Publicis: Don’t Take Programmatic TV Buying For Granted

Nicole Whitesel Publicis Media

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

Nicole Whitesel, EVP of advanced TV at Publicis Media, will be speaking at Programmatic I/O, taking place in Las Vegas from May 23-25. You don’t want to miss it. Click here to register.

The TV ad industry has 99 problems, and almost all of them have to do with making sense of programmatic buying on the big screen.

Programmatic is a mainstay of digital advertising, but its role in the TV ecosystem is relatively new – and very different.

TV introduces a whole new set of trade-offs that need consideration, said Nicole Whitesel, EVP of advanced TV at Publicis Media.

Video content and creative is much more expensive and harder to build and scale than a mobile display ad, for example, and on TV, that limitation is compounded by a scarcity of inventory.

“Everyone wants everything – including me – but the longer the laundry list we bring with less prioritization, the harder it is for us to help our clients build their business,” Whitesel said.

To make programmatic buying work on TV, digital native marketers need to build a much broader media strategy that can achieve scale and ROI through the big screen, she said, which means programmatic alone isn’t enough to scale the growth of a business.

Whitesel spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Will programmatic be CTV’s next biggest growth engine?

NICOLE WHITESEL: It depends who you talk to.

TV networks are still in a position where they need upfront commitments against a set amount of inventory that they need to manage yield for. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are digital buyers who only want to buy inventory that hits their target audience.

The TV industry is currently living in between sellers used to upfront commitments and buyers who want more control over their spend. Those two sides are at a point of tension, and our ability to scale and activate media more broadly through programmatic is going to depend on how those two sides can meet in the middle.

How is programmatic growth changing the buy side’s expectations?

Programmatic sophistication is being readily applied to other digital channels, and CTV buyers want the same. They want to take the success they’re getting on mobile and display and apply it to CTV uniformly.

But there’s a lack of marketplace understanding that the bulk of TV inventory is parceled out in the upfronts. That’s why a lot of the buy side’s performance-based demands can fall on deaf ears.

Will performance-based buying eventually come to TV?

Video has a purpose in outcome-based buying, but there are still a lot of unknowns. From an attribution perspective, there’s a gap in understanding how a linear impression delivered in a living room equates to an impression delivered in a one-to-one fashion, whether that’s mobile or CTV. There are also discrepancies between how clients buy based on vertical.

Efficiency doesn’t just mean pushing every ad dollar to the bottom of the funnel by using every piece of data and technology possible just because it’s there. Brands that only use performance-based, one-to-one optimizations for the audiences they think are in market are limiting their efficiency and ability to grow their audience and scale their business.

There’s a middle ground where the bulk of our clients are going to end up, and that’s a focus on how best to replicate the impact and efficiency TV can bring, which means taking a nuanced approach and optimizing for the metrics you care about.

Do you find it ironic that the key to effective programmatic buying is not using every piece of data available?

Yes. In fact, I’ve seen programmatic have a lot of success as a clearinghouse, like using a DSP to buy against a demo audience across different activations, whether that be through RTB, a PMP or direct deals.

As a buyer, I can use programmatic to understand what I’m getting out of my inventory buys and then decide what I want more or less of. From there, I can pair that understanding with video attribution to determine the strategy that’s delivering the right scale at the right cost for my business.

Programmatic is less about using every single piece of data and technology we have at our fingertips and more about understanding the value it can deliver and achieve against business goals.

What’s something digital native brands breaking into CTV need to know?

Digital native brands that are only willing to buy against small, discrete audiences will find themselves with very limited scale if they apply the same strategy to CTV.

Limitless mobile and digital pages generate much more inventory than CTV, which might be restricted to, say, one ad break or four to five pod slots. The opportunity in CTV to decision and reach an audience becomes much smaller compared with the ability to scale within social or digital.

Digital native brands will need to take a broader approach [away] from the performance engines they’ve already built. They need to build frequency, which means more and longer touch points that fill the purchase funnel and build the brand, rather than relying on the same approach that worked in digital and social.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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