TV Advertising's Reckoning
Plus, the Trade Desk wants it all - and good for them
I went to an actual human event this week.
There were lanyards, and cheese charcuterie boards, and people drinking champagne at noon on a Wednesday. They say that nature is healing, well this was the clearest sign that the ad industry is on the mend.
I will tell you that it was glorious to be among people - if not a bit terrifying. Not because I was worried about the Delta variant, but my rather ability to make small talk and wear pants with a belt.
The event was The Trade Desk’s unveiling of its new-fangled DSP Solimar, which apparently was invented by the Time Keepers. CEO Jeff Green spoke eloquently, in grandiose-yet-appropriate terms, about the post-pandemic moment facing society right now. Everything is changing, and the internet will never be the same. More on that later.
What was perhaps most intriguing was Jeff’s one-on-one chat with Vinny Rinaldi EVP, Head of Investment and Activation, Americas Wavemaker US - which is part of GroupM. Rinaldi is one of those executives who grew up in the digital part of the industry and is now shaking up how brands view TV - or trying to.
Rinaldi was talking about how CMOs and especially traditional TV buyers are obsessed with pricing when buying ad space - “chasing cost” particularly in the upfront. In so many words, Rinaldi was saying that old school TV buyers are so hung up on showing their clients that they negotiated a nice healthy CPM that they lean on buying cheap tonnage - which leads to the same group of heavy TV viewers seeing the same ad hundreds of times.
At the same time -and I’m doing a bit of interpreting here - those same TV buyers tend to balk at the high CPMs common to some ad-supported streaming services (How can I justify a $50 CPM on Peacock when I can get $3 on the ION network?!?!), despite the fact that increasingly CTV is the only way to reach certain people -and often these people are uber-engaged with their favorite shows. You can tell it frustrates executives accustomed to real-time bidding and the like.
Regardless of these price debates, Rinaldi was ultimately talking about breaking doan how TV advertising is viewed by advertisers. Is it for reaching gobs of people watching shows all at once - or is it - like almost all other media - about driving results?
“You have to think about what is going to win business,” Rinaldi said.
I spoke to NBCUniversal President & Chief Business Officer Krishan Bhatia about this very subject a few days ago (the episode drops this week) - and he was very candid. Brands are ready to shift. Agencies are still hung up on processes that once made sense, but don’t anymore - which is holding back the medium’s evolution.
Of course, tying TV ads to outcomes is still really hard to do. Attribution just isn’t as simple ad it is on Instagram, where people can buy things straight from an ad unit. But the more that digital buyers like Rinaldi and DTC brands push the medium to improve its accountability, dayparts, and ratings are going to seem quaint. For example, what happens it we find out big pricey ads in the Olympics don’t actually drive results for many brands, but ads in low-rated sitcoms do?
You are already starting to see some of that more “radical” thinking in the upfronts. In this super-intriguing piece by Variety’s Brian Steinberg, this years’ upfront was particularly robust for the TV sellers, after a rough Covid go-round last year. But, there was an increased willingness/preference to move dollars out of primetime. For a business married to doing things the way they’ve always been done, that’s progress.
BTW, as mentioned, The Trade Desk put on an impressive event (AdExchanger has a solid recap). As is the company’s persistent refrain, Solimar was presented as the ultimate anti-walled garden tool, where any buyer and data company across the globe can plugin and get to work (Sounds like President Biden would like it). What struck however was how much TTD was touting Solimar’s ability to handle all of an advertiser’s needs - from ad buying to metrics to onboarding data (watchout LiveRamp) to storing data (watch out DMPs). Solimar is a full-stack offering for people who don’t like Google’s full-stack - which is a very Walled Garden type move (hey good for them).
I’ve had some really good guest of late on the Next in Marketing podcast I host in conjuction with AppsFlyer.
This one with Known’s Ross Martin got real real.
This one with VC Jessica Peltz-Zatulove went in so many interesting directions.
Check the show out here.