BY: MITCH OSCAR
There was a Panglossian philosophy, the metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigology, espoused around the time of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which stressed that “things cannot be otherwise than they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end.
TV programmatic for example.
If, for the entirety of this article, we discount the value of real time bidding and automated time managing wizardry (that creates fiscal reward through man-hour reduction and augmented commissions) from this vivisection and focus instead on the core value proposition i.e., TV inventory and more precise audience targeting beyond age and gender, we could discern most probably a historio-evolutionary understanding that would demonstrate within, but not be limited to, the current industry-wide discussion, that TV programmatic platforms are what they are, created for some end, and therefore an evolutionary necessity created for the best.
The 3 stages of TV programmatism – with an apology to those valiant algorithmists and industries (trade associations included) that ventured into the TV programmatic wilderness prior to this missive’s publication and who will certainly, without prejudice, not receive acknowledgement – are:
1) The Local Conundrum: Cable vs. Broadcast
2) Contextual Audience Networks (CANs)
3) As We TV Programmatically Is
The Local Conundrum: Cable vs. Broadcast
One of the monumental issues facing the cable industry at the turn of the century was how to persuade TV buyers, local in this instance, that local cable was as valuable in delivering an audience as local broadcast. The impediment: a TV station in a major market could offer a one stop, one commercial delivery of let’s say, a 5.0 household rating but local cable operators were only able to offer, on average, a 0.5 household rating by network. A disproportionate comparison.
By mid-decade, Invidi, which was in the pre-throes of challenging Visible World for the mantle of leading purveyor of addressable technology in the U.S., began experimenting with the concept of Invidi Media. The premise of the platform was to aggregate local cable inventory in a market to roll up into a highly concentrated audience (age and gender) rating that would be competitive with a standard broadcast TV spot delivery. A 5.0 rolled-up household rating from a plethora of local cable networks that had a high concentration of a desired audience would be more competitive than a rival broadcast station’s equally delivered 5.0 household rating. The price would be comparable – even more efficient in many instances, but the effective CPM would be …well… more effective. One campaign post analysis, one invoice and affidavits (network and program) would be proffered at the conclusion of the campaign.
At that moment in time, the impediments expressed by the TV buying and selling community were: 1) lack of transparency in the rolled up offering, and 2) if opaqueness did allow partial visibility then would the rolled up networks replicate what the TV buyer was already purchasing from the local cable sales team and therefore, create a redundancy that minimized reach and over extended frequency. From the point of view of the pay TV operators, the issue was emphatically sales channel conflict i.e., “if a TV buyer could purchase my inventory from you at a more efficient price then wouldn’t I be negotiating against myself.”
Today, Invidi remains the leading technology backbone for addressable TV advertising, deployed with Dish, DirecTV, Verizon, and Cox, and with a deal in place for deployment with Comcast systems – which in a short while could also encompass roll out with Time Warner systems.
On the heels of the Invidi offering arose Navic, a purveyor of interactive banner addressability accessible through a cable operator’s set-top-box.
Navic’s platform built upon Invidi’s accumulation concept in what is referred to as the horizontical (see MediaPost article, “TV Programmatic: A Horizontical Transmutation” published on August 22, 2014). Not only would Navic aggregate cable inventory in a local market to build a competitive, robust, highly targeted audience delivery comparable to a broadcast household delivery – a horizontal build out across multiple networks, but it would also provide analysis of the cable operator’s programming to ascertain what programs might target a particular audience in what might be considered a non-intuitive approach. As an example: a marketer is only interested in purchasing programming that relates to ice hockey. Easy enough to find via Tribune’s Zap2it program guide. However, upon Navic’s analysis, many of those devoted hockey fans also watch knitting programming – a discovery that led to a vertical view across multiple networks. Navic would build out a plan to accommodate both horizontal and vertical delivery of a marketer’s targeted audience.
Today, Navic is no more. The company was purchased by Microsoft for a reported $200+ million, transmogrified into Admira, and after a short while, laid to rest. More on that later.
Contextual Audience Networks (CANs)
Building upon the conceptual audience aggregation platforms that Invidi and Navic promulgated, three companies arose within the next couple of years to expand the category referred to as contextual audience networks: Google TV Ads, Admira and Simulmedia.
The premise: the utilization of set-top-box viewership (Rentrak, TRA, Kantar’s DirectView, AT&T U-verse, Charter) coupled with third party data (Prizm segments, Equifax, P$ycle, Experian, custom segmentation, Nielsen) to inform the acquisition of local cable TV and national cable networks inventory. Essentially, these platforms took the shift away from buying TV inventory based upon program content and most popularly rated TV programs to concentrate on audience delivery in less popular dayparts and less highly rated programming.
Although the media community was enthralled at the time – and still is, rightfully so – by the promise of addressably targeted TV ads, the CANs offered something less than addressability but more than the standard traditional approach utilized by the buying community thus far, by delivering higher concentration of the audience target (demographic viewer per set).
Each offered a unique twist to the model: Google TV actually purchased inventory to re-sell to the TV buying community and utilized a Real Time Bidding (RTB) mechanism to sell the TV spots it acquired via a TV upfront; Admira, formerly known as Navic and foster-parented by Microsoft, only offered inventory (when available) from national networks – claiming priority partnerships; and Simulmedia developed relationships with local and national inventory providers – cablers, satcasters and telcos – claiming the largest inventory universe (when available) across 106 million TV homes. Simulmedia’s initial approach was to focus on the marketing vertical of “content promoters” or TV networks, to make its bones and improve its product prior to expanding its sales efforts to other marketing verticals. Also, the company was founded on the heritage of Tacoda, a behavioral targeted online advertising service delivering ads to consumers based on their web surfing habits and now algorithmically focused on TV surfing habits via set top box reportage.
Similarly to Invidi and Navic, the CANs rolled up inventory to create a nationally delivered schedule and provided one campaign post analysis, one invoice and affidavits (network and program) to be proffered at the conclusion of the campaign. To their credit, these platforms added some unique twists to their predecessors’ value proposition: excluding RTB by Google, both Google and Admira offered delivery guarantees based upon a minimal viewing of the commercial, which translated to less than 5 seconds for Google and less 10 for Admira before the audience could be counted towards their guaranteed delivery. Also, a program title and content keyword search was injected into the offering across all three platforms to help determine, as one of the criteria, the best schedule programming mix.
At that moment in time, the impediments expressed by the TV buying and selling community were: 1) lack of transparently in the rolled up offering – even though sometimes the platforms would share information about the networks and dayparts during the negotiation and/or prior to campaign airing; 2) if opaqueness did allow partial visibility then would the rolled up local/national inventory replicate what the TV buyer was already purchasing from the local and national pay TV operator sales team and therefore, create a redundancy that minimized reach and over extended frequency; and 3) the universe of each platform was not universal: Google covered a realm of 30+ million homes with 9 national networks coupled with local inventory from pay TV operators; Admira, 100 million homes through coverage on 22 national networks; and Simulmedia, the largest of the footprints, covered nearly the entire swath of TV households in the U.S representing national TV networks and local inventory from pay TV operators (cable, satcaster and telco). From the point of view of the pay TV operators and TV networks, the issue was emphatically sales channel conflict i.e., “if a TV buyer could purchase my inventory from you at a more efficient price then wouldn’t I be negotiating against myself.”
Status: R.I.P. Google TV Ads and Admira (2012) while Simulmedia stands and expands to other verticals.
As We TV Programmatically Is
A succinct historical departure: 2006.
In 2006, the broadband video community announced the death of TV. By 2011 the digital video community adopted the notion of “if you can’t deplete them join them” and developed broadband video TV reach extension products that would add reach to a marketer’s traditional TV campaign by utilizing set-top-box data coupled with third party data and first party data appendages plus, of course, broadband video inventory. By 2013, these entities looking to enhance their public media persona – whether contemplating IPO’s or becoming attractive acquisition targets – began the early stage development of TV programmatic programming.
Some, such as Videology and Clypd, hope to become pipes helping TV buyers and TV sellers to commercially communicate, while others, such as Turn, arrive with a valued DMP secret sauce to manage data across digital (social, display, video) and television inventory, and still others, such as AdapTV and TubeMogul, evolve with the “if you can’t deplete them join them” approach and of course some others still, born out of the TV side of the marketing equation, such as AudienceXpress, Placemedia and AdMore, hope to use their infinite knowledge and relationships in the TV space (local and national TV supply side personages as well as the TV buying/planning community) to their advantage, while others yet, who some perceive may have been slow to the market, such as Collective, Tremor, and YuMe whose roots are planted in the broadband realm as well as unwired networks from predominantly the TV station realm, are in stealth mode but rumored to be approaching visibility.
At this moment in time, the impediments expressed by the TV buying and selling community are: 1) lack of transparency in the rolled up offering – the platforms primarily provide breakdowns of networks, and total schedule dayparts and only after the campaign is complete will there be a possibility of individual spot affidavits shared; 2) if opaqueness did allow partial visibility then would the rolled up local/national inventory replicate what the TV buyer was already purchasing from the pay TV operators (currently referred to as MVPDs), national cable networks, and/or broadcast station sales team and therefore, create a redundancy that minimized reach and over extended frequency; and 3) the universe of each platform is not universal: many programmaticists seem to have access to similar inventory replicating the plug-and-play concept propagated by the broadband ad networks and their publishers. From the point of view of the MVPDs, TV networks and TV stations, the issue is emphatically sales channel conflict i.e., “if a TV buyer could purchase my inventory from you at a more efficient price then wouldn’t I be negotiating against myself and/or taking commission out of the pockets of my valued salespeople to populate the coffers of others.”
To quote Dr. Pangloss: “For it is impossible for things not to be as they are, for everything is for the best.”