Addressable TV: A Primer Written in Plain English

It’s Cannes Lions season yet again, which reminds me of two videos on the subject of Addressable TV from Cannes 2015 that I haven’t been able to get out of my head — and not just because I’m permanently scarred by the image of a bunch of senior ad execs in plaid shorts and striped polos.

After years of hype, we’re beginning to get the sense at BBDO that infrastructure is finally at the point where addressable TV can start to scale up. And this has some really interesting implications for brands — whether they traditionally advertise on TV or not.

If you’re a marketer and you feel like you’re in the dark about what the hell ‘Addressable TV’ even is, you’re not alone.

Media owners and agencies have been floating the terms “Programmatic TV” and “Addressable TV” — sometimes calling them Programmatic Linear or Addressable Linear — without a standardized definition of what they mean. So let’s define them:

Linear TV:

It’s just regular, old-fashioned TV. Nothing fancy about it. You turn on your TV and start watching. It’s not On-Demand, it’s not streaming. It’s not digital. Why call it Linear TV at all? It’s the same reason we all started calling house phones “landlines” after we all got cell phones. The way agencies buy Linear TV hasn’t changed in over 70 years and is based on Age and Gender only (Men 25–54. Women 18–49, etc.)

Addressable TV:

This is how you know you’re targeting down to the household level. Addressable means you’re actually serving different ads to different households all watching the same thing. Not to be confused with Audience Addressable which, unfortunately, is something else.

Audience Addressable TV:

Audience Addressable allows media buyers to go beyond standard age/gender. So you can create a target that looks like: Men 25–34, $75k+ HHI, in-market for luxury automotive, and an interest in bird watching. You would buy spots in programming that overindexes against your target audience. But it is not 1 to 1 targeting: viewers outside the target audience will still see your spot

Programmatic TV:

A catch-all term for the new ways to buy TV. I can feel your eyes glazing over already — bear with me. The phrase Programmatic TV right now means nothing because it means everything. It can mean Addressable TV, but it also could mean Audience Addressable, or Video-on-Demand, or sometimes Online Video. And some day soon it could also mean Real Time Bidding on TV (but that capability doesn’t exist today in any meaningful way). The point is: Always ask, there’s a lot of ambiguity around this term.

To learn more about the mechanics of Programmatic TV from a media buying/planning perspective, I recommend checking out this blog post from some smart people at BrightRoll.

Ok great, we should all be on the same page when talking with clients, partner agencies, and media partners on Addressable TV.

So… What do Creative Comms Planners need to know?

I’m confident that you’re now confident to speak intelligently about Addressable TV. Go forth!