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100% brand safe and viewable: marketers eager for programmatic TV in Asia Pacific


By Shawn Lim | Reporter, Asia Pacific

May 28, 2018 | 7 min read

Singapore, as well as Southeast Asia’s, switch to digital television by the end of 2018 represents a chance for marketers to tap into the potential of programmatic advertising on television.

Digital broadcasting in Singapore began in December 2013 when state-owned broadcaster Mediacorp converted all seven of its free-to-air TV channels to the digital format. However, it has continued to broadcast in the analogue format, which will end by January 1, 2019, with neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia following suit.

According to the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore, the switch is happening this year to ensure that viewers can continue to enjoy their favourite TV programmes from around the world as digital TV offers better quality pictures, superior sound and multi-language subtitles.

Marketers that The Drum spoke to, like Athena Bughao, regional account director in APAC for Google B2B Performance Media at Essence Media, believe digital TV is a step towards innovation and measurability for them.

“The move to digital means carving their own path towards the same content accessibility and measurement or get on the bandwagon. Adapt or die (from a relevance perspetive),” she explains.

James Sampson, vice president and general manager for Asia Pacific at Dataxu, concurs with Bughao, and adds that digital TV is set to be 2018’s biggest thing, irrespective of the roles of Pay TV operators, advertisers and media companies, as some brands, agencies and media companies are very nimble in utilising new technologies and meeting audiences where they are.

“This is a consumer-led change, and we’re seeing all of the above stakeholders have various levels of speed and success in embracing this new world. We work with Sky in the UK, and that’s a great example of a company looking at new ways of selling, measuring, optimizing and advertising differently in 2018 than 10 years ago,” he says.

Buying ads programmatically on digital TV

While digital TV represents a chance for TV ads to be bought programmatically, targeting and measurement like data-driven automation and audience-based buying component are key foundations that will need to be built into digital TV and enable it across more networks, for it to be viable.

As Narayan Murthy, vice president for SEA and India at FreakOut puts it, how big data plays a role in this area and how fast TV can reach sophistication of current programmatic digital targeting capabilities remains to be seen, while Bughao quips: “We can't manage what we can't measure.”

Another challenge facing programmatic ads on digital TV is that there is a still a healthy level of scepticism from broadcasters who are worried that programmatic TV will devalue their inventory, or it will be a race to the bottom in terms of price, says Damien Thomson, general manager for APAC at Sizmek.

“We have seen really convincing evidence to support the contrary to that, where broadcasters can make premium inventory available and still attract a premium price for it. That is because advertisers will always want to be associated with premium content and they will always pay a premium for that,” he explains. “Where linear TV has struggled is the declining audiences on free to air linear TV. That has been supplemented by the increased consumption of catch-up TV in the digital channels. That represents a real opportunity to advertisers to reach that same audience in a more connected environment.”

That said, as more viewers are consuming content through OTT devices, it means there is a whole new playing field of advanced personalisation opportunities, to ensure consumers are seeing targeted marketing messages, across devices, in appropriate doses, according to Sampson.

“This creates a better experience for marketers, who are reaching a more relevant, engaged audience, and for viewers, who are seeing messages applicable to them and their interests,” he adds.

Murthy shares Sampson's sentiments and points out that as TV gets more and more digital, it becomes part of the overall delivery of the creative, in this case, a commercial or video. “Programmatic TV will be a subset of buying and selling video spots across multiple form factors like laptops, mobile phones and smart TVs with a robust multi-channel planning with the same set of creatives. So effectively we can measure, attribute, and plan, TV with the same yardstick we do other digital channels,” he explains.

Programmatic advertising on TV is 100% brand safe and viewable

While still in its infancy, having programmatic ads on TV will be more attractive than desktop and mobile because it is 100% brand safe and viewable, as advertisers can put what they want to appear against with the high production values of the content, which they know is going to be safe, notes Thomson.

“Viewability also does not become an issue in a connected TV environment. There is a guarantee that their ad is going to be on screen, 100% view and all pixels displayed,” he explains. “At this stage, there is an over-reliance on video channels on Internet and social platforms. There is an opportunity for brands to achieve the same outcome and reach in a more cost-effective fashion by working with local partners, not necessarily just the global platforms.”

“By providing dollars back into the local ecosystem, the local media industry, you are supporting local businesses and at the same time, putting your advertising alongside more brand safe content. That will have an impact of reducing fraud, viewability rates, better consumer experiences by providing more relevant advertising to consumers across TV.

Marketers can also overcome user privacy issues or being accused of targeting personal information with regulation like GDPR in place with programmatic ads on TV, because they can use contextual-based targeting, as there are a lot of information that broadcasters have in relation to the metadata that is available for programming.

“In terms of being able to provide data, I believe that an opt-in approach is a good way to start and a lot of broadcasters will require log-ins to access the apps. Being able to target against an audience profile or information that is gathered, is one way of reaching an audience. They will start to provide information on pre-shot series, rather than current affairs and news as providing that metadata to targeting systems, it will provide context around the content that is being described and allow better targeting for advertisers against that,” explains Thomson.

Ready for the switch

Dataxu, Sizmek and FreakOut believe they are ready when Singapore and SEA finally make the switch to digital TV, as they can address concerns like how will reach be impacted on digital TV, if there will be incremental reach a brand increase its spend with a particular broadcaster and if buying through one demand-side platform, will there be a clear outcome on another.

Sampson explains that Dataxu’s advanced TV offerings were built from the ground up as cross-channel, meaning they are not specific to TV, desktop or mobile, but encompassing the spectrum of digital channels for marketers. Murthy points out that FreakOut work on a probabilistic mode to target disengaged TV audiences who are on Facebook or some other site while in front of the television, and further enhance the brand’s messaging to someone who has just seen the ad by showing him/her a form to finish the transaction just seen.

For Thomson, he says Sizmek as a business is very much focused on transparency and not just transparency on campaign data. “We look at data across five different dimensions like creative, costs, campaign, consumer and context. Being able to assess each of those components when looking at connected TV as a channel, not just in isolation, but across the entire media plan will become important for advertisers.”

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