Manual Deals Just Won’t Cut It For Premium OTT Inventory

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

Over-the-top inventory is now the apple of a digital advertiser’s eye. DSPs are focused on providing media buyers premium access to that inventory, which advertisers crave for its rich storytelling capabilities.

But the desirability of OTT inventory means digital advertisers cannot ensure access to it by relying on the programmatic open market. By the time the open market is ready to act on it, most if not all of it has already been reserved and is no longer available.

If DSPs want to access OTT inventory programmatically, they will need to transact on it via programmatic direct deals such as programmatic guaranteed. Not only will developing programmatic direct capabilities help DSPs unlock access to coveted OTT inventory; it will also establish transparency into products and pricing and secure competitive prices for their clients.

Tap into exclusive inventory

Media buyers have long relied on either the programmatic open market or manual deals to purchase premium inventory. So it would not be surprising if, when faced with the argument that they must develop programmatic direct capabilities to purchase OTT spots, media buyers would simply shrug, thinking they could fall back on tried and true tactics. 

But when it comes to inventory in very high demand, relying on emails, phone calls or the spot market is suboptimal at best. At worst, it will force DSPs to leave their clients out in the cold. Most premium inventory is going to be sold upfront with omnichannel advertising platforms gobbling up OTT spots months in advance.

Why wouldn’t DSPs want to secure the best possible access to OTT inventory through programmatic while accessing the impression commitments and set pricing provided by direct deals? If DSPs want to compete with more traditional advertising platforms, they will need to do just that.

Observe premium inventory, products and pricing in real time 

Even if DSPs could access some premium OTT inventory via manual means, relying on the methods of decades past provides a substandard customer experience and a large amount of manual work for both the buyer and the seller.

With programmatic direct capabilities, DSP end users – whether at the DSP itself, an agency or in-house at an advertiser – can observe inventory and all the information associated with it, such as targeting options, content or programming and pricing, in real time. With this information at their fingertips, media buyers can pounce on their desired inventory in a few clicks.

Get competitive prices for premium inventory 

Finally, just as developing upfront programmatic deal capabilities is key to securing access and information, it is essential to getting the best prices.

Let’s say a CTV publisher is selling inventory at CPMs of $20. If a DSP only searches for that inventory in the spot market, they will need to pay a rate like $25 because, in that scenario, the ad server is only showing them impressions for the sake of revenue optimization. Upfront buyers have already bid on the impressions. Even then, the buyer is not going to see all possible inventory because the ad server prioritizes paying for what’s guaranteed. As a result, even if media buyers bid $100, they risk getting shut out of coveted deals. 

With upfront programmatic deals, DSPs can not only win the best possible deals for their clients, but also lock in prices and reach. Buyers will know their price and the impressions they will receive site to site. This is especially crucial for premium inventory to which access is far from guaranteed.

Access to premium content, superior transparency into the ad buying process, and competitive prices are the capabilities that will set DSPs apart in an increasingly commoditized market. The path to that competitive edge goes through the development of upfront programmatic deal capabilities.

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