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Will Programmatic TV Reach the Mainstream in 2017?

Programmatic TV continues to be a hot topic in the advertising industry. This emerging method of ad buying combines the precision and real-time speed of digital with the mass scale and high engagement of traditional television. But one of the big challenges with programmatic TV is that it’s still not available for most TV campaigns, with eMarketer noting it will make up just 3% of ad spending 2017. However, thanks to new innovations on the horizon, 2017 may turn out to be an important moment for programmatic TV advertising. Here are some of the techniques and tools that may help it gain even wider acceptance in the year ahead.

New technology is one of the most important factors that will determine the growth of this futuristic means of ad buying, and the good news is there are lots of changes already underway. Consider addressable TV, a form of programmatic TV that gives advertisers better control over targeting by enabling them to buy audiences instead of programs. Many of the big cable TV providers like Cox are aggressively investing in the technology, and the AT&T Time Warner merger may help bring this toolset further into the mainstream.

Better targeting will be another key factor in the growth of programmatic TV advertising. One of the current challenges with many “digital TV” experiences on Apple TV or Roku is that they simply replicate the ad experience of traditional television. Digital TV viewers are essentially seeing the same ads transferred from the linear TV broadcast to the digital experience. That’s because it’s still hard for publishers and advertisers to know who’s watching. The real power of these digital-style TV experiences will be using the information we know about who’s watching in order to target specific audiences in real time. It now appears that new programmatic TV targeting tools will make this easier to accomplish than ever before.

Finally, more advertisers and publishers are getting smarter about the techniques they use to make programmatic TV buys, which may help boost the format’s popularity. One example of these techniques is “engagement-based buying”, which encourages TV advertisers to think about their spots more like direct response ads where consumer visits to a website can be tracked via their “second-screen” devices like smartphones. Programmatic TV is also a powerful tool for live sporting events like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, where many advertisers recognize it provides new methods for reaching fans with more data-driven local broadcast buying.

Programmatic TV may not be “ready for prime time” at the moment. But based on the moves being made by many of the advertising industry’s biggest platforms and marketers, the interest is already strong, and predicted to get even stronger.