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Laying The Groundwork For Programmatic TV

Rubicon Project

This article is sponsored by Rubicon Project.

As alternative methods for TV viewing – connected TV, over-the-top (OTT) devices and set-top boxes – proliferate, the line between traditional and digital TV is more blurred than ever. In fact, a Nielsen Total Audience Report for Q1 2018 indicated that as many as 35% of TV viewers in the US now watch content through an internet-connected device each week.

Yet despite consistent growth in this category, TV ad budgets haven’t shifted to programmatic. In 2018, programmatic TV is only expected to account for $2 billion, or 3% of total television advertising spend. By 2020, this number will rise modestly to 6%. The problem? Digital platforms haven’t done enough to bridge the gap.

“From a programmatic sense, it comes down to providing support for the business challenges faced in the traditional linear programming environment today,” said John Peragine, SVP and Global Head of Video at Rubicon Project. “The dollars are not going to just flow into digital on their own. We can usher in this transition by better understanding what TV has done successfully for 50 years and where it can improve.”

Below are three ways Rubicon Project is supporting digital TV campaigns, while helping buyers and sellers capitalize on the unique advantages of programmatic trading.

1. Preserving high-quality viewer ad experiences. Digital TV ad experiences are inconsistent at best. All too often, repeated ads, poor resolution, ad buffering and ad-blocked content create a poor user experience that fails to replicate the seamless integration of advertising content in traditional television. For this reason, many advertisers have been reluctant to move precious ad dollars into these locations.

Rubicon Project is helping publishers tackle these concerns by having implemented the IAB standards to support Server Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) solutions to deliver the consistent, high-quality ad experiences that advertisers crave and users expect. By directly inserting the content into a single video stream, SSAI is able to support more device types and overcome challenges associated with ad blocking, ad buffering and resolution to deliver an experience much closer to live TV.

“In the world of programmatic, ad stitching is able to better match the creative resolution and volume to the actual content that the user is watching for a more seamless experience,” said Sambit Patnaik, Director of Product Management for Video at Rubicon Project. “But in order for this to work across the industry, it requires universal adoption of existing SSAI standards and new standards & practices to guarantee consistent performance and ensure that ads are served at the right time in the right place with the right creatives per the publisher’s spec and optimized to the user’s connection speed.”

Rubicon Project is at the leading edge in this trend, working with IAB Tech Lab to incorporate an evolved standard for SSAI that gives buyers and sellers confidence in OTT and connected TV channels.

2. Delivering control and transparency to buyers and sellers. Both advertisers and publishers want to work with brand-safe partners, and they expect to be able to select partners based on content or performance. While control has long been a perceived benefit of direct TV ad buying, programmatic TV has yet to build the same reputation.

Private marketplaces (PMPs) present an opportunity to deliver that transparency and control, with the added advantages of automated trading.


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“PMPs offer the perfect bridge to facilitate the infancy of programmatic TV,” Peragine said. “It all comes back to understanding TV people and their challenges and understanding that PMPs can include all the same desired benefits that advertisers get from direct deals – just with a paperless IO.”

Additionally, improving the bid request to create more standardized fields – including program title, genre and length of program – can overcome issues of competitive separation in digital TV by increasing ad visibility throughout the process. In this way publishers can fill available programmatic ad spots with confidence and transition from traditional TV procurement tactics, such as day parting, to targeting specific programs across time-shifted digital TV consumption.

3. Fostering targeting. As prime-time viewership fragments and shifts to an on-demand TV environment, granular targeting has become valuable currency in the TV ad space.

Programmatic enables advertisers to identify more specific audiences, beyond the limited targeting provided by linear TV and traditional TV GRPs. Where advertisers once used TV to reach audiences at scale, they can now use more detailed content metadata and improved audience segmentation to deliver messages only to their intended audiences – with less waste.

“Pinpoint targeting and the ability to connect to digital identifiers is something traditional television does not afford marketers today,” said Pierre Wang, VP of Product Management at Rubicon Project. “If buyers have this information, that allows them to spend more on a per-user basis and not have wasted impressions.”

Once programmatic platforms better understand the deeply ingrained expectations advertisers have for TV buying, it allows for a similar experience to be recreated in the digital TV space. By delivering the same control and transparency in the bid request and the same high quality ad experiences that advertisers expect from TV buys, programmatic can help facilitate the transition into a new age of TV advertising – one that capitalizes on the advanced targeting techniques of digital channels. For the advertisers who embrace TV’s OTT and CTV future, new opportunities await to develop comprehensive cross-channel strategies that include display, mobile video, audio and TV working in unison to drive more efficient, effective campaigns.

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