If I asked you to think of your favourite advert, what comes to mind?

More than likely, it’s something you’ve seen on TV. It’s not surprising – TV ads evoke emotions in a way that, for example, a print ad just doesn’t. Many have shed a real tear over the John Lewis Christmas ad – and everyone knows who Barry Scott is, thanks to Cillit Bang…

When it comes to engaging with consumers en masse, there’s no doubt that TV is an exceptionally powerful medium. And that’s why it continues to draw huge budgets from brands of all shapes and sizes.

And yet…

The trouble with traditional

The thing is, we’ve only seen the tip of the TV advertising iceberg. TV advertising is traditionally bought through up-fronts. That means brands have to commit to particular slots, and a certain level of spend, months in advance. That’s without any way of knowing how they’ll actually perform, beyond indicative historical data. And yet, despite this unpredictability, advertising on traditional linear TV is actually getting more expensive.

Powering up TV through digital

What if the true power of TV can only be unleashed when the precision and control of programmatic is added to the inherent scale of TV?

TV is turning into a ‘super channel’ for marketers. Here’s how:

1. Effective frequency capping

Programmatic tackles an issue that can make consumers reach for the remote – seeing the same advert over and over again. Think back to your favourite TV advert: however much you enjoy it, it’s guaranteed that the novelty will wear off if you have to watch it ten times over the course of an evening.

Programmatic can ensure this doesn’t happen by giving the advertiser a lot more control, thanks to the ability to apply frequency caps to limit the number of times an individual consumer will see the same ad. By the way, in omnichannel buying platforms, the optimal frequency can be applied across CTV, display and mobile, not just TV.

That’s not to say the system is perfect. The experience of seeing the same advert over and over (“HI, I’M BARRY SCOTT”, anyone?) is currently not limited to just linear TV. But unlike linear TV, there are steps to take to prevent this: first and foremost, it is imperative that buyers and sellers have a clear understanding of the correct frequency caps both for campaign performance and for user experience.  A clear agreement for frequency caps per user, per session, per day is crucial for avoiding Cillit Bang overload.

2. Multi-channel storytelling

In the same way digital advertising has evolved to create an enhanced experience for the consumer, we’re starting to see some brands experiment with different ways of advertising on TV. From product placement to different creatives and storytelling orchestrated across multiple ad channels, brands can share messages in a more subtle way than the same ad on repeat for weeks on end.

The most recent series of Netflix’s Stranger Things is a great example of this – its partnership with Coca-Cola was of course featured in regular TV adverts, but also in the show and even as part of the Santa Monica pier event. Coca-Cola even went so far as to revive its New Coke recipe on the basis that the show is set very much in the ’80s and features the failed but nostalgia-inducing beverage. The partnership transcended well beyond a basic advert, intrinsically linking the values and popularity of the show and the drink.

It’s also important to understand the difference between omnichannel storytelling on connected TV versus linear TV. While traditionally each media channel (TV, audio, display, radio etc) is treated independently, even if the broad message of the campaign is unified, CTV enables advertisers to truly tell a story to users.

It means they can plan campaigns so that a story is told gradually across channels – with the creative changing depending on where the user is in their journey. Or – once broadcasters open themselves fully up to programmatic – then it can even be possible to use re-targeting to ensure viewers see the CTV advertisement first, and to only enable users to see the rest of the ‘story’ on the other channels once they’ve seen the first “instalment” on CTV.

3. Meaningful measurement

It’s not just about execution. Now, advertisers can understand the impact of their campaigns where previously they have been blind. And it’s not just a case of getting a campaign report at the end of the week, as programmatic enables the delivery of real-time insights, enabling advertisers to optimise campaigns whilst they’re live and maximise return on investment.

But that’s not to say we’re in this digital paradise quite yet. As we embark on the journey to total adoption of programmatic, there will be a transition period where we’ll need to use more traditional methods like panel-based measurement alongside the data insights connected TV generate. It will take time for new standards to emerge, but at The Trade Desk we’re working with the wider industry to move things in the right direction.

4. Finding the right audience

Without data, advertisers are essentially firing blind – for every consumer who happens to be interested in the ad, there will be hundreds who won’t be. Not only does that result in wasted spend, but can also risk damaging a brand’s – and channel’s – reputation, if consumers keep seeing ads that are irrelevant. That has changed with the advent of connected TV, which allows for much more precision. For the first time, brands can use data to direct bespoke adverts at specific target audiences.

This precision is also important for the broadcasters. By finding the right audience for multiple advertisers, a broadcaster can sell every impression, for every viewer, at the right price. If managed correctly they can maximise the revenue/yield of all impressions, rather than having to accept that a large share of their impressions will be wasted.  Advertisers are happy because they focus spend on the right audience; Broadcasters are happy because they maximise yield for all impressions and can exert control to increase revenues; and the audience see an improved and more relevant ad experience.

In summary

The injection of programmatic technology into TV is revolutionising the channel – making it a super exciting time for brands to shift spend to the big screen. But advertisers still have an important role to play to get the most out of it – and that’s around data. Advertisers should consistently apply it to every campaign if they’re to properly reap the benefits of this enriched channel, and broadcasters should be encouraged and incentivised by the buyers to support this next stage of the evolution of TV advertising. The return will be worth it, I promise.

Programmatic TV advertising: Key benefits and challenges