Programmatic Buying Won't Be Complete Until TV Comes on Board

The Real-Time Revolution is Here. It's Time for Broadcasters To Get with the Program

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There's no question that cross-channel marketing delivers results. And audience-driven programmatic buying has made cross-channel even more powerful. It turns out that planning, buying and running campaigns across channels, platforms and devices really is a more effective way to reach consumers with the right marketing message at the right time.

But I'm afraid it may be a bit too soon to start patting ourselves on the backs. Because there will be no real cross-channel marketing until TV joins the programmatic mix.

Even as marketers have come to appreciate the advantages of data-driven marketing, the absence of TV inventory on programmatic exchanges has left a huge gap in every so-called "cross-channel" marketing plan. TV still accounts for the lion's share of every marketer's budget, yet where ad planning, buying and reporting are concerned, TV remains set in its increasingly antiquated ways.

It's time for TV to assume its rightful place as the linchpin of cross-channel marketing. The potential for true cross-channel marketing is enormous, but won't be realized without access to inventory from the broadcasters, networks and cable companies. Access will lead to insight, allowing marketers to more accurately measure the performance of campaigns and leverage insights from every channel to optimize them.

The technology is there. The same systems that support the automation of display, video, social and mobile will accommodate the buying and selling of TV inventory. Tools like Deal ID are already helping advertisers recognize and measure the impact of buys across channels. Integration of TV into programmatic requires some legwork on the backend, but the framework is in place.

The demand is there, too. The advertisers and marketers that Turn works with today spend more than $35.0 billion a year on U.S. TV advertising, and they want the ability to plan and buy all of their media on one platform. They want the insights and analytics they need to run true cross-channel campaigns. They want to target audiences at scale, and bring those audience segments into the TV world. What the networks don't seem to realize is that TV will also benefit from change, when the application of audience data to TV drives higher prices for traditionally low-interest inventory.

Some broadcasters are dipping their toes into the programmatic waters, but not many, and not enthusiastically. Comcast recently cut a deal with Rubicon to sell ads programmatically, but only on its Xfinity websites. NBCUniversal has promised to make a "small amount" of inventory available on automated exchanges, and other networks including Disney and A&E are starting to consider programmatic selling.

Why the delay? Major networks still sell the majority of their ad inventory through large deals struck during the upfront market in the spring, and so continue to secure high prices for their inventory. As a result, they have little incentive to experiment with new ways of selling. Adding to the disincentive is the fact that disrupting a system that's been in place for 60-plus years is a scary prospect for lots of people.

It's not just cold feet. TV does legitimately have a lot of work to do, reengineering everything from backend operations and ad trafficking to scheduling, before programmatic TV can truly scale. But the sooner the networks and cable companies recognize the inevitability of programmatic TV and take real steps to make it a reality, the better off we'll all be.

Marketers' expectations are shifting; real-time data is driving demand for real-time insights across channels. It used to be that a marketing department would develop its grand strategy for a full year, and then review its success or failure in hindsight before the next year. That kind of thinking is a relic of the golden age of TV advertising -- now long past. Today's marketing department barely goes a quarter without making some change to its plan. Some departments -- social media, for one -- barely go a day. Marketing strategies change in response to news, competitive landscape, technology and countless other factors.

When advertisers buy TV spots weeks or months in advance, as they now do, they can't react to the changing nature of their audience. If broadcasters want to serve dynamic brands, TV has to become more dynamic and find ways to deliver for marketers who expect both accountability and results. As the ones footing TV's sizeable bill, marketers shouldn't have to put up with the enormous blind spot that is TV media performance.

Smart CMOs are already accustomed to using a real-time dashboard to track and optimize the effectiveness of their marketing across channels. Advertising agencies have embraced the cost efficiencies and granular targeting capabilities programmatic platforms can provide. Marketers want and need to be able to apply these efficiencies to TV. There's simply no realistic scenario in which TV can remain outside the programmatic universe. So let's get moving, TV. The programmatic revolution is here.

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