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There’s Nothing Scary About Automation

April 26th, 2018   ||    by Alan Wolk

Every so often a word captures the industry’s collective imagination and takes off, with every company claiming to have some version of it. Right now “AI” (artificial intelligence”) has that distinction, though truth be told, for many of the companies claiming to utilize  “AI” the actual meaning is “we use more than one algorithm in our decisioning process.”

The term “programmatic” faced many of the same challenges. Three years ago, every ad tech company was trumpeting their “programmatic” solution which, often enough, meant that some part of the process was automated.

“Programmatic” got a bad rap eventually, because so many companies who used the term were selling internet advertising without much regard to the quality of the websites they were running them on, the placement of ads on those sites and the validity of the view numbers they were providing.

The result was that a whole lot of people were (justifiably) scared away from anything that even sounded remotely like “programmatic.”

The Benefits Of Automation

But there’s a whole lot of benefit to be gained from automating the ad sales process, especially where television is concerned, local television in particular.

A paper-based local TV ad system that doesn’t seem to have evolved much from the days of rabbit ears and dial televisions can seem hopelessly out of date and out of touch with the expectations of advertisers, who have gotten used to utilizing automated digital-based systems for their other media buys. It can blind them to the benefits of local television advertising and result in a host of missed opportunity.

The Business Value of Automated Ad Buying

Automated ad buying is about much more than just seeming modern, however. There’s real business value in it for the people selling local ad time.

For one thing, it increases efficiency, giving them time to target and visit potential new clients. By freeing them from the drudgery of paperwork, it ensures that the time they do spend at the office is more productive and devoted to higher-level work like tracking market trends and identifying growing industries. And while there is something to be said for good old-fashioned negotiating, if those negotiations only result in a small gain, there’s a strong argument that the time saved by using an automated buying system could have been spent chasing down—and landing—even more lucrative deals.

One argument I frequently hear is that with automated buying systems, advertisers wind up having their ads placed on sites where they don’t belong—either because the content is wrong or the context is—they’re not the kind of sites people expect to see advertising on.

While that’s a valid critique of internet-based automated buys, which can wind up on a seemingly infinite number of random websites, it’s not at all true of automated television buys, especially the sort of local television buys that Videa handles: there are only a handful of local news shows in any given market, and if that’s your target, you’re going to wind up on one of them. Period.

The inventory on an automated local TV ad buy is never going be anywhere near as random as what turns up on an automated internet-based buy. That’s one of the advantages of television overall: you know you’re getting professionally produced, brand-safe content that’s presented in a context where users are expecting to see advertising. That’s a huge advantage and it will only become more of one as television—local and national—becomes more data driven and better able to match digital counterparts more closely.

The Future Is Digital

The next five to ten years will see a marked shift in how TV is delivered (but not consumed) as digitally-delivered virtual MVPDs take off and new technology like ATSC 3.0 sees greater adoption. Both provide ways for television to offer advertisers more precise targeting along with advanced advertising tactics like addressable and interactive. By automating the way advertising on those digital systems is bought and sold, local television will become as fluid as web-based advertising, allowing their customers to take advantage of opportunistic buys, using techniques like dynamic ad insertion to ensure their ads wind up in front of the exact target they’re trying to reach, at the exact moment they want to reach them.

That’s an exciting vision of the future and it’s one that doesn’t involve multiple paper copies. By starting to automate the buying process and bringing clients up to speed as to all the advantages this new world of TV technology has to offer, local broadcasters can place themselves on the path to success.

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