Was 2016 (in the inescapable jargon of the day) a “pivotal” year for programmatic television?
That’s a subjective call, and easier to make looking backward, with some distance.
Certainly, use of enhanced consumer data for more targeted television buys accelerated, although the overall scenario could still best be characterized as experimental.
Over the course of this year, we’ve reported on a number of test buys driven by the demand for greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Those included several addressable TV campaigns conducted by SMG for clients spanning a variety of product categories that produced very positive results. Another enriched-data success story was U.S. International Media’s use of household income and travel behavior data, on top of age demographics, to efficiently reach new U.S. markets with addressable TV for client Aruba.
The growing application of advanced data isn’t limited to addressable, of course. In response to increasing requests for enriched-data-informed buys, Turner, NBC Universal and Viacom — and to a lesser extent others including ABC and Fox — have been expanding and honing their advanced data offerings.
While the leaders all reported increases in advanced-data deals during this year’s upfronts, these still represent very small portions of their overall businesses. Nielsen’s age/gender demographics continue to be the transactions guarantee standard, and a major shift may not occur until there is some standardization of advanced data sets and technology across network groups.
Advanced data “became more of a focal point and differentiation point” at this year’s upfronts, Samantha “Sam” Rose, VP, director of video investment for HorizonAdvanced, noted to Audience Buying Insider earlier this year. “It was infused into most, if not all, of the discussions. … It’s becoming more and more important to both networks and advertisers to really understand the data that we’re using and how it informs the buying and selling processes.”
Rose added, however, that it makes sense for the networks to take it slowly, and limit the number of advanced-data deals, as the industry learns how best to use such data to target, and how to measure the results.
“The advanced data capabilities make everybody smarter about the buying process, but it remains to be seen whether delivering a higher concentration against a particular target, as opposed to a broad-based demo, will sell more of our product, or make our brand more likeable, or deliver higher brand health metrics,” she said. “There’s a lot of data out there, but it needs to be reliable. And outside of addressable, you need to match that target data set to viewership data. You need to ensure that that’s being done correctly and you’re using the right first- or third-party viewership data. We’re all excited about data, and it’s certainly the future, but we need to make sure that we’re analyzing and implementing it appropriately.”
For national advertisers, achieving sufficient scale, as well as measurement issues, continues to pose challenges to more widespread use of advanced data in campaigns.
And on the automated buying front, while platform vendors continued to make advancements in aggregating media and reducing the need for manual functions, agency executives continued to voice frustration.
“When we’ve looked at buying programmatic television — inventory typically supplied through the cable and broadcast networks — the issue is getting the inventory that we need at sufficient scale, with as much transparency as possible,” said Barry Lowenthal, president of The Media Kitchen. “We’re not seeing that. I think that the networks in particular are being motivated by fear and pricing protection. Eventually, I think the technology will be so easy on both the supply and demand sides that they’ll be persuaded to make more inventory available.”
But for now, while some platform suppliers offer the ability to use advanced audience data for targeting in TV, “as far as I know, there isn’t a solution that would let me go into, for example, my DSP, point and click to develop a schedule using TV inventory, and execute that at scale,” Lowenthal said.
2017 is guaranteed to be another year of exploration and progress for PTV, as technology and data science advance and increasingly integrated approaches to media planning and marketing budgets gain traction.
The 'Halo Effect'
As food for thought for the coming year, consider the programmatic digital “halo effect” described by Tom Wright, head of programmatic at London-based Tomorrow TTH.
Wright proposes a bold vision for 2017, which he maintains is also a practical one. In the coming year, the infrastructure established in digital programmatic buying will “pave the way for traditional channels, such as TV, to move into a programmatic format capable of learning, optimizing and reacting, considerate of data made available from other programmatic-enabled formats,” Wright declares in an essay in Econsultancy.
It’s now time for brand marketers to be “brave enough to move away from treating programmatic display in isolation, and start considering the halo effect that the scale and impact of this channel has on the overall performance of all other paid media channels,” he argues. Implementing fluid media budget strategies and a “blended” approach “is something we're championing with our clients — and the uplift in performance has been dramatic,” he reports.