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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Make Way for Programmatic Advertising Buys

I’ll admit, it was some years ago when I would get a call at 3 in the afternoon on a Friday about a particular advertiser jumping into a weekend movie or sports event and how I thought it would “do.”  It was “fire sale” time and as a full-service agency with blue chip clients, they called us at three.  Then they called the bottom feeders at 3:45 (that’s quarter of 5 in New York) with whatever the full-service guys didn’t buy.

For me, saying yes just meant that I thought the show would do as well as was being stated and wouldn’t offend the prospective client.  The media buyers (if I call them buyer-planners, you’ll figure out the shop so I won’t do that) evaluated the offer, how it fit into the plan and what was available to run.  It was great for the client but took a lot of agency time mopping up on Monday or whenever the book came out and the call about underdelivery and makegood offers were received, adjusting the schedule and sometimes “finding the money.”  They did it because it was right for the clients despite the work.  There were lots of Friday nights spent with media buyers working with account and traffic folks to get commercial material out to the integration point.

That’s a bit tongue-in-cheek except for the workload.

What’s that they say, “Sometimes, when everything changes, nothing’s changed.”  And here we are.  Programmatic advertising has a substantial foothold in the digital world and it’s making its way into broadcast.

Programmatic…an interesting term; one that doesn’t reflect its concept.  If you’re in broadcast and haven’t been following the digital side (blame it on being overworked) the programmatic world means machines talking to machines to hit demo, reach and frequency targets…and doing so in real or near-real time.
Courtesy Varick Media
Boss:  "What are you doing?"  Buyer:  "Buying."  

Machines?  No buyers phoning and asking for avails?  Nobody telling a radio sales guy, “Look, I’m buying 18-34 3 deep in the top 30.  That’s it.”   Yep, machines.

Stations are either incorporating software directly or aligning with a number of services to aggregate their inventory for sale.  In most cases, you assign X inventory to the system and it gets offered for sale.  Stations can determine the costs – well, you’d have to agree, it’s the marketplace that ultimately determines the costs – they get inserted then seller machines talk to buyer machines and it’s off to the races.  Buyers can buy in the future or real time.  Of course, wait too long and that inventory you wanted may be gone

The concept isn’t new to the digital world.  Online is available this way now.  It’s a natural extension to broadcast media.  As a consequence, traditional stations and shops are moving into the digital world, some willingly and others dragged at the hands of either unsold inventory or infrastructure costs.

Keep in mind that you get what you get.  Machines aren’t all that smart and the buy will be pretty parochial.  If you want isolation, forget it.  Protection, like keeping a Southwest Airlines out of the movie Alive, generally is not available.  And as far as post buys are concerned, that depends on the programmatic organization. 

Buyers can buy [cheap] with nothing as a post but the invoice.  On the other hand, both advertisers and stations can get nearly instant reports sliced more ways than with a Popiel Kitchen Magician.  And it all integrates with traffic, billing, operations and virtually any other area of the plant.

Think about what this gets the advertiser.  He/she can run a consistent campaign across all media, directed at exactly whatever the desired demos are, and probably buy it for a lot less than is being paid now. 

If you’re tracking my thoughts, you’ve fast-forwarded to “so who needs a national rep?” which would make you fear for the demise of the wonderful rep firms.  Well, they see the freight train coming and many have already adapted including a Katz/iHeartMedia alliance for aggregating and selling radio advertising via programmatic. 

But remember, during all of this, it can be machine talking to machine, freeing up people for more creative and entrepreneurial activity – better programming, more promotion, whatever.  Then again, it could reduce your staffing needs.  If you just sign up to sell that “excess” inventory staffing won’t change but as programmatic sales succeed – as defined by increased advertiser satisfaction – you’ll probably find yourself rolling more inventory into the programmatic world.  Especially when it makes it so easy for those advertisers to achieve their goals – and you don’t even have to care about what they are!

Your concerns become questioning what is selling versus what you’re offering then tailoring your programming to reach the very people that are being “purchased.”  That way, the computer sees you and buys you.

Is this fun or what?

Well, let me throw something out there:  How many sales guys have developed a relationship with your clients?  How many times have you been able to jump in and help move someone's product because you knew what the problems were or what challenges they were facing and you got past that?  How many times did a relationship get you a buy that was a toss-up with a competitor?  Yeah.  Wad that all up and throw it away.  And your reputation for delivering?  Tie that to a CPU somewhere in Virginia.

If you get the chance, check out,,,, and the programmatic organization,   

NB:  Did you know the Kitchen Magician made julienne fries?