Programmatic TV ‘Not a Race To The Bottom’ #AdvancedAd

New York -- While the idea of using automated programmatic-style technologies and processes to sell and buy TV advertising has drawn perceptions that it’s solely about squeezing more value out of underperforming inventory, it should instead be viewed as a way to drive premium value across a broader scope.

That was the prevailing view of ad execs here at the Advanced Advertising: Profiting from a Targeted Audience event hosted Wednesday by Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News during a panel focused on programmatic TV moderated by B&C Business Editor Jon Lafayette

Programmatic TV “is not a race to the bottom,” Zachary Chapman, ESPN’s vice president of digital and publishing sales, said.

ESPN has been using an automated approach to sell separate inventory – isolated, 30-second spots that appear on-set during SportsCenter, the network’s flagship show. ESPN will only sell that inventory if the bids it receives come in at the right value.

“The idea is to drive the market to a higher price…based on audience and automation,” he said, noting that the ads sold via that programmatic have resulted in a “significant premium.”

Selling TV advertising programmatically is still a nascent concept, but it has already begun to show up in national tent-pole television events, including the recent Super Bowl and the Oscars, using systems from WideOrbit and TubeMogul.

While it’s too early to say if those efforts generated a specific lift, it did successfully show that the automated, machine-to-machine process could work for such major TV events, Jes Santoro, SVP of enterprise sales, TubeMogul, said.

Advertisers that took part -- Mondelēz, for example, bought two local 15-second spots on NBC in Erie, Pa., that ran during the  Super Bowl – also extracted some other value out of it: positive PR for being an advertising innovator, Eric Mathewson, founder and CEO of WideOrbit, said.

Among other real-world examples of programmatic TV in action, Videology has been working with several brands that have difficulties reaching certain key consumer segments, and they have all seen solid sell-through lifts via audience-focused, programmatic-style TV ad campaigns, Brent Gaskamp, SVP, corporate development at Videology, said.

Overlaying programmatic techniques to data has the potential to help advertisers create highly targeted campaigns and achieve better returns and lead-generation than what what they might get from the “spray and pray approach” that is sometimes associated with traditional spot buys, Ari Osur, vice president, product marketing at Simulmedia, said.

Programmatic TV, Osur added, also gives advertisers and their agencies the ability to be more nimble, and use their “scatter dollars to be more opportunistic.”

Given the current level of real-world programmatic TV activity, 2015 will likely be remembered as a test year for the segment, but 2016 “will be a very big year for programmatic television,” Mathewson predicted.