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A Hurdle for Programmatic TV: Audience Delivery

In the advertising business, whether it be digital or TV, clients are consistently challenged with navigating the fraud and lack of brand safety associated with today’s ad world. Take the recent news from Unilever, which threatened to pull online advertising from “toxic” platforms such as Facebook and Google, as a prime example. But now there’s an additional concern that advertisers of the world, as well as TV stations, should add to their list: audience delivery.

What Is Audience Delivery?

For TV, audience delivery is the manner in which advertisers can ensure campaigns are delivered to the audience they intended and paid for. This is usually measured by using several definitions, including impressions, ratings, reach and frequency.

Audience delivery can reveal larger problems, and according to Nielsen president of Watch Megan Clarken, one such dilemma is the underdelivery of intended audiences.

“Across digital campaigns targeted to the TV currency demo (persons 18-49), Nielsen sees on average only a 68% delivery on target, a number which only decreases as you shrink the target to be more precise,” Clarken wrote late last year in a column that called audience delivery the “next battleground in digital advertising.”

Nielsen’s research shows audiences bought on the basis of data from set-top boxes and third parties are likely to deliver only half of the impressions expected in the target demographic, Clarken added.

How Is the Industry Dealing With the Issue?

Last fall, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released for public comment the OpenRTB 3.0 specification, a major overhaul to the real-time bidding framework that will heighten trust in the security of the automated advertising supply chain by giving buyers more transparency during the bid process. The goal is to address the lack of transparency, uncertain viewability and outright fraud associated with programmatic digital advertising.

TVB announced soon after the TIP Initiative, a consortium of local television broadcasters with a goal to promote open standards and an agreed-upon framework of APIs that will help deliver operational efficiencies and transparency. While this announcement aimed to address the lack of universal modern, standards-based interfaces, it still highlights the importance of transparency in our industry.

How Can Programmatic Save the Day?

If you’re a station that has implemented an automated solution, the concerns around audience delivery need to be addressed before reaching linear television. Proving this is simple: Deliver the audience an advertiser expects. Isn’t this the promise of programmatic television buying, after all?

For media buyers with a single platform for buying and tracking delivery, real-time tracking and reporting can streamline the process and provider immediate knowledge as to when spots are running and to whom they’re being delivered. So, if the TV stations or buyers fall short of their campaign goals, they can make up the impressions while the campaign is running instead of afterwards.

There’s also room for third-party solutions and emerging technologies to validate audience delivery. Take blockchain as an example. Blockchain enforces accountability, delivering improved results for ad campaigns and enabling advertisers to disregard 100% of fraudulent traffic. This means advertisers will have proof-of-service rather than the nontransparent systems that exist today. TV and other media will benefit from this reduction in waste on fraudulent digital ads.

To all the TV ad sales reps out there, be sure you’re prepared to answer the tough questions on audience delivery and have proof points to back that data up. The hurdle here is complex and it will take a combination of transparency, efficient data and the use of emerging technology to solve it.

Brad Smith is senior VP, revenue and operations, Videa