What's Programmatic TV's Acceptance Level In Agencies?

As the television upfronts approach, big players continue to roll out new initiatives.

The latest is Fox Networks Groups’ announcement that, like NBCUniversal and other majors, it’s dipping into programmatic. Fox is starting by making national cable inventory available through a private exchange to enhance buying automation; enabling targeting with audience data beyond age and gender through a new suite of buying tools; and offering target audience guarantees for data-driven buys.

How many deals based on these more advanced data and automation offerings will actually be made during upfronts? The answer depends on many interwoven factors — one of which is how willing and ready advertising agencies are to begin trying programmatic buys.

Programmatic TV activities and attitudes were probed as part of Strata’s latest comprehensive agency forecast survey, conducted in Q4 2015.



“Agencies seem apprehensive to test the programmatic space just yet, as only 12% are allocating 10% to 20% of their programmatic ad spend to TV, and only 7% trust programmatic to execute local TV orders,” reported Strata. (That even though nearly half of agencies said that they plan to use programmatic to conduct 10% to 20% of their overall business this year, and just 30% said they would not use programmatic at all — the latter being the lowest percentage of non-users seen to date in the Strata surveys.)

However, a considerably more positive picture came through during a BIA/Kelsey webinar on programmatic television’s status in the local television marketplace held last month.

Asked her view of agencies’ current acceptance of PTV, Dot DiLorenzo, EVP, director of planning, U.S. International Media, said: “We’re major proponents of learning, getting in there, helping to build the systems that link the best about digital technology with our highly experienced negotiating team. But I’ve got to believe it’s everybody’s priority to realize the age-old dream of minimizing waste … and cranking up ROI pretty significantly. So I would say that like us, [other] advertising agencies are all over [PTV]. We’ve got to be.”

Brett Adamczyk, VP, business development, Videa, concurred. “From an acceptance standpoint, I think that everyone is leaning forward,” he said. “But I think that certain agencies, USIM being one, are much more forward-thinking and actually executing, whereas a majority of agencies we talk to are taking meetings and really digging in to learn what the different methodologies and platforms provide. So I would say acceptance is high, but execution is probably medium.”

Execution is limited not only by the lack of shared infrastructure and standards, but also by the need to find effective ways of integrating PTV buying into existing agency practices.

Asked if PTV is complementary to the way in which agencies transact today, Adamczyk said that it’s not at that level yet, in part because the agencies are still fairly segregated in how they plan, buy and execute.

“You have your digital desk, you have your traditional or local desk, and you have a network desk, and while campaigns may be planned [in collaboration], they’re not executed that way,” he observed. “So you have a lot of different groups within the agencies — especially traditional and local television — that aren’t yet prepared to buy programmatically, to bid on inventory.”

Rob Weisbord, COO of Sinclair Digital Group, and Russ Zingale, president of USIM’s Eastern division, agreed that this integration is a work in progress.

“I don’t think it’s been smoothed out yet, although I think you have to get there eventually,” said Weisbord. “There are so many disparate points of view and bodies, and we have to get everybody on the same page and have the systems talk to each other.”

Programmatic TV buys are “right for certain clients,” said Zingale. He noted that tracking and monitoring abilities are one challenge: “You have to be very cognizant of what’s happening on a weekly basis.”

Still, he said, “we’ve embraced it already, and we’re working with many of the vendors to get some transparency through it. And it should get easier in coming years.”

5 comments about "What's Programmatic TV's Acceptance Level In Agencies?".
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  1. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, March 18, 2016 at 2:10 p.m.

    Programmatic in this context should (in fact, must) be considered valuable if it eleiminates labor steps that have existed for years in the buy/sell, IO, validate, bill processes. It is not about low value inventory purchased via RTB. It is about improving workflow efficiency.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 18, 2016 at 3:29 p.m.

    That's correct, Henry. Which is why programmatic is being tested primarily for use in local market spot TV time buying for national accounts  while on the network level, it is being seen mainly as a way to cut down person power expended on low rated, marginal GRP inventory in content that is usually sold at bargain basement prices. In both cases, we are talking about relatively modest GRP tonnage buys as add-ons to far more weighty and important premium TV purchases which, of course, involve a lot more than simply getting the lowest CPMs against target viewers. I doubt that we will see any notable programmatic activity in this year's upfront----- or next year's, for that matter.

  3. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360, March 21, 2016 at 8:31 a.m.

    Looking at the dates of my comment and Ed Papazian's, juxtaposed on this article, I believe we were commenting on acolumn covering a related, but different aspect of PTV. In any event, to the piece at hand:
    PTV is in its infancy. It is probably too early to gauge whether this will grow successfully based on current agency, brand and broadcaster adoption. We are still at the stage where the technology providers - management, along with the financial backers - have to decide the ways to bring the tech ro market so it succeeds. That is no different than the path for any other technology breakthrough. Value will be determined by the amount of cost saving, productivity improvement (same thing in part) and revenue growth that can be attributed to the technology. It will not happen in a straight line, in a predictable length of time. It will be a judgment call by the providers on whether and how to continue based on results obtained by providers and clients.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, March 21, 2016 at 8:55 a.m.

    Agreed, Henry, however my position is that it's not just a question of the technology providers bringing their product to market, which, in itself involves numerous technical and procedural issues, but also the orientation of PTV. So far, it is primarily advertiser- and agency- driven, with the latter, in particular, looking to save time and person-power on what are considered, routine and not vitally important buys---like national spot TV. However, unless the major national TV sellers can be convinced that PTV is to their benefit where "quality" TV fare is concerned---meaning most of their early AM, daytime, early news, prime access, sports, primetime and late night content---- they are not going to play the game. To accomplish this major changes in the PTV concept that are seller-friendly must be explored and developed. So far, this doesn't seem to be happening or under consideration. As the old saying goes---it takes two to Tango.

  5. Henry Blaufox from Dragon360 replied, March 21, 2016 at 9:46 a.m.

    Ed, spot on (no upn intended.) Doing the necessaries to get the sell side on board is what the providers have to do - design, build, modify, all involving their best judgment on how to do it, how much to invest based on desired payback, etc. Although right now it isn't happening from your perspective, I'm sure this is being explored by vendors as we sit here, with decisions to follow on whether to take the chance. One way to assess the potential is to invite the sell side to explain what they'd need from such systems; I've been involved in such multi-part sessions myself, as both software provider and sell side participant in the brainstorm sessions. It takes awhile, with lots of back and forth among participants.

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