MIAMI – Trying to “retrofit” television into digital is harmful because it devalues advertising inventory, according to the CEO of Cadent. Since the company’s rebranding a few years ago from TelAmerica, focusing on value along with direct-selling has helped to upend its customer base from overwhelmingly direct-response TV advertisers to mostly national brands, says Nick Troiano.

Troiano shared these and other observations during a panel discussion at the recent Retreat 2016.

“We in this space do a disservice to ourselves when we try to apply digital to television,” says Troiano. “We should define come up with our own definition and terms and not try to retrofit television into digital, because it really does a disservice to everything we’re doing.”

Automation and technology are two elements to “making things easy to buy,” according to Troiano, but there’s also an oft forgotten component.

“There’s a people side to this business,” says Troiano. “We’re unearthing local inventory and aggregating it up for a national buy. There’s education, there’s communication, there’s information.”

And then there is transparency into advertising inventory.

“The problem we have is, if you just put everything into a technology discussion and you co-mingle it with digital, you lose the value of the inventory. You lose the actual discussion,” says Troiano.

“Let’s stop talking about automation ands programmatic and talk about what is value and how do we actually help the industry move forward in terms of transparency,” he adds. “What are people buying? What’s the inventory? What’s the value.”

Lastly, there’s scale, without which Troiano says it’s not worth all the effort. He points to Cadent’s direct-sell approach as a key underpinning of the company’s progress since the TelAmerica days.

Back then, 85% of its advertisers back then were direct response, while about 10% to 15% were brand marketers. Today, it’s about 90% national advertisers and 10% direct response.

“It’s because the team has communicated and educated national television buyers of the value of local inventory aggregated up,” says Troiano. “And that would never have happened if all I did was slap a screen in front of them and said you can actually aggregate this just like you do digital.”

This interview was conducted at Beet Retreat 2016: The Transformation of Television Advertising, an executive retreat presented by Videology with AT&T AdWorks and the 605. Please find more videos from the event here.