A Buyer’s Advanced TV ‘Watch out’ Moments

Originally published on Cynopsis Media

According to eMarketer, in 2017 spending in ‘advanced’ or ‘programmatic’ TV is expected to triple over last year, growing to $2.16 billion. In 2018, that number is expected to grow to $4.43 billion. Today, advertisers and media agencies across the board are evaluating strategies and partners to bring automation and data to their TV advertising buys. Yet, even with this exponential growth, there remains a lot of market confusion, largely for two reasons: One, TV buyers and sellers are using varying definitions of “programmatic,” resulting in confusing conversations and frustration by all parties. And two, as an industry, we haven’t yet defined standards for data application, optimization techniques, business models, business practices and inventory/cost transparency. With such a huge variety of players (walled gardens, SSPs, DSPs, managed service providers, content owners), it’s essential that we define some common ground on what’s expected.

 Working as a TV buyer for 15 years before joining Videology (an advanced TV software provider), I learned some valuable lessons. And, from experience, I can say this new application of data to TV is truly a game changer. Additionally, I would argue that we shouldn’t slow adoption of this powerful new technology while we’re working through the kinks. Instead, we should focus on the ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ mantra and band together as an industry to learn from one another and push for industry standards and practices.

 So, in that spirit, here is my list of ‘watch-out’ moments when working on advanced TV campaigns.


  1. Automation means different things to different people. Ensure that you know what you’re getting. Is there a direct connection for transacting between the buy and sell side? Are your optimal plans being driven by real avails and costs or against planning estimates which prevents true efficiencies? Without asking the right questions you might be getting a UI that allows for planning and insights, but isn’t connected to automate the transaction itself.
  2. There is a difference between national and local. Safeguard against the use of national data to target local campaigns. Local consumption, viewership and behavioral trends will not always mirror national trends.
  3. Guarantee ≠ optimization. Work to understand the difference between guarantees and optimizations. A ‘guarantee on the buy demo and optimization on the audience target’ is different than a ‘guarantee on the strategic target with a read on the buy demo.’ One is not better than the other, but you need to understand the guarantee terms to manage expectations.
  4. Data is critical.
    • Advanced targeting is the goal. Buying beyond age and gender demographics requires data (first and third party). Make sure you understand what data providers are available, what verticals they support, the scale of the data they offer and what flexibility you have in applying advanced logic to your chosen targeting segments.
    • Single source data is key. For vendors that offer cross-screen planning and targeting, make sure they are doing this using single-source data, otherwise it isn’t true cross-screen planning and targeting. Be careful when using different data to target different screens as it prohibits your ability to truly measure cross-screen KPIs like reach.  
    • Non-Census data. The use of non-Census data when not applied to owned inventory doesn’t allow for the normalization of US population and can skew targeting results.
  5. Importance of transparency.
    • Not all supply is equal.Make sure you understand what supply sources are available, what that supply looks like (national broadcast, national cable, national syndication, OTT, CTV, local broadcast, local cable, unwired cable) and whether or not that supply will be co-mingled or not disclosed in your campaign plans. When addressed separately, there are benefits of both local and national inventory, but combining them prohibits a vendor’s ability to accurately project reach across a single plan. Know what you’re getting—different supply offers different value depending on your objectives and constraints.
    • Disclosure of supply partners. It’s hard working in a black box and even harder when it’s in an emerging marketplace. Make sure your vendors share how they are sourcing inventory and from whom. That means understanding the difference between national vs. DR and what networks are available to them and for unwired networks, knowing which MVPDs make up their footprint and the relative household reach.
    • What’s the scale? For advanced audiences, understand the universe size you are targeting to ensure your campaign has enough reach to accomplish your goals.
    • Mandate schedule reporting transparency. For example, a media schedule should provide details down to the DMA if applicable, network, program, time and date that a spot runs.
  6. Adherence to basic industry standards are a must. 
    • Reporting basics. Make sure you’re getting reporting on both the buy demo and audience target. Moreover, the buy demo should be measured by a standard source, like Nielsen or comScore (until there is more standardization of reporting).
    • Guarantee fundamentals. Ensure that your schedules are being guaranteed and delivered based on equivalized impressions (:30 equivalents).  While GRPs are often reported as unequivalized, impressions should never be. When they are, buyers run the risk of sellers over-inflating delivery by double counting :15 unit delivery.
    • Unrated networks. There is value to unrated networks you can tie performance to exposure, but if you can’t then make sure you’re comfortable with the measurement approach. Be sure to protect your schedules against non-rated networks showing impression delivery on your schedule. 
    • Clear communication. Be upfront in setting campaign expectations like desired data stream measurement, attribution studies, objectives and KPIs. Also ensure clarity on campaign management requirements like traffic, billing, and reporting timeline.

Advanced TV solutions offer the same powerful impact as TV, but with a more granular approach to audience segmentation and cross-screen reach capabilities. Sure, there are a few new things to learn, but is it worth it? Based on the results advertisers are seeing, I’d say absolutely.

Thuy Nguyen

VP, Commercial Development DETV

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