Programmatic TV: Parallel Paths To The End Game

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

Today’s column is by Tim Castree, managing director, North America, at Videology.

It seems like nearly every week I’m asked about the future of programmatic television. Understandably, brands that are seeing success with their digital video campaigns are eager to bring the same automation and one-to-one addressability to their TV campaigns.

But the $1 million– or, more accurately, the $68 billion question – is will 100% addressable linear TV ever be a reality? And if so, when?

My answer is yes. The ultimate end-state of one-to-one targeting in linear TV through automated systems will happen. There will come a day when all screens will be connected, with the same data available across each one, and with the perfect measurement aligning them all.

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But the reality is that this day is still five to 10 years away. If we see the path to fully programmatic TV as a journey, however, we have clearly started on our way.

Two Tracks

Along the journey to the end goal of fully realized programmatic TV, it’s important for advertisers to understand that there is still value to be had in the current programmatic capabilities available. As I see it, the path to programmatic TV is taking two parallel tracks.

First, there is currently a small, though much discussed, pool of TV inventory that is available for programmatic advertising. Many technology platforms are now aggressively aggregating the available supply of premium TV inventory, which is generally comprised of cable, telecommunications and satellite suppliers’ allotment of two-minute local advertising.

These opportunities can offer brands immediate solutions for reaching consumers using technology in much the same way as they are using it in digital video. Although these opportunities are still limited and represent just a small portion of the TV universe, it does let advertisers experiment with what will eventually be a more widely available offering.

Second, in parallel to the work being done to begin harnessing TV inventory for programmatic trading, the industry is also feverishly working on finding ways to apply data, automate workflows and optimize cross-screen budgets in a way that blends the old and the new.  This could include integrations of new data and software solutions into existing workflows to help media agencies plan and buy TV and video holistically.

While these advancements may not yet be the holy grail of the fully programmatic TV nirvana to come, the tremendous value that they are bringing to advertisers right now should not be diminished.

Today’s Opportunities

Does either of these two paths represent the ultimate vision of programmatic TV? Not yet. But there is significant value to be realized today by marketers as the industry works toward a fully programmatic, addressable future of a converged TV and video marketplace.

Every day, advertisers that venture into this new programmatic arena find added efficiency and superior results. Cross-screen and cross-channel campaign management and optimization yields significant ROI improvements for advertisers when compared to siloed campaign management. When the data and measurement that exists together is combined with smart, math-based technologies, agencies and their advertisers can realize significant gains today.

The path to fully programmatic television will be a journey, with many twists and turns and even some roadblocks. But along that path, there is much to learn. That’s the point: If the industry exclusively focused on the end goal, it would miss all of the value that could be put to work for marketers today.

Follow Tim Castree (@castree), Videology (@VideologyGroup) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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