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Programmatic comes of age with connected TV and OTT

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There are few who would argue that TV viewing has fundamentally changed over the past couple of years, as consumers turn their backs on traditional linear broadcasts and flock to streaming services. eMarketer's 2019 Global Media Intelligence Report states that 94.4% of Indians already stream video on demand (VOD) content.

And while some have been quick to declare the era of TV over, for the advertising industry this isn’t the end of TV, rather an opportunity to bring together the benefits of TV and digital through programmatic technology. Programmatic gets a bad rep in the traditional TV stronghold of branding, but this is a chance to show programmatic can do more than just deliver performance metrics.

Linear TV ad breaks were structured with consumers in mind – they’d never see the same ad back to back, and competitive ad exclusion meant they had an undiluted brand experience – so no seeing a Coke ad, immediately followed by one for Pepsi. This was a win for advertisers too, who naturally weren’t keen to have consumers exposed to other ads in their competitive set.

But with the advent of programmatic advertising, especially in the display space, some of these considerations have been lost along the way. The move wasn’t a deliberate one – the speed of technology change and the economic opportunity presented by automation and hyper-targeting narrowed our focus and we lost sight of the bigger picture. Somehow, we’ve drifted away from the original purpose of advertising – namely to enable brands to communicate with consumers in media environments.

Changing expectations

But what has been tolerated in the world of display won’t wash in the streaming space. Consumers expect a TV like experience and are rightly put off by poor ad experiences like being hit by the same creative twice in one ad break.

It’s not just consumers who expect more from programmatic in the streaming space – poor ad experiences ultimately reflect badly on media owners and advertisers, there are quality expectations there too. TV buyers come at programmatic with fresh eyes – without a legacy obsession with cookies, clicks and unique users.

As addressable TV comes of age with OTT and CTV, we have the chance to take the best of both worlds – elevating programmatic from a purely performance play into a proper branding channel. The holy grail of advertising – allowing brands to connect with engaged consumers in premium environments, with all the benefits of digital like personalisation, measurement and automation efficiency.

But getting there won’t be without challenges - our current tech stacks aren’t set up to facilitate this seamless ad experience and some of the technology needed is still being built. Executing on this vision will require significant leadership and engineering ingenuity. It will require crafting a server-side programmatic solution for global OTT environments which allows for direct and auction buying, fraud detection, forecasting and the exchange of relevant data like show consumption and household data.

Programmatic OTT technology can and will evolve through a combination of new and existing bidding techniques, ad decision-making, audience technology, and collaboration between media providers, technology partners like SSPs and SSAI vendors and buyers.

We might not be there yet, but we’re well on the way – and this time we mustn’t lose sight of ultimate goal, to enable communication between a brand and a consumer in a media environment.

Sudipto Das, regional director India and SEA at PubMatic

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