Inside ITV’s programmatic video pitch to agencies

ITV’s attempts to pitch its programmatic ads to agencies is gathering steam but it’s also left some with more questions than answers.

Since the start of the year, the commercial broadcaster has shown a handful of ads booked on its programmatic platform to viewers of its ITV Hub player, but over the coming weeks, there will be more, according to CEO Carolyn McCall.

McCall confirmed on the broadcaster’s earnings call last week that campaigns are now being booked on ITV’s Planet V platform, adding they will “ramp up in March.”

While Planet V is up and running there are still some kinks ITV needs to iron out before it becomes a proper programmatic platform, according to the four media buyers interviewed for this article.

As it stands, ITV’s commercial execs are actually booking the campaigns through the platform, not media buyers from agencies, said an ad buyer.

Another TV ad buyer at media agency expanded on the point: “Before Planet V can evolve as a platform ITV need to move from manual insertion order buys for the impressions on its streaming service to a process that’s more automated.”

In other words, ITV’s programmatic platform is more an automated way for the commercial broadcaster’s execs to book campaigns on ITV Hub right now than an automated way for agencies to buy those ads themselves.

ITV has told agencies their buyers should be able to use the platform themselves from the second quarter of the year onwards, albeit on a test-and-learn basis, said the TV buyer. During this period, ITV will continue to run workshops and demo days for agencies to learn more about how the platform works, the TV buyer added. From the second half of the year onwards, ITV has said that Planet V will be fully operational, per the TV buyer. At this point, buyers will be able to bring in data from different sources including client first-party data, Barb audience data and viewing data from ITV Hub to plan and buy campaigns, said the TV buyer.

When the commercial broadcaster struck a deal almost a year ago to license Amobee’s ad tech it told agencies that it would get an automated way to buy ads on ITV Hub similar to how they buy display ads.

Unlike those ads, however, ITV isn’t putting its own up for sale in online auctions. Instead, ITV’s commercial team set the price of the impressions on ITV Hub, which then rises depending on what audience data the agency overlays on top, said the TV buyer. This way, ITV gets to have more control over the price its impressions are sold for.

“ITV has always said they sell out their impressions on ITV Hub every month so they don’t need to generate demand through real-time bidding services, said the TV buyer.

Impressions on ITV Hub aren’t cheap at around £35 ($45.55). Were ITV to sell those impressions in an online auction there’s a risk that the market, rather than its commercial team, would dictate the price, which ITV can’t afford to do. Planet V’s pitch to advertisers is predicated on how successful it is at proving that it’s a premium buy. McCall alluded to this on the earnings call last week when explaining the differences between Planet V and rival programmatic offers.

“Sky’s Adsmart offer is quite different to what Planet V offers,”McCall told analysts on the call. “An advertiser could use Adsmart as well as Planet V because what we will offer is premium video-on-demand inventory that agencies could choose to access through our platform.”

ITV has hired Rhys McLachlan as director of advanced advertising to spearhead Planet V’s pitch to agencies. McLachlan was previously head of global TV strategy at Amobee where he helped bed in the ad tech vendor’s technology into ITV’s addressable TV business.

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