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Ad Buyers Want More Automated Selling

September 30th, 2016 | Read more articles from 2016 or Visit the News Archive
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Originally Appearing at: TV NewsCheck

By: Janet Stilson

“We’ve been talking about this too long. I can’t go into a market programmatically half way,” says Frank Friedman of Zenith Media, speaking of the need to have all stations in a given DMA participate. “We need to separate the fear of automation lowering rates. If we don’t automate we’re going to fail.”

Automated ad selling platforms for TV stations are picking up some steam after a few years of slow development, but not fast enough for some agencies. That was made clear Thursday during TVB Forward conference sessions that touched on the topic in various ways.

Bruce Roberts, president of WideOrbit, discussed a survey his company conducted involving 7,000 “partners,” including people at ad agencies and demand-side platforms.  Forty-nine percent said they wanted to buy local TV with automated platforms. What’s more, 35% said that their automated budgets are separate and distinct from their traditional TV budgets.

He noted that SNL Kagan has predicted that 6% to 15% of all TV ads will be placed on an automated platform by 2020.

Agency executives gave their assessment of automated platforms in another session, and it wasn’t entirely positive, but definitely candid.

“We’ve been talking about this too long. I can’t go into a market programmatically half way,” said Frank Friedman, EVP, local activation at Zenith Media, speaking of the need to have all stations in a given DMA participate.

“We need to separate the fear of automation lowering rates. If we don’t automate we’re going to fail. And Google and Facebook are right there ready to take the trimmings off the table,” Friedman added.

“I feel like we’re at the end of the first inning, rounding third, said Jennifer Hungerbuhler, EVP, managing director of local investment at Amplifi USA/Dentsu Aegis Network.

“But while it’s been slow, it really hasn’t been as slow as you think,” Hungerbuhler added. “A lot of technology has had to be built. There’s been a lot of testing behind the scenes.

“The platforms had to be improved and they’re so much better. The issue is scale. We don’t have an opportunity to buy an entire market programmatically. But now that there are several platforms that are getting ready to go into that stage, it’s huge,” Hungerbuhler said.

In an earlier afternoon session, representatives of companies involved with automated sales gave their own assessment of where things stand, and where they’re going.

“Two years ago it was pretty frothy,” noted Anne Schell, managing director of Pearl TV. “You had all these broadcasters and players trying to figure this all out, but a lot’s happening in terms of testing. “

That said, Schell noted that in a TVB survey asking station executives to predict how much of their business would be derived from automated platforms three years from now, “broadcasters were fairly split.” There wasn’t a lot of consensus that much automated business would happen anytime soon.

Seth Haberman, CEO and founder of Visible World, noted that his company’s Audnet service is in partnership with Sinclair Broadcasting. “We’re taking the [Sinclair] stations’ inventory and aggregating it up as a national platform. I can’t give you actual numbers, but I think the platform is on an eight-figure run rate,” Haberman said.

Another company, Yashi, which was acquired by Nexstar Broadcasting last year, has an automated product called Digital Mirror that marries traditional linear advertising with digital video in the same market. And so far it’s been rolled out at 64 stations. 

“I believe that share of voice and audience extension are hugely important,” said Scott Hoffmann, president of Yashi, comparing those two forms for measurement with the click through rates (CTR) and video through rates (VTR).

Despite the advances, the automated selling business clearly has a long way to go. “I think there will be a lot of platforms and a lot of confusion,” said Haberman. “What will ultimately separate them is scale and the degree of automation.”

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