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

Editor's note: this post was first published in an earlier edition of Audience Buying Insider.

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.”

3 comments about "What's Programmatic TV's Acceptance Level In Agencies?".
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  1. Robert Barrows from R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations, July 15, 2016 at 2:20 p.m.

    The right "Media Planning" is much more important to the success of an advertising campaign than the actual process of "media buying"... and "Programmatic" is just a nice way of telling your client that you laid off a lot of your media department and "Sorry, but you won't be getting
    the personal insight into a media buy that we gave you before."

    There are also some very interesting subtleties in media buying which can make a big difference in the results of some media buys versus other media buys, and as an ad agency, the best way to give our clients the best service we can is to take a look at each and every media opportunity very, very carefully.

    For some additional input about some of the interesting subtleties in the response levels from different kinds of media for different kinds of products, please give me a call and let's talk.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, July 18, 2016 at 8:54 a.m.

    From a practical viewpoint, the so-called "programmatic" buying approach, if modified to mimic the way TV time is actually planned, bought and sold, is best suited to local, or "spot": buying rather than the much more varied and complex national time buying scene. Still, the key point is that the system will probably never get to the stage where buys are made without the approval of a human buyer and the same goes for selling. Its main function will be to cut down on the paperwork, to better process certain types of data, etc.

  3. Haren Ghosh from Analytic Mix Inc., July 28, 2016 at 1:30 a.m.

    There are challenges in implementing programmatic TV buys. One major challenge involves separating buyers’ intuitions from data-driven recommendations. Buyers generally look at the industry wide available data points to form their intuitions and use their judgement for buy for a specific brand, whereas mathematical models delve into a much wider range of data to generate buying recommendations. There are agencies that are ahead of the game and embracing data science driven insights to fine tune their buying strategies. Of course the programmatic TV buy is far from where it should be, but we are noticing strong progress. Many brand managers are in fact on top of this and inquiring how the buying is actually done.

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