Procter & Gamble (P&G) has sent out a shot across the media industry’s bows by bypassing its TV agency Mediacom in an IP-delivered TV campaign for Gillette. Instead, P&G has worked with pilot, a Hamburg-based digital agency, to run the campaign on Sport1. The technology for the campaign was provided by smartclip, a video ad technology platform, who ran a ‘splitscreen’ campaign which was made possible by the German market’s adoption of the HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) standard*.
P&G made no secret of the fact they’re sending out a message to the market in an attempt to accelerate the shift towards programmatic TV. It’s highly unusual for a brand advertiser to publicly discuss the B2B technology behind individual advertising campaigns, but in this instance P&G went to the trouble of issuing a press release. The message is clear: not only are P&G are upping the ante on the move to programmatic TV, but if necessary they are willing to sideline the large agency groups and even the leading broadcasters to get there.
P&G have made seeking to take more control of their digital media buying for years now, mainly via their relationship with AudienceScience and their own in-house ‘Hawkeye’ technology. The company reportedly aims to buy 70 percent of its digital media programmatically this year.
Sabre-Rattling or a Changing of the Guard?
While this move could be interpreted as sabre-rattling on P&G’s part, it is nonetheless a major statement of intent from the world’s largest advertiser – last year P&G’s global advertising budget was $9.3 billion. But the company’s heft isn’t the only reason the industry will sit up and take notice. While it’s important not to read too much into a single campaign, one can’t help but notice how it fulfills a number of the predictions made about the impact of programmatic TV advertising.
Firstly, we have a major brand seeking a more direct and accountable relationship with the TV industry. ‘More direct’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘in-house’, and often still involves an agency of some description, albeit in a slightly reduced capacity. In these instances the ad technology company’s role grows in importance as the advertiser seeks more control over data and more transparency on pricing. It’s interesting that in P&G’s case, they chose to work with Pilot and not Mediacom, hinting at the possibility of a changing of the guard when it comes to TV ad buying.
Things could get shaken up on the supply-side too. For years now smaller broadcasters have lost out as a result of the panel-based measurement methodologies used to measure television (run by BARB in the UK, GfK in Germany, and Nielsen in the US). Sometimes their small audiences don’t feature in the ratings at all, so smaller TV companies stand to benefit from a more accurate impression-based model.
It seems likely that programmatic TV will play out differently how it did with online media. ‘Long tail’ TV inventory is more premium and more brand-safe than its digital equivalent, so many brands will be happy to buy aggregated audiences, especially if they can use apply data and deduplicate the households they’re hitting. While there’s a chance that more advertisers will start buying on TV and ‘grow the pie’ for everyone, there’s also a chance the revenue redirected to smaller broadcasters will come out of the budgets currently going to the TV heavyweights.
While technically speaking this first campaign isn’t quite programmatic, in the sense that it wasn’t an automated buy and there’s no suggestion of data being used, it represents a major step towards IP-delivered programmatic TV advertising.
Getting to that point in European markets is made easier by the adoption of the HbbTV standard, which is currently used in numerous markets, most notably in Germany, France, Spain, Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands. Russia and China have also announced trials. HbbTV combines both a broadcast and online sources, so a hybrid IPTV set-top box will have connectors for both the Internet (i.e. an ethernet) and a tuner for broadcast signals, whether they’re from terrestrial TV, cable or satellite.
In the Gillette campaign, a ‘splitscreen’ ad was used. So when users tune into Sport1, the first thing they would see is part of the screen covered with an interactive Gillette ad, while the content would be temporarily reduced in size but fully visible throughout. However, there no technical barriers to running an IP-delivered ad that takes over the full screen. Opening up that supply to programmatic demand is simply a question of connecting the pipes.