We know that the TV media landscape is fragmented—that's a forgone conclusion. What's becoming increasingly obvious to me is that there will be no turning back. TV no longer stands alone. Rather, it's more like a family that includes computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. For that reason, marketers must work towards a form of advertising that's accepted by brands, content creators and consumers. Programmatic TV is the way they'll get there.
I recently asked my 8-year-old son if he could watch his nightly cartoons in another room so that I could focus on work, to which he responded, "Fine, I'll go watch it on the big computer in the living room." He was, of course, referring to our TV. It occurred to me then that he doesn't remember a time when he couldn't access TV programming from any screen in the household. He's so used to this form of viewing—and doesn't even think twice about it. That mentality, in a nutshell, is what marketers have to accept.
Whether we're curled up with our tablet, streaming videos on our laptops or gathered together around the big 'computer' in the living room, we're letting content into our daily lives in a way that is more intimate—and more pervasive—than any other time in programming history. One moment we're gripped by the suspenseful story of a high school chemistry teacher turned drug dealer. The next, we're disappointed by the scattered finale of an overambitious detective series. This constant content exposure has created a reflexive relationship between content creator and advertiser—one that's magnetic for brand dollars. In this regard, programmatic TV acts as a conversation starter between viewer and brand for three reasons:
- Advertisers understand viewer purchase cycles best—they can customize messages differently for users on portable devices versus Smart TVs.
- Sequential messaging can be used to drive users from awareness to preference to purchase—across devices.
- Brands can reach viewers anywhere and everywhere through cross-channel targeting—a branding campaign on TV could drive conversion through rich video on mobile or desktop, for example.
The draw for advertisers, International Data Corporation (IDC) explains in its report on programmatic TV trends, is that with programmatic TV, "marketers and agencies get better targeting, access to new inventory and a unified interface which integrates and simplifies the workflow."
As programmatic evolves to meet viewers on their first, second and third screens, marketers are challenged to understand the magnitude of this opportunity. IDC predicts that the programmatic TV advertising market will eclipse $17 billion within four years. "Until 2014, watching streaming video was an incremental activity rather than a substitutional one. Only in the past year, streaming video watching has begun to truly replace TV watching," explained IDC's Program VP, Media and Entertainment Karsten Weide.
Yes, the media landscape is fragmented, and that's the way it's going to stay. But with programmatic TV, the distribution of effective advertising is more seamless and integrated than ever. Content owners must focus on delivering top quality content to the audience they've built—which they'll do no matter the screen or its location—with original programming that's sharp and relevant. And advertisers must continue to deliver the ads that make us laugh, cry and gather around the water cooler the next day asking, "Did you see…?" As long as both sides remain vigilant in these respects, the future of programmatic TV will be worth watching.