Will Programmatic Advertising Take Over TV?

Point, counter-point by Adweek experts

Illustration: Alvaro Dominguez

Who needs ratings when you can buy TV impressions? All you need is a defined audience, the ability to deliver an ad wherever a person is viewing and automation to deliver that ad millions of times across multiple channels. Those are the basics of a programmatic vision for television—a vision that doesn’t care which show a viewer is tuned to but only who that viewer is.

Programmatic is eating the media world, and that means television, too. Media buyers, advertisers and tech companies are preparing for a future that’s platform agnostic, that distributes digital video spots across screens whenever a person fires up a smartphone, tablet, connected TV or cable box.

The question “Will TV embrace programmatic?” misses the reality: The medium already embraces it.

Just last week, Clypd launched a software interface for ad buyers to place automated orders for TV ad space. Cox Media, representing local TV providers and Dish Network, among others, is opening inventory to demand-side ad-tech players like Google, Turn and TubeMogul.

And brands are moving more and more toward programmatic buying. For example, Mondelez International, encompassing brands like Cadbury, Oreo and Wheat Thins, recently announced it would run all its digital video buys in North America through TubeMogul.

Does a brand like Oreo care if its ad shows up on Food Network, Hulu or Facebook as long as its target audience gets the message? That’s how more media planners are thinking about ad buys, and what programmatic offers.

Mike Zeigler, vp of business development at Cox Media, says buyers will be able to order TV spots seen by, say, 1 million men who are sports fans and aged 25 to 35. Ads will be served through cable boxes to households that fit the demographic and will keep being served until the target is reached. “When a client buys programmatically, they don’t know precisely when or where they’re going to run,” Zeigler points out. “What we believe will happen is that ad buyers will truly start buying audiences.”

Programmatic TV is still in its infancy. Today, the best technology can automate insertion orders and leverage basic demographic data. There’s still no telling whether the consumer on the other side of the screen is the target for an ad for sugary cereal or his older brother or his grandma.

Those on the tech side say to give it time—the more programmatic pipes that are put into place, the more marketers will know who is watching.

Still, programmatic is feared among TV’s old guard, who’ve seen technology commoditize online ad inventory and don’t want to devalue premium commercial space in prime time. But there’s a crucial difference, and that is that programmatic TV buys, at least for now, are not subject to the real-time auctions that drive online ad sales.

Programmatic TV can benefit everyone simply by automating the buying, selling, delivery and measurement of ads, the argument goes. To fight it is akin to telling a company in the 1980s not to computerize. —Garett Sloane

Continue to next page →

Adweek Blog Network