Digital Video And Programmatic 2.0

ABC’s announcementlast month that it would be rolling out a programmatic video solution, aided by tools and data developed by Freewheel, was notable for many reasons. I took most notice of the fact that it would bring to life something many advertisers have only dreamed of: using the same data employed for other digital advertising to purchase inventory affiliated with a traditional television network.  But it was also notable for what it is not: ABC was very clear that it would not include real-time bidding or open exchanges at this time (or possibly at all) on its programmatic platform.

Some might ask, if there’s no RTB and there aren’t open exchanges, how can ABC call what it’s doing programmatic?  The people asking this haven’t seen how programmatic has evolved over the recent past.  So let me introduce you to what I’d like to call “Programmatic 2.0”: the next incarnation of programmatic technology, which sits at the nexus of premium digital and traditional media formats.

Higher rates, better yield. There’s still a perception from the online display days that all programmatic inventory is “leftover”: space that could not be sold directly.  But today, that’s no longer the case.  In the video space, where supply is quite limited, almost all inventory is premium, making it highly competitive.  Putting this inventory on a programmatic platform doesn’t mean that advertisers are bidding for the cheapest inventory, but rather that they’re looking for the best targeting and highest value.  They benefit from the convenience of programmatic, and ABC, or any other video publisher, benefits from the competition driving prices up.  Essentially, selling premium programmatic video inventory takes less time and effort and should also bring in more revenue..

Cross-screen deployment. Today’s marketers will almost certainly tell you that their chief concern is how they can understand who they are reaching across media formats, and how the different channels are interacting with each other.  Solving this problem is hard and requires serious data, and serious technology.  Achieving this end goal will require multiple channels to be bought programmatically, driven by data that can understand cross-device exposure levels.  So while ABC might not be selling its TV inventory through the new programmatic offering yet, that doesn’t mean that it won’t in the future.  As programmatic does become more common in television, it will be easier to deliver cross-platform campaigns with minimal effort: the Holy Grail for big-brand advertisers. 

Although I’ve heard objections from TV folks that it will never be possible to link video ads for television (a mass medium) with video ads for desktop or mobile devices (broadcast to an individual), there’s actually already a precedent here, with digital out-of-home (DOOH) video.  DOOH sits somewhere in between major broadcast channels and more individualized mobile ones, because while the content is never meant for one particular individual, it can use data to target specific groups in specific locations, or at specific times of day.  Now that programmatic is possible in DOOH, it’s possible to programmatically buy inventory that targets consumers across their devices.  How?  If we know that a mobile device was near an OOH screen, the video content displayed there can be echoed later in the day on the mobile device.  The next step, to television, isn’t hard to imagine, nor is it far off.

Data, data, data. ABC isn’t doing real-time bidding or open exchanges because it doesn’t have to; instead, the network is broadening its definition of “programmatic” to include all the possibilities that the automated processing of data can bring to digital video advertising.  Whether ABC is using this data to target existing content or to develop something new, it’s still programmatic -- and I can’t wait to see how the video-buying landscape changes as a result.

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