programmatic tv panel

Tech execs chart the way forward on automating television advertising

Picture the display in the seatback of a New York City taxi. Today, the content that shows there is the sort of broadly relevant, geographically contextual fare that would be interesting to a wide cross-section of taxi riders: weather and travel reports, restaurant commercials and movie reviews, and network television late show highlights. Pretty safe programming for an unknown taxi rider.

Now imagine a somewhat smarter world. Your taxi driver enters your destination into a GPS that’s rigged to the display. Because your point-to-point route is now known, the display uses location data about your origin and destination to make sharper assumptions about what your needs and interests might be, and also uses your route and the time of day to add time and geography-based suggestions into the mix.

Further into the future, imagine your taxi company is like Uber: you enter your ride information ahead of time using an online account. By matching data based on your account information, the display in the taxi now knows significantly more tailored information, including what ads you’ve been previously exposed to based on your profile and purchase habits. Your home television inherits that information in turn, continuing the process of serving up content and advertising that is relevant to your profile, previous consumption, location, and other data points.


Arriving at the future

How far are we from this scenario, and what needs to happen to make it a reality? At the 2014 DPAA Video Everywhere Summit, Rubicon Project’s Jay Sears convened a panel of six tech executives to consider the question: When will the video in our taxi cabs, bars, elevators, and homes be able to take advantage of automated methods to serve up more relevant content and advertising? Here’s how those experts say the industry will need to prepare for that future.

  1. Cross-expose skill sets. Using automated tools and approaches to buy and sell online media in largely about managing abundance, but traditional television buying exists in a completely different paradigm. At least until recently, television buying and selling presupposed both a finite amount of inventory and rapt attention. Automated and traditional media buyers will need to merge skill sets before they can customize them to a world of location-based video and television advertising automation.

  2. Upgrade the tech. According to Julian Zilberbrand, EVP of Activation Standards, Insights, and Technology at Zenith Optimedia,“the backends of networks aren’t set up” for automation. And when it comes to location-based video, like the Captivate screen in the elevator, “The technology and standards to programmatically deliver advertising across scarce inventory doesn’t exist,” he said. From decisioning to ad serving, a new framework will be needed to deliver location-based and television advertising via automated methods.

  3. Open it up. On a related note, creating a truly automated ecosystem for location-based display advertising will depend largely on success measurement and ad delivery via third parties, according to Rob Griffin, Global Head of Digital at Havas Media. These will be important signals that the marketplace for automated place-based display is entering its adolescence. Enabling true measurement and attribution is also necessary for demonstrating the efficacy of the channel, which is essential for unlocking brand dollars.

  4. Maximize the creative opportunity. Advertising creative in this realm absolutely must leverage the technical possibilities of automation, according to Eric Fischer, Director of Global Media at GoDaddy. Creative agencies should be looking at the targeting, sequencing, and dynamic creative possibilities of automation, and creating killer ad concepts that make the most of the opportunity. “Creative is absolutely missing” from the equation when it comes to advertising automation today, Fischer said. “We’re so hung up on automation and patting ourselves on the back, we’re missing creative opportunities,” he added.

  5. Understand the dynamics that will drive industry adoption.Television advertising automation and location-based display won’t come about simply because the industry wills it so. There are a number of sticky factors that will slow the adoption of advertising automation for traditional television. One is hardware. “TVs don’t turn over year over year” like mobile hardware does, said Zilberbrand. Having more people with app-enabled televisions in their homes will create more favorable conditions for television advertising inventory pools to shift to automated buying and selling.

  6. Appreciate the incremental opportunities. For television, a shift to automated buying and selling will not happen all at once. Some elements of linear television are more likely to have automation tested on them earlier than others, and industry watchers should think critically about which aspects are more ripe for transition. “If [television’s] backend is enabled for programmatic, it’s daytime and overnight [programs that] are the first ones to get played with,” said Jon Mansell, Director of Marketplace Development at Magna Global. Why? They’re much more susceptible to spot buying than high-demand primetime television.

  7. Overall, curb your enthusiasm. Critical to making a successful transition to television advertising automation will be having a clear-eyed view of how and when it will become a reality. Griffin said that although addressable television is inevitable, “linear TV will continue for the foreseeable future”. And for live events like sports, which is a juggernaut in today’s world, traditional television still wins, Griffin said. Overall, linear television “can have a future life in a world of other things,” he added. We should envision a world where automation and traditional methods of buying and selling television advertising exist side-by-side, and then prepare for it.