How An RTB Takeover Could Super Size Any Given Sunday

frostprioleau“Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Frost Prioleau, CEO and co-founder of

The number to beat: 111.3 million impressions.

That’s the all-time record for number of people who watched the Super Bowl XLVI broadcast in 2012. The last Super Bowl game fell a little short, but still delivered 108.7 million viewers to advertisers that purchased 47 minutes of commercial time available during the game.

At as much as $4 million per 30-second spot, that’s a $40 CPM, or about 4 cents an impression, as long as someone didn’t get up to use the bathroom or grab another beer during your commercial.

But the Super Bowl only happens once a year, and except for the occasional Olympics opening ceremony or last episode of MASH, it’s difficult for advertisers to make that kind of impact on any given Sunday.

Or is it?

Using programmatic media, there are several ways to create impact and relevance at scale on Super Bowl Sunday  – or any day for that matter – while providing proof for all those Monday morning marketing quarterbacks that it was a smarter buy.

Nationwide RTB Takeover

For the $4 million that TV advertisers spend on a typical 30-second Super Bowl spot, an advertiser could execute an real-time bidding (RTB) takeover for about two hours.

While such a plan could not catch all impressions available via RTB, it could clearly make a large impact. Given the vast reach of RTB, such a plan would likely reach at least a Super Bowl-sized audience of 111 million. By doing so, such a campaign would reach each viewer an average of about 16 times.

Here’s the math:

  • There are 500,000 ad impressions available via RTB per second, equal to 1.8 billion impressions per hour
  • Assuming a 50% win rate, 900 million impressions would be won and delivered each hour
  • Assuming a CPM cost of $2.30 all in ($2.00 CPM for media and $0.30 CPM for DSP platform fee), the cost per hour would be $2.07 million. So an advertiser could buy about two hours of a RTB takeover for $4.14 million.
  • Total impressions delivered in two hours: 1.8 billion
  • Total impressions per viewer: 16

So the next logical question is whether those 16 banners seen by each audience member would have a greater or smaller impact than one 30-second TV spot purchased by the advertiser with the same investment.

That would likely depend on the advertiser’s goal.

Driving Awareness And Leads

Let’s consider automotive brands, some of the largest advertisers at the 2013 Super Bowl. A typical auto brand reportedly bought 60 seconds worth of advertising during the 2013 Super Bowl. Considering a 30-second spot commanded $4 million, a 60-second spot at the 2014 event would represent an $8 million expenditure.

If invested in RTB and delivered in one day, that $8 million could buy a RTB takeover for about the duration of the big game:

  • Four hours of “blanket coverage”
  • 3.5 billion impressions
  • 1.7 million click-throughs to their site, assuming a lower-end CTR of 0.05%
  • A retargeting pool of more than one million, which they could communicate with and nurture into leads over the next month – an added benefit the TV spot would not deliver

Like buying a TV Super Bowl ad, spending $8 million on RTB over four hours would not be the most efficient way to spend an advertising budget, but it would definitely make a splash – on any day – while delivering some benefits that TV can’t, such as performance metrics, online leads and the aforementioned retargeting pool.

For an auto advertiser more interested in efficiency than high volume, the $8 million budget could be spread over a longer period of time and targeted to only auto intenders. Based on typical numbers using keyword search retargeting and keyword contextual targeting, $8 million could buy about 1.6 million visits to “dealer locator pages” or somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 lead forms filled out on the advertiser’s Web sites.

Own The Phones

Another option for advertisers is to go after mobile users with a super-sized budget. Smartphone manufacturers have also been steady advertisers during past Super Bowls, but advertisers in many industries are interested in targeting users through their mobile devices. Mobile use is growing quickly, and the percentage of mobile inventory on most of the RTB exchanges is now around 10%.

For about the price of a 30-second Super Bowl TV spot, advertisers could buy about half the available mobile RTB inventory for 20 hours on a given day. Unlike just seeing an ad on TV, the mobile inventory could be used to drive app downloads, mobile conversions and traffic to mobile-friendly sites. If a client wanted tighter targeting, they could target by device type, operating system or geolocation, spreading their budget over a few days.

Either way, the benefits over a 30-second Super Bowl TV spot for the right advertiser could be substantial.

At the heart of all these options is the realization that people now spend more time with digital devices than they do with their televisions. The same sort of zero-latency effect created by appointment-viewing television can be replicated in the digital world through a takeover of RTB inventory.

With better targeting capabilities, optimized bidding and transparent reporting, maybe it’s time to shift those TV advertising budgets to where the people are: online.

Follow Frost Prioleau (@phrossed), (@Simpli_fi) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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