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Forget ‘set it and forget it’: Decisioned media is the path to CTV’s promise

Two people in business attire ascend steps into a Connected TV.

Illustration by Reagan Hicks / Getty / Shutterstock / The Current

Pointing at his new Yeti water bottle, Dan Larkman describes himself as the perfect target audience for water bottle companies.

Any brand could have easily targeted Larkman, be it Yeti, Stanley, Hydro Flask, or Owala. And he should know, considering he’s the CEO of Keynes Digital, a programmatic agency with a special focus on connected TV (CTV). However, since he spent the last few weeks bingeing Dr. Death on Peacock, any company placing programmatic guaranteed (PG) deals on Hulu, Netflix, or Max would have likely missed him.

And therein lies the power of buying ads through real-time bidding (also known as decisioned buying) over PG deals. With fully data-driven led ad buys, marketers can target the most relevant potential consumer wherever they’re consuming their media to help get a sale done.

Real-time bidding is having massive growth within the overall advertising ecosystem— despite it not being “new-to-market" — as evidenced by a recent report from Research and Markets. The report found real-time bidding transactions are projected to grow 26 percent in 2024 to 16.81 billion, with the expansion of CTV as one of the top factors in that ascent.

"I think the future is going to be very much around bidding, and I would expect more revenue going in that direction, because the yield is higher for the networks.” Larkman tells The Current, adding that a shift to more real-time bidding is massive for advertisers’ performance and outcomes as well.

This win-win on the publisher and advertiser side that Larkman expresses shows off why the beauty and true promise of CTV is exacted through decisioned buying.

Decisioning’s power lies right in the word – there are more decisions you can make with the mountain of data available. From more precise targeting to a fuller view of what audience an ad is reaching, advertisers can experiment and optimize with what’s working and what’s not, as well as control the frequency with which ads appear.

This can allow marketers to get morevalue from their ad buys both price and performance wise, while also gaining the ability to connect CTV to other channels for more cohesive insights across an omnichannel campaign.

Bidding on the future

While PG deals were born as a digitized, automated extension of the insertion order — or the way TV spots were traditionally bought and reserved — and thus have been seen as an easy entryway into programmatic, they don’t deliver on CTV’s promise the way that decisioned buys do.

“A buyer trades data-driven decisioning capabilities and bringing their own data for more secure planning and lower prices [through PG deals],” Sven Hagemeier, lead Sr. director of inventory development at The Trade Desk, said in a recent article on The Current. “But in a biddable environment, you can bring your own data and get more value out of it.”

As CTV ad buying functions around different types of buys, from direct buys to PG deals to ones done through real time bidding, Larkman believes PG deals will likely merge more with those done through a private marketplace (PMP).

And with more ad inventory coming to streaming overall, as we’ve seen through the proliferation of streaming plans with ads over the last year plus, live sports also stands out as a place where biddable inventory has skyrocketed.

Old Navy recently leveraged the power of live sports as it evolved its TV buying strategy. Working with its media agency PHD, Old Navy saw big results after opting to move more money from traditional TV into PMPs.

The clothing brand found 1.2 million extra households by advertising during NFL, college football and NBA games when those deals were fully decisioned. That’s not all though – Old Navy also saved 70 percent on costs per unique household.

This cost savings came after Old Navy and PHD were able to see there was a big overlap in the audiences it was reaching across multiple platforms. Once they zoomed out and had a fuller picture of the audience Old Navy was reaching, the clothing brand became more efficient using real-time bidding by targeting unique audiences at a better price point.

Upping the upfronts process

Old Navy’s director of media strategy and investment, Bette Kestin, says the success of this campaign led the brand to challenge the way it approaches the upfronts.

This comes as there is a push to make the upfronts more programmatic-friendly. Disney’s president of global advertising, Rita Ferro, has said the media giant is on its way to fulfilling its goal to deliver 50 percent of its ad spend through automation by the end of 2024.

Disney is emphasizing programmatic buys in its upfronts strategy as part of that goal, which Andrea Kwiatek, Goodway Group’s director of partnerships, recently told The Current is “a huge win in my book because it was like you were incentivizing inefficiency for doing direct versus efficiency doing biddable [previously].”

That efficiency Kwiatek describes fits in with the highly customizable way marketers can set up their campaigns to reach their most desired audiences they want to reach. And for Larkman, finding those right potential consumers pays for itself in terms of value.

“In a bidding system, companies like Keynes would be willing to pay more for that user if we know that they are a high intent user, than I would [for] just a blanket ‘I want to reach 18-to-34-year olds’ [via] a programmatic guarantee.” he says.

The Current is owned and operated by The Trade Desk, Inc.