For most marketers, programmatic ad buying is a relatively new advertising method. The idea of going out and bidding on targeted ad slots in real-time is tempting, but it’s not one every marketer is rushing to try.

But there’s a new group of advertisers that is giving programmatic a chance, and it’s not the advertisers you might expect. These aren’t big-budget marketing brands with the resources to experiment with something new – instead, they’re local lawyers, hospitals and so on, and they’re attracted to programmatic for much the same reasons as their larger counterparts.

These businesses are working with ExtendTV Inc., a startup that is trying to bring programmatic ad buying to smaller, localized markets. In April, the company launched its programmatic advertising platform in beta, putting local TV stations into the roles of publishers, and encouraging small businesses to be the advertisers.

With its platform now generally available, ExtendTV has now pushed into 10 different markets across the U.S. It’s also connected to 10 different ad exchanges, including ones run by Google, Twitter, and Facebook. While the company doesn’t currently have any plans to come to Canada, CEO Mark Goldman says the company will consider it in the future, as there’s no tech-related reason it can’t.

“Programmatic buying, in many respects, is more important for local businesses than it is for national businesses. A Proctor and Gamble, or a Coke, can go to individual publishers and buy impressions on an individual publisher basis and get to the audience they’re trying to reach. But if you’re a local advertiser, you can’t do that,” Goldman says.

“Unlike the bigger programmatic platforms that have been built, that really look for audiences on a nation-wide basis, and are targeting bigger audiences, much bigger budgets … our platform is to built to handle the smaller budgets of local advertisers, and also to find very targeted audiences in defined geographies.”

He adds that ExtendTV has also developed a platform that can quickly drill down into data, reaching smaller numbers of people in a local area. That can actually be trickier than trying to reach a large-scale audience, as the targeting has to be very accurate.

The company will target people based on their demographics – for example, gender, age, income, and so on. But to narrow down the people it wants to reach, it also does a lot of contextual targeting. For example, some of its customers have included Subaru dealerships, which happen to be popular with pet owners. So ExtendTV has found websites and mobile sites that are popular among pet owners, getting their messages in front of them in those places.

“We’ve built in a way where we can look at a lot of different data sources quickly … and now, by doing that, we’ve started to understand the viewing patterns of a lot of different markets we’re in,” Goldman says. “The more we run campaigns in a market, the more we watch about who’s watching what videos in a market.”

Aside from the challenges of local, contextual targeting, there’s the difficult feat of trying to explain how programmatic works. Goldman spends a lot of his time travelling to different towns in the U.S. Joined by a sales rep from the town’s local TV station, they’ll visit local businesses and ask them to consider giving programmatic a shot.

However, Goldman says he prefers to avoid getting into the weeds with technical details – instead, he explains the value of targeting through programmatic and digital.

“It’s very clear the pie is growing. People are also watching on their PCs, they’re watching on their mobile devices,” he says. “And so if you’re an advertiser, and you want to speak to your potential customers, and you’re only doing that through TV or cable, you’re missing a lot of the place where they’re watching videos. This just has to be a part of the advertising mix.”

So far, ExtendTV has raised $2.5 million in funding, with a team of nine employees based in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.

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