The End of the “Mad Men” Era of TV Buying

Programmatic buying is a hot topic in the digital media world. Is it coming to TV? Recently, a new audience buying platform, called AudienceXpress, is in the news as it rolls out an automated system enabling agency trading desks to serve ads into premium network TV inventory. Reportedly, two large agency holding companies have been beta testing the platform.  And last week Interpublic announced deals to automate its TV and radio buys with A&E Networks, Clear Channel, Tribune Co. and Cablevision.

Does this mean TV is going programmatic? Not yet. The landscape is littered with failed attempts to merge legacy TV ad buying systems with existing digital technologies. Previous attempts largely failed because network TV did not want to lose control over how their inventory was priced. The most successful previous attempt, Google TV Ads, aggregated unsold remnant TV inventory, but was unable to scale.  According to Ad Age, the Interpublic platform at this point is not about automated auctions. The new system is more of a “programmatic planning” approach than a “programmatic buying” model. Interpublic will be using existing data to help better value media inventory and apply that knowledge to buying decisions.

The inevitable move to programmatic TV buying will improve agencies margins by utilizing technology to automate the way they buy in an increasingly fragmented media marketplace. Such a change will cause a shift from old school TV buying based on the sellers inventory to the new world of audience buying based on serving the most appropriate message to the most appropriate consumers.

As TV becomes more integrated with digital platforms and with the increasing emphasis of personalized advertising marketers increasingly will be seeking ways to deliver highly targeted ads to viewers. Momentum is building. All it will take for real change to begin is for big marketers to start testing buying TV ads on programmatic systems. Broadcasters will have no alternative, but to embrace the programmatic exchange business because technology will force their hands.

Alan May
Just Media, Inc. 

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