De-bunking The Myths About Programmatic TV

The experts’ take on programmatic: what’s happening, what’s hype and what’s next.

25 April 2018

This post was originally published on IMD and Honeycomb's blogs.

Is programmatic TV advertising almost here or is it still pie in the sky? Will it blow budgets or make more bang for each buck? Ad industry experts cut through the hype to reveal the truth about programmatic video advertising.

Scott Davies, CEO of, Graeme Hutcheson, Head of Digital at Sky Adsmart,  Doug Conely, CPO at Peach and Andrew McIntosh, Senior Analyst at Enders Analysis give their take on the promise of programmatic video.

This post was originally posted on Little Black Book and on IMD and Honeycomb's blogs.


We often hear the term ‘not-too-distant’ paired with programmatic TV. What time frame are we looking at? What is actually possible now?

Graeme Hutcheson, Sky Adsmart: That depends on your definition of programmatic.  If it’s automated serving of ads in to the broadcast stream, or automating buy-through technologies like CARIA, we are already there. If it’s real-time buying and bidding of either of the above, we are a long way off. We are confident we will be first to the party on Adsmart. But real-time bidding pre-2020 will be challenging.

Scott Davies, For us programmatic is already a reality. We see the core requirement for Programmatic being the dynamic re-versioning of content to the end consumer, and that’s something that is doing currently for digital, and more importantly, for traditional linear TV Advertising. Of course, the broadcast platforms will define how detailed or granular you can get. However, even where delivery is restricted, we can still use something like user generated content (UGC) to incorporate personal interaction and generate influenced ad delivery - either to the masses or to targeted groups.

Doug Conely, Peach: Programmatic TV is real in the UK today: Sky Adsmart is a leading example. There are real buying opportunities in most major media markets. The question is, at what scale? And can you replicate the reach and frequency that broadcast television is able to achieve? The answer is that today, the reach isn’t there. Not enough households are using connected TVs and the industry hasn’t plumbed together enough of the pipes to make it all work at a scale, efficiency, and accuracy that advertisers demand. When will this be the dominant model? Ten years? Definitely. Five years? Probably, at the current trajectory. Two years? Probably not. But forward-leaning brands and agencies will be well prepared in advance to take advantage of the opportunities.

People feel targeting technology on TV isn’t good enough yet to make investing in it worthwhile. Is this true?

GH: 1400 advertisers would disagree.  We are well over 10k campaigns now and 70%+ advertisers return to the platform.  So, no, I wouldn’t say that’s true.

SD: Perhaps this is due to the ideas base. Success isn’t just about targeting, it’s about being engaging as well - making an ad relevant AND correctly targeted.

DC: The notion of targeting on broadcast television today has been hugely simplified to make it tradable at scale. So, we have campaigns planned to brand demographic audiences as a proxy to those that a brand wants to communicate with. In some markets, media agencies can buy against that audience via assumptions on the underlying audience of the TV schedule. In the UK, it can be planned and traded via CARIA. But it’s only a proxy to the target.

Online video and programmatic TV will offer far richer targeting choices for brands to speak to their audiences. This is possible today but not at the scale of a linear TV buy. We would argue that experimenting on programmatic tv and building the capabilities today is a worthwhile investment to prepare for the inevitable change of dominant content consumption from broadcast-delivered to IP-delivered.

Andrew McIntosh, Enders Analysis: No-one should hold back from TV advertising on the grounds of targeting concerns. TV is justly famous for its mass reach, but it is finely targetable, even without new technology, if you pick the right channels, programmes, strike weights, programme sponsorship or target audience. If you then add in today's TV ad tech, you have phenomenal targeting control. The combinations are effectively infinite. Highly focused audience sub-sets can be selected, from the tens of millions of reachable viewers.

Broadcaster VoD with its dynamic ad insertion is also highly targetable, and Sky AdVance enables sequential cross-platform targeting between TV and PCs for example, in specific, anonymous households.  TV's high quality advertising environment should convince any last doubters. TV advertisers can be certain that they are paying for ads which have been viewed in full, in a context where the ads are accepted and enjoyed as part of the experience. That compares favourably with other targeting technology which may appear to home in on the desired consumers, but which doesn't offer the same viewability.

What are the most exciting creative opportunities generated by programmatic video?

GH: We’re excited about dynamic copy rotation which will most likely be an integration with a third-party business like TVSquared or Adalyser.

SD: In a word ‘relevance’. Delivering one creative execution that is vanilla for ‘everyone’ will always be a battle to capture attention. Making that ad delivery specific to the viewer becomes more compelling and more relevant for the audience. It also means that by applying dynamic change capabilities, the message can alter and the narrative can change on an ongoing basis keeping attention spans for longer. Programmatic doesn’t just have to be about one ad to each individual, it’s about changing content and delivering it to the correct and relevant audience at the right time.

DC: IP delivered video advertising on TV screens opens the opportunity for more interactive creative. We’ve seen this play out with online video where other brand assets can be layered around a core video, such as skippable video, photo galleries, location maps, rich media features like “spin the car”, “shoppable video”, and even social feeds. Engagement rates for such experiences are higher than click through rates for less interactive units,

What's the biggest popular misconception around programmatic video?

GH: I think the danger is that we follow a model in digital display where it was all about monetising remnant inventory that went unsold. In a TV / broadcast world our view is that that model doesn’t exist. It is all professionally produced, brand safe, and reliably targeted content in a highly regulated environment.

SD: It’s a misconception that there are huge budgets required in engineering and building individual targeted ads – we have tech available now that can do this.

DC: Either that programmatic video is a dominant force about to unleash massive disruption in the industry any day now, or that it’s a pipe dream pushed by greedy adtech companies and media agencies looking for the next story to sell to their brands. The truth is somewhere in between!

Read the whole article over at Little Black Book.

Doug Conely, Andrew McIntosh and Scott Davies were joined by John Doyle from Sky Adsmart, Trushna Chaubal from Publicis Media to take part in ‘Programmatic for the People’, a live event we held back in April 2018. 

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  • Opinion