Get Ready for the Fast-Growing, Data-Driven World of Programmatic TV


Most of the marketing industry has embraced programmatic buying in the digital space. It’s perhaps only logical that we’re now looking to buy television ads the same way. Although it’s still in its early phases, brands, agencies and media vendors would be wise to learn about this new method of purchasing TV spots and be ready to incorporate it into their media plans.

Data at the Heart of Programmatic TV
Our description of offline programmatic purchasing sounds close to its online counterpart: the automated purchase of media from an inventory database, fueled by data and accessible through a user interface.

We believe the “fueled by data” portion of the definition is particularly important. Programmatic TV buying layers first- and third-party data, viewing data and set-top-box data to create precise target audiences — more accurate than purchasing on age and gender. Marketers benefit from this precision because they reach the right customers, and consumers benefit because they receive more relevant ad messages.

Offline & Online Programmatic Require Different Approaches
Although they’re both automated and reliant on data, online and offline programmatic buying vary in several important ways. For example, they operate in opposite markets. The online market offers an unlimited supply of ads to meet a low demand. The offline market offers a limited supply of ads to meet a high demand.

Online and offline programmatic campaigns produce data that buyers use to optimize their plans. However, data from online efforts is available in real-time. Data from offline campaigns is delayed — the best buyers can hope for is that information is available in “near-time.”

This all simply means that even though both approaches are “programmatic,” buyers will have to think differently about each.

Debunking Programmatic TV Myths
With any new marketing technology, misconceptions and fears are bound to arise. and programmatic TV buying is no different. Media sellers worry that the practice will devalue their inventory. Some believe the devaluation is already occurring.

We believe the exact opposite will happen. Programmatic buying will boost the value of local broadcast and long-tail cable networks, bring advertisers back to local spot TV, and increase the inventory pool for national advertisers. Additionally, we project that only 10-15 percent of all television media will be sold programmatically by 2020.

Sellers and buyers wonder whether programmatic buying will eliminate humans from the process. In reality, the “robot revolution” will likely never happen. Marketers and agencies need human beings to craft campaigns, analyze data and optimize plans. Additionally, integrated plans, sponsorships and more complex ad campaigns require in-person negotiations.

My employer, independent media agency Empower MediaMarketing, recently polled its media partners about their use of programmatic. Seventy percent of them plan to transact programmatically. So, even though some have doubts, the majority of the industry seems ready to jump on board.

Programmatic: One Part of a Larger Picture
Some large agencies owned by holding companies approach online and offline programmatic buying merely as a series of transactions. We recommend that brands approach it holistically. Buyers, sellers, technology providers and brands must collaborate in order to create flexible plans that yield results.

With smart (human) media planners and buyers, and plenty of data, programmatic TV buying will help brands’ messages more effectively reach the right consumers. It’s definitely not too early for marketers, agencies and vendors to start learning about it.

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Michele Toller
Michele Toller

As VP of Offline Investment and Activation, I challenge Empower MediaMarketing’s print, out of home and broadcast teams to think in terms of consumer behavior. We focus on reaching consumers on their terms, when they are receptive to receiving brand messages. Outside of media, I’m an avid golfer -- although my score doesn’t always reflect it. I’ve had the pleasure of playing Winged Foot, Oakland Hills Country Club and TPC Scottsdale.