The promises of digital were faster execution, more accurate measurement, and more robust targeting than TV had ever seen, And yet, TV is still where the budgets are. No matter how many strides digital has made, TV is still king.
TV can learn from digital, but those lessons aren’t to be found in the RTB world, which is where most of us have been looking. Before TV can realize its programmatic future, digital needs to.
Awareness, Intent, and the Limits of Audience Buying
Despite the efficiency and targeting promises of digital advertising, the vast majority of digital ad spend is still executed manually, with the focus on content and audience alignment rather than impression-based audience targeting. The noise is all around that type of audience targeting, but the reality is the majority of budgets are about awareness. Honing in on the right prospects for awareness is important, but a lot of advertiser data is only useful at a later stage of the funnel, when intent is more clearly established.
Television advertising primarily falls into that initial awareness stage, while in digital, RTB is almost exclusively a mechanism for direct response. The digital parallels to TV do not lie in the RTB world, but rather in non-bidded, guaranteed digital ad buying.
Reserved Media and Awareness Buys
It’s only recently that the efficiency promise has begun to be fulfilled in digital in any meaningful way. As much as RTB ramped up efficiency, it never grew past remnant sales and even with rapid growth, only makes up about a fifth of total online display spending. Until very recently, the other four-fifths of advertising spend have been executed 100% manually. That’s only begun to change with the advent of a new technology segment, automated guaranteed, that allows publishers and media buyers to automate transactions on reserved media buys, which RTB cannot do.
This nascent market segment has the strongest parallels to TV (limited quantities of "premium" inventory, an upfront or reservation system, direct relationships between buyer and seller), and the gains that can be made here will do far more to inform the future of TV buying than the lessons of RTB ever will.
One thing that is interesting about the emerging automated guaranteed space is the important of publisher first-party data as a differentiator. Publishers with solid first-party data for their audiences can help advertisers find and focus on the right groups for awareness buys.
Publishers currently using automated guaranteed are including audience segments to give buyers options for additional targeting and are exploring different options that leverage buyer data. This could be where stronger parallels to TV lie -- in coming up with smarter ways to buy conventional media.
We’re still in the early stages for digital; it’s not clear yet how this is going to play out online, much less on TV. But one thing does seem likely: TV will evolve following in the footsteps of automated guaranteed for digital, and it won’t be far behind.