The general assumption in the industry seems to be that most television inventory, along with other media inventory, will eventually be bought through targetable, automated systems of some kind — aka “programmatic.”
It seems logical, then, for marketers, buyers and media owners to tend to view the creative and targeting lessons being learned in online, programmatic video as preparatory for programmatic television. But to what extent will the technologies, data, formats and metrics actually align?
That was the core question posed to an expert panel at MediaPost’s OMMA Programmatic conference in New York this week. But if anyone in attendance was naïve enough to expect simple answers, nevermind consensus, it quickly became clear that while important and provocative, the question is still quite theoretical.
Indeed, what’s both exciting and frustrating about programmatic television/PTV — or what some term “advanced” television — is that it’s so nascent that the unknowns far outnumber the knowns.
“Right now, programmatic in linear TV is very much still in its infancy,” stressed Bryan Noguchi, SVP, media director, R2C Group. “I’ve been surprised and disappointed at where we are today. I thought we’d be further along.”
He noted, for instance, that some inventory providers “have really exciting, interesting technology sitting on top of virtually nonexistent inventory,” while others have “relatively good inventory with a solution on top of it that looks a lot like my buying organization — there doesn’t appear to be much technology at all.”
Noguchi argued that the evolutions of programmatic in linear TV and digital are likely to be quite different. “It’s a fundamental market issue,” he said. “In digital, programmatic rose out of necessity against a basically infinite inventory supply, but in television, we have a quite finite inventory. So the need for programmatic, depending on how you define it, will vary from case to case.”
Lomas Is 'Very Optimistic'
Marc Lomas, SVP programmatic, East at Cadreon, on the other hand, sees ample room for synergies. “Look at the explosive growth in online video — 50% to 60% year-on-year,” he said. “Programmatic TV is just starting out, but those two are connecting. Ultimately, marketers want to see the 30-second TV spot deliver what they love about digital, which is the increased targetability, the creativity, the interactivity, the measurability and all the rest. Programmatic TV is the vehicle by which we’re moving to be able to deliver those digital efficiencies.”
Lomas said he’s “very optimistic” about the potential for employing advanced data and “evolving” television to reduce or eliminate the significant waste percentages now seen in many large television buys. “We need to understand exactly how we use [programmatic video] and then use it to drive the development of what we want in TV — get the TV guys to go down that path,” he said.
He acknowledged, however, that whereas programmatic display and video were efficiency-driven, television companies are “going after addressability, and so forth, for the price premium. And you’ve also got the quality considerations of addressability. [Television] is going down the same path but it’s taking a different approach to building the foundations to get there. It’s going to be interesting to see how it builds.”
Taking the language developed for programmatic digital and applying it to television has “really helped brands and clients understand” what PTV could mean and its potential, said Lindsay Williams, SVP, media and analytics, Rokkan. “That’s important because to get the full potential out of any programmatic buy, regardless of which channel it lives on, we need to set up different hypotheses and use cases for actually talking to [audiences] in a certain way, as opposed to just doing programmatic for programmatic’s sake. Regardless of the channel, you need to be very focused on what you want to learn.”
It’s not necessarily a direct “programmatic video is going to prepare you for what’s going to happen in programmatic TV” translation, she said; instead, it’s a matter of “coaching” clients to begin seeing the parallels.
Noguchi said that he expects the television networks to follow “more of an SSP model.” Reason: “I think they took some lessons from the digital space in terms of losing control of the value of your inventory — and I think they’re going to guard that very, very carefully.”
“We’re all hoping that this data infusion, and whatever automation turns out to be all about, will make [television] even more valuable, and enable clients to sell more products in the same space,” said Mitch Oscar, programmatic TV strategist, U.S. International Media. He noted that rich data and audience insights might help networks make certain dayparts more saleable, for example.
What's The Delay?
Asked by moderator Ross Fadner, MediaPost’s event programming director, what’s holding up programmatic TV, Oscar cited “opacity” in pricing and in what is actually being delivered. “They don’t want to tell us what we’re purchasing, but they want us to buy it,” he said.
But he added that the lack of standardized metrics options as content providers work to aggregate fragmented platforms, as well as the industry’s lack of knowledge about the nature of engagement with television when viewed on mobile devices, are more fundamental challenges.
And he stressed that engrained culture and the understandable fear of tampering with a traditional television model that currently generates about $95 billion, including about $30 billion in licensing fees, may be the biggest obstacles of all.
“On whose watch do you want to take the hit, and on whose watch do you want to say, ‘Look what I’ve done for the company?” Oscar asked. “I think that they’re risk-averse, as many of us would be.”