The trend was already alight – but COVID-19 poured on gasoline. Increasingly, advertisers don’t want to commit to big upfront TV ad buyers – they want to be more responsive than that.

In this video interview with Beet.TV, Michael Levine, Pivotal Research’s senior analyst for internet and media, says demand-side platforms (DSPs), software for buying digital ads, is helping them do that in connected TV environments.

Dialling down

He says the “upfront” TV ad sales practice, through which ad buyers make big annual or seasonal commitments, has been drastically shortened by the shock arrival of COVID-19.

“I can see it through The Trade Desk’s numbers,” Levine says. “Their non-CTV business got hit pretty hard, probably some of the hardest within internet.

“I saw, as COVID was hitting, people were slamming on the brakes to say, ‘I’m just turning the (ad spending) knob down on what I’m doing through programmatic’.”

Levine also expects many advertisers will turn that knob back up as the economy improves.

Downbeat upfronts

A key reason they can do so these days is thanks to the combination of connected TV and programmatic ad buying, which are allowing advertisers to be both more targeted and more agile.

And that is going to change the entire nature of the big upfront TV ad buy.

“We think we the upfront will look different going into ’21,” Levine says. “I can’t envision what the bull case is that you basically are going to make to your CFO, if you’re the CMO of, ‘Hey, we’re going to go and just make a $200 million commitment to CBS’.

“I don’t know how you’re going to go to market in ’22 and be like, ‘Let’s go back to doing business practises that really hadn’t been working for years’.”

DSP enablement

The demand-side platforms (DSPs), plugged into connected TV inventory sources, allow ad buyers to pick and choose their audiences.

“The two behemoths in the space are basically Trade Desk and Google,” Levine says.

“, to me, is one of the more unusual players in the space and that I think they’ve actually continued to do well. Most of the other players I could think of in terms of the private DSPs … in a lot of cases they don’t have the same level of CTV exposure that either Trade Desk or does.

“Switching DSPs can cause difficulty for agencies.”

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