FreeWheel Automates More Strata Media Buying Functions

Comcast’s FreeWheel said it is automating several functions of its Strata media buying platform, making buying local TV easier for its 1,200 agency clients.

The upgrades to Strata are being tested by Omnicom-owned Zimmerman Advertising during the first quarter. An aggressive rollout is planned during the second quarter.

At a time when much of digital media is being bought on a programmatic basis, linear TV remains a time-consuming process for media buyers.

“FreeWheel is dedicated to improving the Strata platform to reduce the friction associated with TV buying and provide time savings. With this latest round of enhancements, we’ve accomplished these goals,” said Joy Baer, general manager, FreeWheel Advertisers. “When you consider that these new automation enhancements are available within the same system that local TV buyers and sellers currently use, the solution is clearly unique in the industry. The word that our clients are using is ‘game-changing.’”

Baer said there are three areas in which the new Strata provides buyers with an “easy button.”

The first is by providing automated ratings estimates using algorithm-based machine learning.

The new Strata also provides automated optimized schedules based on the advertisers’ audience goals and budgets.

Finally, Strata provides software enabling two-way direct communication for negotiating prices and other aspects of a deal, eliminating the need for fax machines, email and manual data entry.

“The automation capabilities within the Strata platform allow our buyers to accomplish what used to take a full day in less than a minute,” said Adam Herman, executive VP, chief integrated media director, Zimmerman Advertising. “This is a huge benefit to our clients, as our buyers’ time can be better spent on more strategic activities rather than on mundane tasks that are best automated..”

Buyers said they spend 8.4 hours a week on activities they wish were more automated, according to a survey conducted for FreeWheel by Advertiser Perceptions.

If buying local media were easier, the thinking is more local media buys would get done.

“Anything that we can do to make local TV advertising easier to buy is a benefit to the entire ecosystem,” said Brett Jenkins, executive VP, chief technology officer, at Nexstar Media Group. “The work that FreeWheel has done on automating some of the more time-intensive activities is a win for the industry.”

FreeWheel Advertisers plans to launch additional enhancements by the end of the year, including mid-flight optimization and automated invoice reconciliation. The company also plans to extend this initiative to include local OTT advertising, allowing TV buyers to comprehensively plan and buy both linear and digital TV in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.