March 30, 2019

In 1816, French doctor René Laënnec invented the world's first stethoscope as a better way to listen to the beating hearts of his patients. Fast forward to the late 1990s, when ultrasound came along as a superior alternative. Yet, many doctors to this day stick with stethoscopes. If you were a patient needing a cardiac diagnosis, which would you prefer your doctor use, the stethoscope or the ultrasound? You probably would go with the better ultrasound technology. Similarly, when it comes to TV buying, marketers have state-of-the-art technology at their disposal, but most buyers stick with the status quo. It's an apt analogy — one offered by a panelist in a discussion of TV advertising at a recent Adobe conference.

There's still miles to go regarding automated TV ad buys. What if the industry set a goal for 2020 as the year new approaches to TV buying take hold? Suppliers add value to advertisers. Technology vendors add value with open platforms and easy integrations. Viewers value ad-supported content with a smart commercial overhaul. If all these factors coalesce, marketers will reinforce TV as the most impactful screen in the home.

Brands today know more about their customers than ever before, including their behavior, what they like and buy, what they search for online, and what media and platforms they view. There's a wealth of first- and third-party data from brands, as well as ample amounts of viewership data from set-top boxes and smart TVs, that together give a much more precise understanding of consumers' viewing behavior. The level of precision marketers can now apply to the evaluation and purchasing of TV content has never been better.

Industry Progresses

Late last year, Adobe Digital Insights reported that the majority of TV inventory is still purchased manually, and less than a third of brands integrated strategic audience data into their TV ad buys. However, nearly 70 percent plan to do so within

The starting point for ad buyers is to use the available and more sophisticated mechanisms to choose the ideal inventory for their customers, rather than rely on stale rankers, prepackaged deals, and program bundles. Audiences can span dozens of channels and there are now thousands of programs delivered via a crowded market of live and time-shifted viewing platforms.

A data-first TV strategy involving software and automation is the most effective way for marketers to increase the precision of their investments and reach their ideal customer at scale.

Consumers' appetite for TV programming seems insatiable: U.S. adults spend on average four-plus hours per day watching television. This means the industry can seize the opportunity to take the access, quality, and experience of TV and enhance it with the targeting and accountability of digital investments. And it will take industry collaboration and cooperation to make this change on both the buy-side and sell-side, and all the components that sit in between.
Legacy Systems and Technology

As brands leap from analog to digital, there are several pain points along the way. The enhancement of TV with digital targeting won't be easy. Legacy practices, tools, and systems impact everything from trading to measurement to financial reconciliation. Advanced TV forces workarounds and ultimate overhauls to these systems.

One of the panelists at the Adobe conference, Doug Hurd, CEO of Clypd, an Adobe partner for automating workflows across linear television, summed it up well with his perspective on how media companies have long relied on this legacy infrastructure to sell their advertising inventory.

Hurd stressed that it is very manual, with a large relationship-building component in the sales process. While much of that still and will remain in place, marketers now have more tools, more automation, and more data encompassing the entire transaction, from consideration to purchase. He confirmed that the hard work of testing methodologies proven in digital and applied to linear television are paying off.

"All of our clients have invested heavily in this type of technology," Hurd said. "They've trained sales teams to deal with advanced audience sales capabilities. It's a much more educated market and the result is they're servicing their clients better."

With additional investment in technology, advances in measurement will continue to accelerate. Marketers will be able to better understand which ads motivate customers to visit their website, initiate a search, or even visit a store. The ability to measure the success of TV campaigns in ways once thought impossible will only expand.

Overcoming Process and Inertia

Many buyers will confirm that a truly customer-centric TV buying approach is tough because of business silos that can thwart an end-to-end campaign execution. Planning and buying teams are typically separate. Digital practitioners are commonly far removed from their peers on the traditional side of the business, making omnichannel campaigns even harder to perform. Changing culture can be just as challenging as upgrading technology.

Marketers need buy-in from the C-suite to work toward truly eliminating silos, integrating teams, better aligning media and data, updating operations, and retraining workers. The payoff can be broad and encompassing. Brands get more precise and effective investments. Suppliers are more efficient with their inventory. And, perhaps most important, viewers find more value in ad-supported content.

Touting Your Success

One of the easier steps marketers and agencies can take to accelerate more widespread, data-driven, and automated TV is to publicize successes — even modest ones. Not every story needs to be an award-winning case study. Sitting on the sidelines in the hopes of perfection is holding marketers back. Data, measurement, and automation have all taken major steps forward. It's not perfect, but it's progress. Every step forward helps marketers learn and grow.

Many industries are driven by communities of developers and technical evangelists that openly share code, ideas, and APIs. In the months and years ahead, the TV advertising ecosystem will increasingly look more like other software-driven industries. That, in turn, could help facilitate more cooperation, collaboration, and progress.

"The naysayers are out there asking, 'Is it coming?' 'Is it happening?' 'Does it work in linear?'" Hurd said during the panel discussion. "Yes, it is automated today … the transactions are happening everyday … it's here, it works, and it scales."

Writer William Gibson said, "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." There is perhaps no better example of that sentiment than data-driven, advanced TV. Advertisers no longer need to choose between digital's vast targeting and measurement opportunities, and TV's massive reach and scale. The marketers who are leaning in are seeing advanced TV scale and produce business-driving results.

With software, automation, and greater collaboration among advertisers, broadcasters, and technology providers, marketers will be able to move forward, benefitting viewers, advertisers, and media companies alike.

By Jes Santoro is the head of TV sales at Adobe Advertising Cloud.

Courtesy of Association of National Advertisers


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