Actual proper programmatic telly?

30 Jan 2018  |  Matthew Pover 
Actual proper programmatic telly?

Matthew Pover looks at the latest developments in programmatic linear TV (and he really means good old fashioned, honest-to-goodness linear television)

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit over the word ‘programmatic’.

It’s been so misused and abused when it comes to TV that it’s left many confused as to what it really is.

It’s been the Emperor’s New Clothes with client side marketers ‘tending to agree’ and ‘strongly agreeing’ that they don’t want to stand out by not looking progressive and therefore intending to use whatever has been forecast in the trend prediction poll chart surveys over the last few years.

We’ve had slick dashboards music-video’d at us from US voice-overed tech brands promising AI-infused wonderment in one place, whilst leveraging next level data and actionable this that and the other.

That’s all lovely of course. But for our purposes here, we’re not talking about programmatic buying of online video, of VOD or broadcast VOD or the random in-between stuff...we’re talking about good old fashioned, honest-to-goodness linear TV watched as mother nature intended.

The TV saleshouses have been making interesting noises about this for some time.

When we think about automated audience-led planning and delivery on linear, the first of these in the UK was Sky’s AdSmart, launched in 2014, and which, according to Rachel Bristow, director of client partnerships & collaboration, was four years in the making before being revealed to the nation due to the technical development it took.

More recently in November ‘17, ITV announced that we could have limited access to linear TV viewers via Samsung smart TVs and a partnership with Sorenson Media. Early days for them but Simon Daglish, ITV’s Group commercial sales director for its commercial division, confirmed they’ll be building out a programmatic addressable solution for launch in Q2 this year.

And let’s not leave out Channel 4. They appear to be in a similar place to ITV - looking for tech partners to help leverage their data and inventory with an addressable solution.

But that’s all addressable - like programmatic display it gives us the ability to do clever stuff with data to cherry-pick precisely the right folk on a micro-level, to deliver sequential messaging, to frequency cap, to geo-target and so on - but what about augmenting traditional linear TV, planned and bought at broadcast level rather than at a personal level?

You can’t simply twiddle a few of the addressable system’s knobs and crack on. The tech required on the back end to successfully manage programmatic linear ad-breaks must be much more sophisticated than that. There are different rules governing broadcast vs VOD or digital inventory. No technology currently exists that can think about these rules and contexts in real-time to allow for programmatic booking, but Sky and Videology are working on it as we speak.

While those guys are off doing that though, steps are being taken from the demand side too. Case in point being what we’re up to at our agency.

We used a variety of tools to profile a major retail brand’s customer base - identifying and characterising three core segments. Talent and product was then tailored across three ad variants by the creative team to reflect these personae and their buying preferences. The campaign was then booked with the three creative variants appearing on an equal rotation across all Sky channels to gather robust performance data - in this instance, response rates to web, but it could just as easily have been conversion or reach data.

Following this learning period, our programmatic decision engine - powered by Adalyser - used statistical models to predict how each channel-creative combination would perform over the following week. This was done by using planned spending patterns and combining the results of attribution and statistical modelling with campaign goals to figure out the best channels for each creative.

Finally, the engine autonomously reached into Sky’s system - without the need for any humans - and optimised the live creative schedule on a channel by channel basis via an integration with the CARIA software platform.

Without boring you with the full measurement methodology, for those stations on which programmatic decision-making was applied, we saw a 38% reduction in attributed cost per web visit vs control channels.

Clearly more testing is needed, and the system will develop quickly to manipulate copy on a more granular basis to deliver even more impressive gains for different types of campaign goals.

These very same analytical techniques, enriched with various types of data could just as easily programmatically plan and book TV spots, and then optimise them in real-time. I’ve seen the prototypes already with a ‘BOOK IT’ button that goes nowhere.

The ball really is in the court of the media owners’ now to rise to the challenge with an infrastructure that supports the era of programmatic linear poised to begin. Then, of course, the rush will be to pour the freshest, richest data sets in - and to develop AI using every known marketing principle so that we humans can do something less taxing instead...anyone for a cuppa?

Matthew Pover is chief commercial officer at The Specialist Works


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