Programmatic TV: Lines Of Demarcation

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 18, 2015
Spain.   July 2, 1494.   A stone-cold morning.

Spanish King Ferdinand II complains to his queen, Isabella: “The Portuguese. Always the Portuguese.” Isabella munches on a quail egg and light toast. “Boundaries,” he murmurs. Then taps the right-handed quill twice: once to his Aquitaine nose – an itch perhaps; the second, to the table summoning a minion. The king affixes the royal signature to the hieroglyphic’d, besotted treaty. A servant appears. A specter. Rolls up the parchment, gingerly. Places it in a black box, closes the lid, bows, and obsequiously retires. “Boundaries,” the Spanish king mutters.   

The purpose of the line of demarcation mediated by Pope Alexander was to divide trading and colonizing rights for all newly discovered lands of the world between Portugal and Spain to the exclusion of other European nations. The Treaty of Tordesillas specified the line of demarcation in leagues from the Cape Verde Islands. It did not specify the line in degrees, nor did it identify the specific island or the specific length of its league. Though intermittently repudiated, violated and anathematized by both signatories, the imaginary demarcated line stood for nearly 100 years.  




A few centuries later.

Colonial America.   October 1, 1765.   A brisk morning.

British surveyor Charles Mason signals partner Jeremiah Dixon to move three feet to the right. Right hand in trouser pocket, the left pole hauling, his silent partner acquiesces. “Five feet back towards Pennsylvania,” barks Master Mason. Dixon slides into position. “Too far,” eyeing the angle. “Stop,” Mason commands. Dixon freezes. “The Calverts of Maryland are not going to be happy,” muses Mason. “Neither will the Penns of Pennsylvania,” he grimaces. Dixon shivers. The left-handed held pole quivers. “Head a stone’s throw towards Maryland,” the master surveyor instructs.

The purpose of the line of demarcation surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon was to resolve a border dispute involving Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in Colonial America. It is still a demarcation line among four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia (originally part of Virginia). It represents the cultural border between the Southern United States and the Northern United States.


A few centuries later.

New York City.   April 24, 2015.   A warm morning – though overcast.

A national TV buyer, a local TV buyer, a digital video buyer, a traditional media planner and a programmatic TV platformist conjoin over breakfast, digesting each other’s points of departures. The programmatic pragmatist leads the conversation: efficiently, automationedly animated, fact-backed data-infused ubiquity, seasoned irrefutably with digital analogies and promises of futures present.

“Gertrude Stein,” he muses, “said a rose is a rose is a rose. Shouldn’t that be the same for video impressions across screens?” he implores. The national TV buyer smiles; the local TV buyer asks the digital buyer to pass the ketchup; the digital video buyer, too young to understand the reference, sports a quizzical expression and slides the container forward; and the traditional media planner grimaces, having heard this analogy proffered in prior powwows.

“Aren’t you referencing the wrong rose?” the traditional media planner asks. “Don’t you mean: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet.” “That, too,” standing corrected, the programmaticist sits. Undaunted by the reception of the misplaced quotation, he resumes his polemic. “Then by a literary analogy, a video impression delivered across multiple screens should be as effective and sweet as we propose in programmatic TV offerings to the media community.”

The national TV buyer spears a large slice of French toast and chimes in. “Yet whether we reference Shakespeare or Stein, they both have identified the flower as a rose. A very specific genus Rosa within the family of Rosaceae. Not any flower, but a rose. Transparently rose.”

The waiter, witnessing steam emanating from his charges, circles the table. “Coffee, decaf, more water. Anyone?”

“But that is precisely my point,” the programmatic purveyor beams. “Based upon our analytics and myriad data sources, there are over 100 species and thousands of cultivars and we have the capability to segment that woody perennial – the rose your clients wish to target – by fragrance, florist, cost, in-market interest, and past purchases. One bill. Touch of a button.”

The national TV buyer daubs the spiked French toast with more syrup; the local TV buyer excuses herself and heads to the restroom; the digital video buyer checks his smartphone and scrolls through email; the traditional media planner contemplates how this conversation of media and the inclusion of different video distribution channels became so rosy to be subsumed by horticulture – metaphorically speaking.

The purpose of the line of demarcation between video channels – national, local, syndication, unwired, broadband, over-the-top, addressable, on demand, cinema, place-based and programmatic – was established through the evolution of media value assessment. Sight (or print) set baselines. Decades later, sound (or radio) seeded the media planner’s imagination. Motion in conjunction with sight and sound (or television) exploded thereafter onto the scene. The cost of reaching a thousand potential consumers became the lingua franca.

As different video platforms emerged, the media planners, with TV buyers in tow, were forced to assess valuations – CPM valuations – of each platform’s potential viewer i.e., age, gender, and some psychographic and behavioral attribution. The CPM for national broadcast was different than local broadcast, was different than local and national cable, was different than original or off-network syndication, was different than unwired, was different than addressable, was different than ad supported video on demand, was different than broadband video (premium or otherwise), was different than place based and cinema advertising and is different than programmatic TV propositions.

The traditional media buying community has always demonstrated reluctance to experiment with new forms of TV content distribution and audience based targeting. Programmatic TV endeavors are making headway – at least by trade coverage representation standards. At this juncture, combining inventory across multiple distribution channels in programmatic TV proposals can only obfuscate value propositions by crossing established lines of demarcation, which will ultimately delay acceptance and inclusion in media campaigns by the traditional media buying community.


This post was previously published earlier this year.
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2 comments about "Programmatic TV: Lines Of Demarcation".
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  1. dorothy higgins from Mediabrands WW, September 20, 2015 at 1:19 p.m.

    As someone with a "traditional" background I am bruised from constant bashing.  And annoyed you flippant misunderstanding.  The "value prop" of CPMs is not going to go away. Moreover, amidst exploding platform, partners and channels/devices it is the most adaptable comparison tool which can be nuanced for any variety of effectiveness measures.  The distinctions drawn among channels allow us to gauge premiums.  The measurements among channels allow us to reflect that local TV, to use your example, will generate a very different reach than unwired, syndication, long-tail cable. Etc.  We seek coherent and holistic plan measurement as that is an essential KPI for media agencies to deliver to their clients.  The differences are not fabricated by resistance to change but by recognition of penetration variations.  Until we can accurately measure every potential exposure to all 300,000,000 people individually, we must retain the lingua franca of yesterday so we can bridge today to the holy grail of tomorrow.  i ain't no Luddite. 

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 20, 2015 at 4:38 p.m.

    Good for you, Dorothy.

    The idea that "old media"----ooops, I meant "legacy media" ----folks shoud drop all of their long established metrics and embrace "change" sounds fine until you realize that the "change" that everyone is talking about---nemely digital----is taking us into largely uncharted waters. Worse, these waters are rife with bogus audiences, slap dash ad placement, lots of angry "users", many of whom are resorting to ad blockers to vent their frustration, and, in general, an absence of readable metrics.

    Take the question of CPMs. Yes, it's true that each form of TV---daytime, fringe, prime, sports,cable, syndication broadcast network, spot, etc, had its own CPM level, but these were established by the buyers, in concert with their clients, on a comparative basis, taking into account intangibles like the amount of effort---or "quality" ---the sellers put into their programming, the amount of ad clutter, the merchandisability factor, reach considerations, etc. One may not agree with these assessments, but they went far beyond the simplistic assumption that seems to underlie so-called "programmatic" buying. Here, all that seems to count is "targeted" audience tonnage at the lowest cost, without regard for reach, viewer engagement, or any of the other factors that determined TV's CPM distinctions. Sorry, digital guys and gals, that's not going to fly for "premium" forms of TV and, by "premium" I'm not just talking about broadcast network prime.

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