Adweek "Will Programmatic Advertising Replace the Need for the Traditional TV Upfronts?"

September 27, 2017

Buyers need to look beyond linear to reach viewers.

Brian Stempeck, chief client officer at automated ad platform The Trade Desk, figures he’s watched 75 hours of professional baseball this season and hasn’t once see a commercial. That’s a problem for programmers, advertisers and the tech that is increasingly connecting the two.

At an Advertising Week discussion this morning on the current state of advertising on connected TVs, Stempeck was joined by NBCU digital sales svp John Alleva, GroupM digital investment lead Sarah Warner and Adam Lowy, who oversees advanced TV at Dish and its streaming service Sling TV.

The challenges of advertising on OTT platforms are many, and the solutions vary by network.

NBC’s Alleva said connected TVs made up 20 percent of all viewing of last year’s big broadcast hit This Is Us.

“If you’re only buying TV you’re missing out on a big part of the audience,” said Alleva. In all, NBC has 750 different end points to reach an audience: from a Bravo app, to VOD viewing of Telemundo programs, to live NBC Sports telecasts.

“If in 1975 you didn’t buy CBS, you were missing a third of the audience,” said Stempeck, arguing that if buyers are not looking at all end points, they’re missing an increasingly big chunk of audience.

“We’re still trying to educate those who haven’t caught up,” said GroupM’s Warner.

And the pace is picking up at a breakneck speed. Lowy said from Q1 to Q2, Sling TV’s programmatic ad revenue increased 263 percent. And September, with still a few days left, has seen more overall revenue than all of 2016.”

“It’s amazing to see this happening,” said Lowy, who added that one of programmatic TV’s biggest challenges is with live programming like sports, news and awards shows.

Another challenge is promoting a positive advertising experience for viewers. Alleva says it’s “a huge initiative” for NBC.

Viewers should expect shorter ad pods, increased interactivity, and better targeting, said Stempeck, using an example from the hospitality industry. “I’ve booked that hotel already, why am I seeing that ad over and over again?”

“We have to test and learn,” said Warner, alluding to Fox’s use of 6-second ads on linear TV. “Shows and events will drive ad length,” added Alleva.

“This is an opportunity to make the ad experience better,” said Stempeck. “If we’re replicating TV we’re doing it wrong.”

Moderater Jason Abbruzzese, business reporter at Mashable, wondered whether all of the automation will bring an end to the splashy upfront presentations the broadcast networks spend millions on every May, with the goal of getting ad buyers excited about the new season of shows.

“There will be both,” figured Lowy.

“The structure of the upfront will change,” argued Stempeck, adding, “Programmatic and the upfronts aren’t mutually exclusive.”

“The show of an upfront isn’t going away,” predicted Warner. “It’s never going to be pure robots.”