marketing (Image credit: PubMatic)

Pressure to Offer Content Targeting

Programmatic technology was originally built to target audiences, not content. As a result much of the programming information that TV media buyers are used to doesn’t show up in a bid request. It’s slow to change for a few reasons, but there is major pressure building. Many publishers are nervous that their last and most valuable asset -- “traditional” TV shows -- will be commoditized. These publishers save much of their longform content for direct sales, and so they aren’t always focused on adding more transparency and control to their programmatic CTV buying experience.

However, transparency will ultimately win out. For hesitant publishers, it’s just a matter of time before they feel that they must enable programmatic CTV buying to include the same information that they provide for direct buys. This would seem a no-brainer, with demand from brands and agencies for programmatic CTV expected to be relentless in 2022 and beyond. There is also past precedent. Publishers were reluctant to be transparent with display advertising placements a decade ago, and now many earn a majority of their revenue through channels such as PMPs. As CTV continues to steal audiences from traditional TV, the resulting increase in inventory supply will make its way into programmatic channels similar to display and video before it.

For publishers that have started to share information about shows -- from title to genre to topic keywords – the process is completely unstandardized. A buyer would have to manually read the information across every bid request to actually know what to buy. These publishers are best positioned to embrace the next wave of programmatic CTV where contextual buying, similar to TV buying, is side-by-side with audience-based buying, but they need a way to improve the information they are sharing.

Enter the Content Object

CTV is very fragmented, without a major player or industry body dictating most of the processes and standards.

There have been some rumbles across the industry for a potentially small but important step toward standardized content information sharing within the programmatic buying process. Content Object is a field within the IAB’s OpenRTB API standard that offers a potential solution to the issue CTV has with content targeting, but has met with slow adoption. Given that nearly everyone operates in a way that is friendly to OpenRTB, and that Content Object is a field that can be shared almost universally across buyers, sellers and tech partners, we need to give this option a closer look.

For Content Object to take off, the CTV ecosystem needs to agree upon content standards, especially taxonomies. Many of these can be lifted from linear TV metadata, but publishers may need the help to make sense of the new data – translating it into an input to control inventory and pricing.

For a start, publishers should consider passing Content Object data signals to SSPs and buyers because it will provide more transparency to buyers and ultimately drive more demand and yield (CPM increases). SSPs and DSPs can then get a cross-ecosystem view of content object data and start to determine the best way to standardize this information according to IAB recommendations. These middle-men can also start to better understand how different data equates to changes in yield -- helping publishers maximize the revenue for their inventory while providing insights that brands need to feel more comfortable increasing their spend. 

Content Object Signals Unlock New Demand

Enabling content-targeted programmatic CTV will bring a host of new demand for publishers. More traditional media buyers will feel more comfortable because they can buy using the same approach that they use for linear TV and get more transparency within this new channel. 

Once more linear buyers become comfortable with programmatic, they’ll start to discover the opportunities to measure beyond current metrics. By encouraging more programmatic CTV media buying, more buyers become more used to the flexibility and transparency afforded by programmatic and will start to adopt new metrics and new targeting types. These steps will move us closer to transforming TV into a transparent and data-rich channel, and helping to close the gap between linear TV and CTV. 

PubMatic is an independent technology company delivering digital advertising’s supply chain of the future.

Julio Acosta
Senior Director of Product Marketing, PubMatic

Julio Acosta is the senior director of product marketing at PubMatic