How To Make CTV Media Buying More Transparent 

How To Make CTV Media Buying More Transparent 
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

PubMatic’s Nicole Scaglione, Global VP, OTT & CTV, shares why a major selling point of linear TV inventory is the information that comes with it.

Linear media buyers are able to pick specific genres, shows and even episodes. However, publishers have pushed back on providing the same level of transparency on programmatic CTV. The combination of audience targeting and content targeting is just too much for most publishers to stomach because it gives brands the ability to “cherry-pick” premium inventory. 

Brands should be able to get more transparency on programmatic CTV. Just as importantly, publishers should get something in return for sharing this information. In advertising, as in life, there is no such thing as a free lunch. 

Nicole Scaglione

The Programmatic Turning Point 

 The push to provide transparency in programmatic CTV is actually one of the final points of friction before programmatic is completely ingrained across the entire digital advertising landscape. Transparent content signals are at some level the keystone that will bring the best of linear advertising together with the best of programmatic advertising.  

Publishers have built up this keystone to mean something specific, and relatively negative. Their primary concern is that brands, armed with so much information, will target a much smaller, more specific number of impressions, leaving them with an undervalued, picked-over asset that ignores large amounts of less desirable placements.  

This concern is a direct result of the past ten years of programmatic advertising. For a long time, programmatic was the fast food joint of the restaurant world. Brands wanted scale at low prices – which was the hallmark of display advertising for years. Sellers gave it to them, but the industry was opaque, overly complex and plagued by fraud. At the peak of this cycle, brands were buying “target audiences” that were dramatically larger than the actual number of people in that real life audience. High frequency and bad data fueled the problem. 

We’ve spent a long time cleaning up. Now there’s more transparency, more accuracy and much less fraud. Our industry is now a fine dining establishment. We’ve done such a good job that brands are actually willing to pay extra to get the audiences that matter to them on good quality content. Hear that, publishers? Brands are willing to pay more. 

Get What You Pay For 

This is good news for publishers. Brands are now asking for content signals to inform their CTV media buys. This isn’t the equivalent of asking for extra pickles. They’re in the nice restaurant now. And they are essentially asking for extra caviar. If publishers have the caviar, they should sell it – at the right price. 

Publishers might push back here and say that this is their secret sauce – that there is no way to manage this level of cherry picking without literally going out of business. I think there is a way forward that can give advertisers transparency and ensure that publishers maintain the value of their entire content portfolio. 

One approach that publishers can use to start with is using programmatic guaranteed (PG) deals to package specific inventory at a specific price. Rather than go directly to open auction, publishers can dip a toe and get comfortable with just how much information to share and at what price. The demand is there for the publishers willing to try. 

Many aggregator publishers run into complexity because of contracts with content creators who limit the amount of transparency that can be provided. This can be used as a point of leverage for the publisher in negotiations. If they know that sharing content signals can bring in new demand, that can be used as a bargaining chip in future agreements. Over time, more contracts will include specific stipulations that make it easier for publishers to be more transparent with buyers. 

Content signals can also be used as a point of differentiation for smaller CTV publishers. Brands are likely to be more receptive to putting a new publisher on their plan if they know that they’ll be able to learn more about the content. 

Publishers are also concerned that brands will somehow be able to use content signals to “game the system” and buy media on the open auction without paying extra in the future. This, like every technology challenge we’ve had in the past, is simply an issue to be better understood and solved for – not an excuse for inaction. 

We’ve arrived at a major turning point for programmatic – where the best of linear and digital come together. Linear TV dollars are shifting, leaving opportunities up for grabs for publishers that make the right moves. Brands want it – publishers can benefit from it. It’s time to get serious about making it happen.  

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