Platform-Driven TV Advertising Is Mainstreaming, Finally

  • by , Featured Contributor, August 29, 2019

Not a week has gone by over the past 10 years when I’ve not been asked by someone in the ad industry, “When will we be able to buy TV ads like we buy digital?”

When I would describe many of the new TV ad technologies emerging — from TV ad analytic systems and audience-based planners to real-time ad delivery reporting — I could tell the questioners weren’t quite satisfied. The fact that technologies now existed to make TV advertising work very much like digital didn’t really matter to them.

What they were really asking was not “when will we be able to buy TV ads like digital?” but rather, “are people like me buying TV ads like we buy digital yet?” As anyone who has ever worked in a technology-driven market knows, the difference between the two — the perspective of an “early adopter” and that of a pragmatist who's part of the “early majority” — is enormous. In fact, as legendary tech marketer Geoffrey Moore has famously taught us, there is a  a chasm between them.



Anyone who has ever dealt with buying TV advertising and also been exposed to digital advertising self-evidently knows the problems of TV and the promise of digital. Lots of folks — me included — have been working for years to fix the linear TV side with technologies and approaches developed at first for digital ad buying.

However, in spite of the fact that a not-insignificant portion of total TV ad spend is now transacted over digital-like TV ad platforms — eMarketer and others estimate that portion of spend is already in the billions of dollars a year in the U.S. — digital TV ad spending has still been a realm of the visionaries, not the more classic pragmatists, most of whom don’t adopt new technologies until they are part of the mainstream.

Yet in the past year or two, mainstream has arrived for platform-driven TV advertising. For reference, I’ll borrow from Moore’s classic book on the subject, “Crossing the Chasm.”

According to Moore, several developments make a market “mainstream.” They include: pragmatists begin taking charge of the buying decisions; integrated platforms emerge (many morphed from managed services); industry standards become established; supporting infrastructure and systems take hold in the ecosystem; and, critically, incumbent players begin to adopt, recognizing that what was disrupting and threatening them is now their path to future relevance and growth.

As I look at what has been happening in advanced TV advertising, I see the indicators that the mainstream is now adopting a platforms-driven future in TV advertising.

Virtually every TV network, major media agency and top 100 advertiser now has an advanced TV ad strategy. What was dabbling a few years ago is now part of the core business. All the major analytic and measurement companies are offering advanced TV ad ratings or enhancements, recognizing that this is now table stakes. And, just as critically, all the digital companies now want in on the TV ad game, adjusting or adopting  streaming and over-the-top products to capture some of the  $72 billion linear TV market.

It still has a long way to go, and will certainly be very dynamic even if driven by pragmatists, but the future of platform-driven TV advertising is going to be driven by different factors than those that brought it here. Mainstream pragmatists scale their needs very differently from early adopters. 

Tune in here as I write more on this over the next months.

5 comments about "Platform-Driven TV Advertising Is Mainstreaming, Finally".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, August 29, 2019 at 5:08 p.m.

    Dave, I sincerely hope that security from hacking is far better and in place before the digital TV ads come online. It's highly possible that in the future we could see naked Russian women TV commerical. Then political hacked messages. 

    These type of intrusions are very real possibilities. Hackers have no rules that they follow except their own greed or imagination. They will challenge TV.  My question is, have we not learned from previous mistakes in digital advertising?

  2. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, August 29, 2019 at 5:15 p.m.

    Craig, you and me both. I do not think that it is in the best interest of TV companies to open up IP-access for the direct delivery of ads onto TV's and within their premium TV content the way publishers permit it in digital environments. It would be a recipe for the same kids of fraud, viewability and bot issues that we see in digital. Fortunately, I don't believe that they will need to, and should keep very tight controls on the TV ad inventory always.

  3. Tunji Amure from FAYA Media replied, August 31, 2019 at 6:59 a.m.

    @Dave great article, quite insightful. @Craig, these are genuine concerns with respect to frauds and hacked messages, however i believe there are regulatory compliance responsibilities the TV companies have, even with automation they'd need to implement a 1 or 2 step authentication for ads before flight. I think thats how they'd curb such activities.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 3, 2019 at 7:31 a.m.

    Dave, I would say that "mainstreaming" is a far too positive description of what is happening. The digital-like time buying that is going on is mainly at the local level and in virtually all cases, it consists of buyers and sellers interacting directly---as before---when it comes to actually negotiating the buys. The computers primarily deal with time consuming data processing, information communication, etc. At the national level, so-called "advanced" TV time buying has involved a relatively small number of single seller buys  based on set usage ratings used to profile household "audiences" via "big data" sources. The resulting indices are then applied to Nielsen ratings to create the "currency" for the buy. So far, the sellers afe totally in control in most of these deals and buyers have no way to evaluate their offers against other options using the same platforms or metrics. Also, all deals are made between buyers and sellers, not by the computers.

    Whether these national and local buys are being made in the digital ---or digital-like ----fashion is certainly debateble but I would say that we have a very long way to go---a very long way---before the bulk of TV time buys are made the way digital buys are transacted.

  5. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, September 3, 2019 at 7:48 a.m.

    Excellent points Ed, and I agree wth you. The overall advanced TV ad market is still small, though it does amount to billions in aggregate. And yes, it is limited ao relatively simple applicatoins of the techniques. However, it is realtively widely dispersed in its practice, which is why I believe that it is mainstreaming. Almost everyone is doing it as some basic level. Of course, it will be years until they are doing it at complex levels, but gaining scale does take time.

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