Your TV buying will be automated. Resistance is futile, and that’s ok

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It’s April, and spring is right around the corner, which means that so are the Upfronts. Programmatic TV will be a major discussion topic this year. Both NBCU and Fox announced programmatic TV offerings over the past few weeks, with more news likely to come. Furthermore, these announcements are quite different from prior ones that focused on just advanced data for television; these announcements highlighted tech automation.

Programmatic TV is the application of audience data, using advanced tech to automate the planning, buying and optimizing of a television campaign. Increasingly, television buyers and sellers are shifting priorities. Instead of simply adding new sources of data to their offerings most are now focused on adding new technology as well. The combination of the two is what delivers true value in programmatic TV.

The good news is that television ad tech is much further along than most industry thought leaders realize. In fact, in some areas it has leapfrogged over digital technology. Television technology as it exists today can build an audience-driven television plan in a few seconds. Then, that plan can be automatically executed and improved each day, using advanced algorithms, to make sure the audience goals are achieved.

Unlike digital, where decisions are made in real time, television requires advanced planning and forecasting. Back-end television technology must support automated daily reporting, recalibration, and optimization. Plans must take into account shifting viewership so that the goals of the campaign are achieved with precision. This continuous execution and improvement simply cannot be effective at scale across a national footprint using old-school phone calls and emails. Audience-based television campaigns are simply too complex and too multi-dimensional. End-to-end workflow automation, that is truly touchless, is an absolute requirement for programmatic TV.

The wealth of advanced television data that is now available is driving the need for more advanced technology. True television audience buying requires that first- and third-party data is matched with set-top-box or other television viewership data to determine the audience composition of various networks and dayparts. For example, the audience data proves that shoppers for high-end beauty products have very high audience composition on CNBC in Daytime amongst other networks and dayparts. This insight is determined by analyzing every network across every daypart to rank their composition for a given audience segment. In cable television alone, there are well over 100 ad-insertable networks. There are also 12 standard dayparts in a week. That amounts to over 1,200 network/daypart options to analyze for audience composition per week, for a campaign.

A true television audience-based plan doesn’t just evaluate audience composition. It also needs to take into account reach and frequency, budget and cost. All of these dimensions of planning must be balanced appropriately. Focusing on too concentrated an audience risks sacrificing reach and cost targets. Sophisticated algorithms must be employed to solve these multidimensional planning challenges. Advanced technology is becoming so important in television that it may be the biggest celebrity at this season’s Upfronts.

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