FAST Men: The Evolution Of TV Ad Buying

FAST Men: The Evolution Of TV Ad Buying, past and present.

New York City, 1996

In a dimly lit room, thick with cigarette smoke, TV ad buyers leaned back in leather chairs, a tumbler of bourbon in one hand and a cigar in the other. They were salesmen, titans of television advertising, navigating the booming industry during its heyday. The clinking of ice cubes and the hum of conversations filled the air as they effortlessly closed deals, charming clients with style and confidence.

These were smooth-talking maestros who could “sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.” TV was still growing +12% YoY, and the commercials seemed to literally sell themselves. I mean, come on. The top TV ad of 1996 was this amazing Nissan spot featuring Barbie, Ken, G.I. Joe and Van Halen.

Life was good as a TV salesman. Your job was clear. Sell products on premium channels with great creative. 

Present Day, 2023

Instead of 90s TV, growing at +12% YoY, the new hotness is AVOD and FAST channels. Linear Television ad spend in the U.S. is forecasted to shrink -8% YoY while CTV will grow +21% in 2023. Before the decade is over, CTV is likely to surpass TV as the dominant advertising medium. 

The 90s TV salesman would love this, right? Sadly, no. With streaming TV over the internet, came the complicated world of ad tech. Now that salesman would need degrees in statistics, data science, and software engineering. I dare you to name anything more complex than ad tech. Quantum Physics? Nuclear Fission? Child’s play compared to all of the companies involved with buying advertising on CTV. 

And it doesn’t stop. Now there’s this artificial intelligence elephant in the room. And no one wants to discuss whether or not that means no one is at the wheel. Trust your instincts. Earlier this year, Meta’s AI-powered ad-buying tool bugged out, costing advertisers tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. Advertisers that spend tens of millions of dollars per year on Meta couldn’t contact a human account rep for days, while the automated system failed to fix anything.

Google is facing similar scrutiny over claims it misled advertisers about where it places video ads. Research from the analytics company Adalytics suggests that Google “may have cost media buyers up to billions of digital ad dollars” by putting ads on sites in ways that violate Google’s own standards.

How did this happen? You guessed it. “As of 2021, new Video action campaigns that you create in Google Ads use Google video partners automatically…To ensure you achieve the best performance across all Google networks, you won’t be able to opt out of Google video partners for Video action campaigns.” Automation strikes again. 

It makes me wonder if we created an ad tech monster, where we spend all of our time automating everything instead of ensuring ads are delivered to eyeballs.

How To Deliver On The Promise Of Streaming TV

The hazy Mad Men days are over, but we don’t have to live in an AI-fueled dystopia either. It’s easy to tame the streaming TV chaos by going back to the basics, while also deploying the full power of programmatic where it’s most effective. If you are an ad tech provider, you want to be the partner that geeks out on the power, but never loses sight of the point.

Let me tell you what you already know: ad tech is hard. A recent story about the demand side platform (DSP) MediaMath’s bankruptcy made a great point about the importance of the people behind ad tech: 

One of the uncomfortable truths about programmatic tech is that the tech is practically a commodity. Programmatic businesses are built on humans with intimate knowledge of how programmatic tech works and people who know how to service accounts and the needs of different verticals. Which is a long way to say that programmatic tech is often more about the people behind the machine than the machine itself.

This is where ad tech can thrive. Because stories of past glory days aside, who really wants to sit in a smoke-filled room?

Rather than old school Mad Men, today’s ad tech providers need to be “FAST Men” (and women): skilled cowboys who help ad buyers navigate the wild west of the emerging streaming TV landscape. Be proud of your tech. But be focused on building the New TV: something that looks and feels like the old school television everyone wants, only better. 

That means you have one priority: making it easy for your clients to get their message in front of the right audience as simply and efficiently as possible.

News Source: TVREV (Jonathan Moffie)

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