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Syndication is the Perfect Place for Addressable Experimentation

Dan Brackett, CTO, Extreme Reach
(Image credit: Extreme Reach)

When you hear the word “syndication,” what comes to mind? Is it reruns of Seinfeld, Friends, or Law & Order? Or maybe Judge Judy and the slew of courtroom shows. Possibly Oprah. Maybe “syndication” makes you think of how Jeopardy airs before Wheel of Fortune in some markets, but after Wheel in others.

What it doesn’t generally conjure is excitement (game show contestants notwithstanding) or technological innovation. Syndication may seem like an artifact from an era where linear TV was the only way to watch.

Here’s the thing many brands and agencies don’t know: syndication is very exciting right now! Thanks to changes brought on by OTT and CTV, the current syndication landscape is ripe with opportunity, and it’s the perfect laboratory for brands to experiment with addressable campaigns.

Addressability arrives

The TV ecosystem has been touting the promise of addressable ads for a long time now, and any marketer who has dabbled has likely run into the same set of issues. There are the operational gymnastics required to execute addressable campaigns, and there’s the huge issue of scale. A lot of the addressable TV media that’s been sold has happened via the set top box, with high-CPM ads inserted into national broadcasts.

This doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. Factor in the rise of targetable CTV impressions on open marketplaces, and it’s easy to understand why marketers may pass over addressable TV.

However, where there's an audience, there’s opportunity and this is where syndication changes the picture. The rise of initiatives, such as Project OAR, and the addressability enabled at the device level, including smart TVs, have resulted in an open-standards-based infrastructure that can minimize the barrier to entry for addressability in linear TV. Syndication solves the scale issue, because even with the rise of streaming, people still watch linear TV. The audience isn’t as large as it once was, but it's still substantial. 

On top of that, some OTT apps are simply running the broadcast feed of a network via an app, so the CTV experience is exactly what a viewer would see if they were tuning in on linear TV. Syndication also solves the operational issue, because the signaling and timing watermarks used to trigger addressable ads in breaks can be applied uniformly during the standard show preparation and distribution phase, reducing the touch points needed to manage the entire process. 

The old way of buying addressable TV didn’t work for the media sellers or advertisers, really. Addressable inventory was often sold against national broadcasts and activated on the local level via set top box. The required signaling had to be integrated into the delivery systems and infrastructure of each broadcaster, requiring complex systems and processes at multiple locations. Paying a national rate meant it was a high CPM for the buyer, putting more pressure to deliver ROI. For the media seller, it’s hard to think of commanding a higher premium than what you’d get for a national TV ad.

The perfect science lab

Syndication doesn’t have those problems. The average cost of media is already low. When sellers layer in the ability to deliver a targeted ad, they have more opportunity to generate lift relative to the rate they’d normally charge for a static ad unit. Because the cost is already affordable, this is still palatable for the ad buyer, who gets the benefits of targeting without paying a premium CPM. Additionally, the operational simplicity available from syndication reduces the friction and operational costs associated with executing addressable campaigns.

This efficiency allows syndication to function as an ideal sandbox for experimentation. By spending less than they would on primetime network slots, advertisers can afford to run multiple campaigns and try their hand at different targeting parameters for their addressable spots. They can target based on geography, demo, or household data – possibly even all three – and get a sense of what works.

Any lift the buyer sees provides a reason to experiment more. Significant lift means that they’ve cracked the code and can likely make addressable TV a larger part of their future media buys.

The future of TV

TV advertising is changing, and we’ll hear more about that as the upfronts approach. But advertisers and networks don’t need to buy into one vision of the future. CTV will continue to change how brands approach TV, offering the ability to have digital-like targeted ads regardless of the content delivery channel. With its continued vast audience, linear TV still represents a great opportunity, full of pockets for exploration and experimentation.

Addressable TV is evolving rapidly too, and syndication provides the perfect playground to experiment with relatively little risk. But buyers need to act fast, before the opportunity disappears. ■

Dan Brackett
Dan Brackett

Dan Brackett is the chief technology officer at Extreme Reach.