Why Audience Matters

Programmatic Technology in Advertising

Technological advancement sometimes has the habit of creating tunnel vision. Sometimes we need to take a step back to remind ourselves why we built the better mousetrap in the first place. For programmatic technology in advertising, we can first break the “why” down in simplest terms – creating a more efficient means for an advertiser to buy media. The operation is far more complex when you start digging into the “how” of course – identity, data, fraud prevention, private deals, open auction, cookie targeting, contextual targeting, viewability, verification, cross-device, and the list goes on and on. The devil is certainly in the details when it comes to programmatic media buyingbut are we asking the correct “why” in the first place?  

Why advertising? 

For this question, I went to the definition experts, Oxford Dictionary, to confirm I was thinking about this the right way. Oxford says ‘advertising’ is “the activity or profession of producing advertisements for commercial products or services” and Oxford goes on to say an ‘advertisement is “a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event or publicizing a job vacancy.”  

At its core, the whole purpose of this advertising ‘machine’ is to get a particular message out to people.

The people part is crucial! We use fancy jargon like impressions and audience segments and GRP’s but at the end of the day, these are all just different tools to measure people. What do 10 impressions actually represent? How many eyeballs actually saw my ad? Did one set of eyeballs see my ad ten times or did ten sets of eyeballs each see my ad once? Do people need to see my message multiple times for the message to be effective? And how frequently exactly, once a day, twice a day? These details are crucial for planning strategy but without context of the “why”, we run the risk of losing sight into what we’re trying to achieve in the first place. 

The “How” must properly answer the “Why”.

This “how” is where people run the risk of getting into trouble. If we lose sight of the why, we might get fixated on the “how” and forget what we were trying to do in the first place. Let’s take header bidding as an example. The concept was genius in its simplicity on paper. It combined multiple Supply Platforms to compete against each other in a single auction. This created a tremendous surge in competition for that impression, increased CPM prices, accelerated bid density, and yielded greater revenue for the publisher. Huzzah!  

And then all the demand platforms realized they were bidding on the same impression multiple times because they were integrated in all of the same supply platforms participating in header bidding, and sometimes they were actually bidding against themselves. Boo! 

But these were our 2010-2020 learnings. The stuff we already learned that make us the “experts” we are today. Now entering our new favorite acronym, SPO – Supply Path Optimization. 

CTV is now TV… but with a twist. 

2021 is here and were finally getting serious about programmatic CTV years ahead of the pre-COVID forecasts! While header bidding continues to provide increased competition for CTV in some places, it is not yet the predominant means of buying CTV today. This fact is key for buyers to recognize when they are looking to buy CTV audience. If you’re a buyer, you should be asking “how” a platform is working with a particular publisher. Buyers asking for a site list is relevant to confirm the quality of expected supply access, but it is not effective to determine strategy for audience coverage. It should be expected for a buyer to see the same leading publisher names from multiple providers. This where tunnel vision can get a buyer into trouble. Buyers are trained to ask a platform if they can provide exclusive supply. Exclusivity is certainly a fantastic differentiator, but the vast majority of premium publishers are intentionally working with multiple platforms to maximize revenue. For this reason, the “how” a publisher is working with each platform becomes the differentiator as this will tie directly back to the first primary objective of getting a message out to people.  

CTV can learn a thing or two from linear television. 

Buyer strategy should always consider the best and most comprehensive tactics to gain full audience coverage in a particular market. For a linear TV buyer, they wouldn’t just buy from one or two broadcast networks like CBS or NBC. They know that strategy would be limiting since they would miss out on key audiences. Therefore, they include additional sources for audience access in multiple broadcast TV buys and cable TV buys with networks like AMC, A&E, History Channel, Discovery, etc. In the end, a buyer still must buy from multiple sources to achieve comprehensive audience coverage in a national market.  

CTV buying strategy certainly isn’t identical to linear buying. A CTV transaction itself is a digital connection and can be facilitated as direct buy with publisher or a programmatic buy with an authorized seller of that content. (I would advise against working with unauthorized resellers.) Also, the means in which CTV content is consumed differs greatly since so much of the content is pre-recorded and can be streamed versus a consumer being tied to a linear program schedule. But, the principle buying intention, however, is the same. A buyer still needs to ensure they are maximizing access for full national audience coverage. Here is where audience becomes the differentiator, not content. A buyer might see Pluto TV from multiple partners but now it’s the buyer’s job to determine whether the eyeballs associated with that content are unique based on how the content partner is integrated with the supply platform. Again, the devil is in the details.  

To answer this need, ENGINE Media Exchange has addressed the concept of unique audience by working directly within CTV publisher’s ad server. Some CTV supply does reside within a header bidding/parallel auctioning environment but 85% of CTV supply within the ENGINE ecosystem runs via vast tag directly implanted on the publisher side, ensuring ENGINE unique access to audience at that given time and given price. This unique audience access combined with ENGINE Device Graph+ mapping 1st party exclusive data from ENGINE Insights provides a greater ability to target the very audience he/she/they are looking for.  

Written by Josh Eisinger, VP, Demand Side Partnerships at ENGINE Media Exchange (EMX) .