Blurred Lines: The Shift in Media Buying

Kathleen Comer, Vice President of Client Services at The Trade Desk
Kathleen Comer, Vice President of Client Services at The Trade Desk

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By and large, advertising has done an admirable job of leveraging the rapid rise of digital media. After all, it’s easy to forget that just 15 years ago, people consumed media almost exclusively through traditional channels like television, radio and print. Today, a mere decade after the introduction of the first iPhone, digital makes up 38.3% of total worldwide advertising spend and, moreover, marketers are successfully using programmatic advertising to reach their customers on desktops, smartphones, tablets and connected TVs.

But there’s one major opportunity many media buyers are still missing out on: the increased effectiveness of a truly holistic media buying approach. At a time when consumers are seamlessly shifting between multiple internet-connected devices throughout the day, why are media buyers still dividing their budgets into separate piles for each screen? Why are we still optimizing across multiple platforms, and not optimizing to audiences? We are closer to data than ever before, but we are still fragmenting buys across multiple platforms when we’re trying to reach a single customer from the top of the funnel to the bottom. We are handicapping ourselves. By adopting a screen and channel-agnostic approach, buyers can better coordinate messaging and combine cross-channel insights. This ultimately drives more refined targeting, greater efficiency, and better results.

The benefits of this shift will only grow more pronounced in the years to come. As connected TVs continue to proliferate, media buyers are gaining greater insight into their target audience, along with the unprecedented ability to use data-driven marketing on the big screen. All that’s left for buyers to do is to capitalize on these changes.

An omnichannel approach is the wave of the future

More than anything else, media buyers can add value by adopting a more fluid approach to how they identify and address their audience. By consolidating buying onto a single platform for all screens, buyers can use the insights they collect from smartphones to inform how they address the same consumers on desktop, tablet and television devices — and vice versa.

Let’s say you’re working on a campaign to launch a new car model. Your target is young families, and you need to generate awareness. You’ll likely plan to run broad-reaching TV and audio and layer in desktop display and video, along with mobile. You’ll probably want to optimize to the user’s experience, given the average car shopper is in-market for a while before purchase. And you’ll certainly want to review comprehensive reporting, pull out actionable insights and refine your buy based on reach and frequency gains. Working across multiple buying platforms makes it challenging to achieve all of these campaign initiatives.

Adopting a holistic, screen-agnostic approach on one platform results in the ability to reach the same user across multiple screens, generate frequency efficiency, and provide more valuable results metrics. Not to mention, your reporting is cohesive and actionable.

Why Connected TV is the lynchpin of the new media buying landscape

One of the biggest factors driving the shift to an omnichannel approach is the growth of connected television. According to eMarketer 168.1 million people in the U.S. will use an internet-connected TV this year, up 10.1% from 2016.

This uptick in connected TV viewing is crucial for several reasons. Because the devices are internet-connected, advertisers can link the IP address of a consumer’s television to the other connected devices in their home. This means that media buyers are getting a better and better idea of how their TV audiences behave on the other devices they own, creating a fuller picture of how each customer consumes content.

Further, connected TV is allowing marketers to apply the same data-driven insights they use for other channels to the highly-effective television medium. While scale is still growing in connected TV inventory, this will change as younger viewers continue to seek out on-demand and over-the-top content. Just as programmatic advertising followed consumer eyeballs to mobile devices, television’s digital transition will bring increased automation and targeting to the space. And as TV becomes more enmeshed in the overall programmatic ecosystem, media buyers will have even greater incentive to organize themselves around omnichannel competency.

The next evolution of the media agency

Media buyers are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the opportunities created by a shift to a channel agnostic, data-driven approach. Digital departments didn’t even exist 25 years ago, and programmatic departments didn’t start cropping up until 10 years ago. With a long history of innovation and adaptation, agencies are in the pole position to usher in another new era.

Programmatic buying is grabbing a bigger share of the overall advertising pie. On the heels of that growth, media buyers will be tasked with taking on a more consultative role in helping their clients chart a course through a more automated, more addressable digital landscape. Though there’s no doubt change is coming, it’s up to the agencies to determine the shape of this evolution.

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