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Direct Response Marketing

Agencies Tap Programmatic Platform to Buy TV Ads

14 Aug, 2013 By: Doug McPherson


NEW YORK – Behind all the hustle and bustle of TV ad buying in 2013, a new “audience-buying” platform called AudienceXpress has served almost 2 billion ad impressions to network TV viewers this year under the radar of the TV ad industry.

AudienceXpress features a programmatic TV buying platform that automates the planning, buying and daily reporting of linear TV campaigns. The service began in January with a beta that the trading desks of at least two of the biggest agency holding companies have used.

The system, similar to targeted TV ad server Visible World, has managed to convince a critical mass of TV industry suppliers to put enough advertising inventory into an exchange that would create enough scale for big agencies and advertisers to use it.

That’s something big players such as Google (Google TV Ads), Microsoft (Navic) and startups like Spotrunner (Malibu) and a host of failed dot-com era ventures have failed to do.

MediaDailyNews reports that because of its implications for the overall media marketplace, the rapid rise of programmatic trading in the online display advertising marketplace has been closely watched and has split Madison Avenue and its media supply chain into two philosophical camps: Those that want to preserve the world of traditional media buying based on relationships, salesmanship, marketing and person-to-person negotiations; and those who want to shift to a new world of “audience-buying” based on scientific, real-time programmatic technology enabling brands to reach the audiences they are seeking to reach with their precious ad budgets at that exact moment in time.

Walt Horstman, a Visible World executive who developed and manages the AudienceXpress platform, said the success came after convincing the supply side that they were 100 percent in control of how, when, to whom and for how much their advertising inventory got sold. “The inventory partners we work with are extremely sensitive,” Horstman explained to MediaDailyNews. “If there is one thing folks in the TV business are incredibly sensitive about, it’s protecting the value of their inventory.”

Interpublic’s Magna unit reports programmatic buying of media currently represents about 25 percent of online display buys, and is growing fast. Magna predicts it will grow to 43 percent of online buys by 2017. Magna has not forecasted how programmatic trading will impact other media, because with the exception of social and mobile, the rest of the supply chain has been slow to adopt automated trading technology. But last week, a top Magna media-buying executive, Executive Vice President Todd Gordon, told attendees at a Nielsen event produced by Beet.TV that programmatic buying would represent the vast majority of the way its agencies buy media within three years.

Horstman said a key element is ensuring that the inventory-sensitive suppliers have control and can understand the upside of trading that way.

MediaDailyNews reported that one of the ways that AudienceXpress has done that is by giving TV suppliers complete, real-time transparency on the supply-and-demand of their inventory, including the exact pricing and yield they fetch when they put their inventory into AudienceXpress to be traded programmatically.

Horstman didn’t share which agency trading desks are using AudienceXpress, but they’re known to be two of the most active and aggressive developers of programmatic trading. He also would not disclose the identities of the suppliers placing their inventory into the programmatic trading platform, but he said they are among the major cable TV operators that Visible World has integrated its target ad serving technology with, and that it is that infrastructure that is enabling the automated trading to happen.

Visible World claims its ad serving technology is integrated into systems representing about 80 percent of U.S. cable TV households. Based on the number of systems actually trading through AudienceXpress’ platform, it currently reaches 50 million homes, but a spokesperson said the company is “onboarding new partners each quarter.”


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