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Vehicle traffic on a crowded highway: how best to manage local TV traffic

Managing Local TV Market Traffic in the Ad Tech Age

July 19th, 2017   ||    by Charlene Weisler   ||    No Comments

Local traffic systems are often legacy systems, having processed local TV market buys for the industry for years. Now, in an age of greater data diversity and granularity, many of these systems are straining to keep up—but the future of local TV market traffic must bring change.

You Need Data and Reach

With big data sets now available to measure television, a low sample size should be a thing of the past—even at the local level. “Of the local agency clients (of Rentrak) with whom I have spoken, they have stressed the importance of stability in the ratings, availability across all networks, ‘no zeroes,’ and the ability to characterize the audience beyond age-gender,” says Caroline Horner, co-founder of advertising agency SpicyTequila. Horner also notes that advertisers buying across multiple markets want consistent metrics and tools.

This means local traffic systems should be able to import more granular data to better track contract inventory. There’s also a need to go beyond ratings and delivery as a measure of success in trafficking contracts. Reach is becoming even more of a must-have for advertisers—but few systems have updated or attempted to address either reach or target reach. “The growing importance of local reach and the need for updating the reach methodology is a common conversation,” says Horner.

Different Screens, Different Departments

The local TV market is becoming more cross-platform, pushing local sales to be included as part of the cross-device conversation. Traffic systems must therefore expand their capabilities for data aggregation and posting so that local sales departments can better track and maximize their business platforms.

“With the opening up of virtual MVPDs [multi-channel video programming distributors] and digital video, local buyers are trying to understand how to generate apples-to-apples comparisons and if the cross-platform audience is additive or duplicative,” says Horner. She explains that since a panel large enough to support all this would be infeasible, device-generated data and household graphs will be key.

Sales service departments have been taking a hit, according to Rich Coutinho, director of traffic and program scheduling at Regional News Network (RNN) and FiOS1 News. “Planning and pricing are not important areas at the stations anymore,” says Coutinho. He believes, however, that this is a mistake. “Planning and pricing serves as a check and balance. Sales should not have total control of inventory maintenance,” he explains. “It’s like having the elephant in charge of the peanuts.”

Creativity Outdoes Bad Deals

Sometimes, however, stations are stuck with bad deals with low introductory cost per thousand impressions (CPM) that place a drag on inventory value years later. Coutinho is very pragmatic regarding these types of legacy deals. “When you set a bad deal in year one with a too-low CPM, it’s better to drop the client and approach a competitor with a higher CPM,” says Coutinho. “There’s nothing wrong with turning down an advertiser.”

Stations tend to have limited inventory, but there are ways of expanding and enhancing the value of spots. Coutinho recommends adding embedded messaging within programs to expand a station’s ad load. “Embedded content improves a deal because you know it’s being viewed—it’s part of the programming content,” says Coutinhi. “So you can raise the CPM. But there is no way to steward it in the existing traffic systems. We use Excel to track.”

As in other areas of media, traffic and inventory processes in the local TV market are evolving. Now may actually be the best time to showcase the true value of local inventory—as long as legacy traffic systems and local sales departments can support creative applications.

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