Is This The Start Of Programmatic TV?

It's very interesting to see programmatic-style technology being used not in the planning or bidding for a television ad, but rather for its creative. The extent of the role that technology plays in selecting which "i" newspaper tv ad runs is probably easy to exaggerate. After all, one can imagine there are only a small handful of alternatives for the spot to focus on as the issue of the day. For a newspaper that would almost certainly be one of a a few "banker" topics -- such as Europe, immigration, the economy, the election, or the weather. So one can imagine that a decision is taken to run on a particular day, and the choice is fed into software which makes sure the correct advert appears.

Nevertheless, it feels like the start of something -- or at least a part of the start of something that is just starting to happen. Programmatic tv is set to be huge -- and it will allow brands to plan and buy spots in real-time to appeal to individual audiences. Now, with a broadcast television channel, clearly the audience is not personally addressable -- although they are when watching a catch-up service on their Smart TV, laptop or iPad. 

So to focus on what is possible with the mass market of television viewers right now, changing the creative to fit in with what is the issue of the day certainly makes sense. You could easily see this happening with FMCGs around variables such as the weather. They might push ice cream on a hot day or cans of hearty soup and comfort food if there is an unexpected cold snap. You could even see a clever brand using AB testing to see which creative works best and promote that option while a campaign is still live. If fizzy drink fans react better to an ad featuring a well-known Brazilian soccer star than, say, a pop star, in one region but the opposite proves the case in another, this could all be programmed in.

The "i" campaign, which kicked off at the weekend, is very interesting because it shows how data can lead to a decision on which creative is shown (and that's interesting in its own right) and also because it's easy to see how this could be the early days of programmatic tv through which audiences watching on smart devices -- both catch-up and, in theory, live -- are treated in the same way as when display reaches them on a Web page. With the data the network has on each viewer, or maybe household, brands could bid for each ad spot. This means that not only would creative change be altered, but the actual ad you are shown could depend on who brand has bid to put a message in front of you.

It's a case of baby steps right now -- but trust me, changing the creative of a television advert is a pretty impressive move forward in itself. For me, it's more interesting in terms of what might follow when programmatic moves on from online video to television ads themselves.

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