Adjusting The Dial: How TV’s Future Tracks To The Evolution Of Digital Advertising

On TV And Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Michael Connolly, co-founder and CEO at Sonobi.

Advertisers that spend money during the Super Bowl pay an exorbitant amount of money for consumer attention, but there is no guarantee that this will lead to any direct action during the customer funnel or, more importantly, profit.

But this is changing. It is only a matter of time until TV advertising follows the same model as digital advertising: Instead of showing the same advertisement to everyone, distinct ads will be simultaneously presented to different groups of people. This generates value for the publishing network by creating more inventory and for the advertiser by focusing their ad spend on addressable people.

In short, it resets the school of thought surrounding Super Bowl ads that the biggest audience possible for an ad is always the best.

So why don’t we do this right now? The underlying technology must mature to make it a reality.

Personalized advertising was made feasible and widely adopted in digital advertising mostly due to the development of the ad server, which manages and runs online advertising campaigns. Even though customized advertising in online platforms is now considered the norm, this was unfathomable when advertisements first appeared on web pages. The first digital ad was a single banner on the top third of, displayed for an entire month. Ultimately, the publisher realized that if it rotated the ads, it would have more inventory and provide better targeting.

As demand increased and the difficulties related to rotating ads and targeting became apparent, publishers developed their own ad servers to manage these complex tasks. Eventually, ad servers such as DoubleClick for Publishers emerged. Nowadays, ad servers have very advanced targeting capabilities. Interacting with them through their API is mature and developed. They allow multiple platforms to feed into a central solution.

I see a parallel between the evolution of digital advertising and the emergence of individualized TV advertising. Currently, local broadcast TV can be sold per channel down to the DMA level, but this is a long way from a one-to-one addressable environment. Television presently lacks fairly basic functionality in terms of ad serving. We just don’t have a comparable version of the digital ad servers in television: One ends up with a very manual process in the last mile, which is inconsistent with scalability, automation and addressability.

Nonetheless, smart TVs, mobile applications and companies such as Hulu and Netflix are all progressing toward people-based TV buying. As these channels emerge, a standard will be developed around how to deliver advertising to these environments using targeted data. This path will follow a similar process as digital advertising, where TV ad tech creates its own ad servers.

The ability to identify individuals watching a particular piece of content on TV is coming, one way or another. After that tech is delivered, all that remains is standardization for how to deliver an ad to the viewer. After that, it’s likely that the era of ubiquitous Super Bowl ads will come to a close and TV will become personal and addressable, just like digital advertising.

Follow Sonobi (@sonobi) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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