TV advertising is known for the mass reach and emotional impact it can give marketers, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that it has a future targeting defined audience segments, as well, like helping a car maker find ‘hobby haulers’ (that portion of the population whose hobbies require them to carry big loads around, from band members with drum kits to campers to historical re-enactment fans) who need a car with a very large boot or a flat-bed truck.
Philip Smolin, Chief Strategy Officer at Amobee, a company with a long heritage in programmatic that powers media planning using analytics and proprietary audience data, recently argued that broadcasters should make data-enablement a priority so they can add audience-based planning and sales (i.e. data-driven granular audience segment definition, with targeting) to their toolkit. Amobee acquired Videology last year. Videology was a leader in helping apply audience-based buying to the television industry by making ‘programmatic’ style technology TV-friendly.
The rationale for the purchase of Videology was simple: marketers can achieve good things with audience-based buying via non-TV digital advertising, with the planning and execution streamlined by programmatic technologies, but marketing via non-TV digital does not scale. Buyers hit a point at which they are talking to the same consumers over and over again, and adding reach becomes expensive.
Smolin believes this is where television can step forward for these buyers, to deliver cost-effective reach. However, broadcasters can only help if they become data-enabled and make themselves an integrated part of the wider data-driven, audience-based planning ecosystem.
Smolin told Future TV Advertising Forum last month that television can be at the very centre of the audience-buying world, effectively displacing non-TV digital media as the anchor for advanced media planning. This requires a number of industry changes, which he listed.
First, broadcasters need to embrace data on a grand scale, including harnessing their direct interaction with viewers on their digital services. They can exploit their favourable position in a post-GDPR world where they have a consumer relationship that lets them manage privacy expectations and opt-ins and opt-outs. He pointed to a 15-20% decline in audience data within the programmatic ecosystem in European markets since GDPR took effect (see separate story).
Broadcasters can also harness data that improves our understanding of the content and context in which advertising will appear, by analysing closed-captions/subtitles, for example. This refers to innovations like NBCU’s contextual intelligence platform and Channel 4’s contextual moments.
Next, broadcasters need to share first-party data with agencies and advertising clients, and be ready to use first-party advertiser data, in order to create bespoke advertising solutions. This is how you can identify the households watching a TV programme or VOD asset that include ‘hobby haulers’, for example. As Smolin pointed out: “You can talk to the brand or agency in the language they use, about their audience, and help them tailor the customer journey.”
Smolin stressed that data sharing and the audience-based buying it enables can be performed in conjunction with mass-reach marketing via TV. “It is not mass reach or targeting with TV – you can do both.”
This data-driven, data-shared model can be applied to broadcast linear TV as well as to digital broadcast services. “When you can apply data to the linear planning process, that is when it gets really compelling to the marketer.” He added that marketers are not expected to choose between classic linear TV, broadcaster digital and the world of non-TV digital advertising like social or search. The idea is that they can use everything in a holistic, media planning whole.
Smolin argued that broadcasters need to adopt programmatic technology to exploit this opportunity, and that programmatic must therefore work in the way the TV industry needs. He characterised TV-ready ‘programmatic 2.0’ as a technology that acknowledges the supply-constraints of television, contrasting this with programmatic 1.0 and the way that was architected to work with demand as the constraint on volume.
Programmatic 2.0 supports reserved inventory and guarantees (i.e. upfront promises to deliver specified inventory, audiences, pricing and timings for campaigns). Programmatic 2.0 acknowledges the need to manage commercial and regulatory compliance (the former meaning you avoid showing the same ad or the same type of product, or a competitor in the same commercial break; the latter meaning there are no alcohol ads in children’s TV, for example).
Programmatic 2.0 also gives broadcasters control. Data security should be a given, but broadcasters also need sovereignty over sales (so only they control the value of inventory, how it is packaged and when it is sold).
Smolin said GDPR requires that you build data walls, but you also need data bridges to ensure the (privacy compliant) sharing between broadcasters and buyers. This is the basis for the bespoke audience-based buying solutions, of course, but it also ensures TV advertising exposure (on linear or broadcaster digital) can be linked to downstream outcomes (like website visits or purchases).
Such attribution will become increasingly important for television. “We have a retail client in North America that does not advertise on TV because it does not give them the measurement they get from [non-TV] digital,” he cautioned.
Smolin also highlighted the need for data standards, so television can fit easily into the wider data ecosystem. “While broadcasters have lots of data, it is unlikely that individually they can match the data assets of Google, Facebook, Amazon or Netflix.”
You only have to look to America and the OpenAP initiative, which enables audience-based buying of classic linear TV across multiple broadcaster inventory through a single media plan, to see the value of data harmonisation – either technical or in terms of audience definitions. The point Smolin was making is that it is a big world and broadcasters – though they can become central to audience-based buying – need to be ready to share data or collaborate around it.
Amobee believes it has the various programmatic 2.0 boxes ticked. This is thanks, in no small part, to the Videology acquisition. Smolin stressed: “Historically, TV and programmatic have been presented as a choice but that is no longer correct. TV and programmatic can work together seamlessly.
“You can deploy an audience-based strategy in the TV world. It is not a trivial task and must be approached carefully, but with the right controls it is viable.”
There is a glittering prize for broadcasters who go down this road. “Marketers are saying they want audience to be at the heart of their planning and our leading [buy-side] clients are telling us that they see TV becoming the centre of the planning experience. They want TV at the heart of a well-orchestrated consumer journey.
“They want data to drive their audience strategies but at a greater scale, and they can get that scale from TV – across both linear and digital. They intend to wrap non-TV digital, including social, around TV to augment it, using auction markets.”
Smolin reiterated the fundamental problem that TV-friendly programmatic and TV audience-based buying solves for advertisers. As he explained, programmatic works very well for marketers in the digital space, up to a point. Buyers can profile, identify and then target granular audience segments. They can track consumers who interact with a brand website or app.
If they monitor who goes to the brand website, marketers can re-target those consumers to tempt them back again, something that reduces the cost-per-user-acquisition by typically 50% but as much as two-thirds, according to Smolin. “If you ever wondered why there is so much pressure from marketers to help them use custom first-party data, this is the reason.”
Still talking about audience-based buying using programmatic in the non-TV digital universe, Smolin said, “Advertisers get tremendous results from the application of marketer data and algorithms to make impression buying decisions. They can create staged consumer journeys with the right messaging and creative. They can show true product sales against media purchasing.
“This is all incredibly compelling from an analytics and planning standpoint. The return on ad-spend is exceptional when we can apply the data.”
But there are problems too, as Smolin explained. Marketers who lack offline sales data and rely on digital activity to show the value of digital advertising can end up over-focusing on that media, he says. Moreover, marketers who rely on audience-based buying via non-TV digital find that their efforts do not scale.
Even pouring money into digital will not gain you new reach after a certain point, and the reach level at which this happens is relatively low (compared to TV), Smolin argues. There can be problems identifying consumers in the non-TV digital world, too, like when consumer IDs have been reset within the Safari web browser on iOS devices.
The Amobee proposition is that broadcasters can deliver much greater reach for audience-based buying, using TV-friendly programmatic. They can also offer far more big-screen viewing – something Smolin considers an advantage when it comes to people absorbing brand messages.
If this television-focused, data-driven, large-scale audience-buying opportunity is to be maximised, changes are also needed on the buy-side. Any planning siloes that separate TV, social and other digital should be eliminated, Smolin says. Agency teams need to share insights even if they cannot immediately integrate at an operational level.
Buyers need to converge analytics as a step towards converged planning and then converged execution. “The agencies who embrace this aggressively will gain a market advantage when driving results for brands,” he predicted.
So, this sounds good for agencies and good for broadcasters. It should also be good for the concept of programmatic audience discovery and buying. “The amount of additional reach and exposure opportunities that you gain from television is a game-changer for programmatic,” Smolin told Future TV Advertising Forum.