In some circles, programmatic ad buying has earned a bad rap.

Among some digital marketers, the practice of bidding on ad inventory in real-time to reach specific, targeted audiences, has become something to be wary about. That’s especially true for marketers who worry about accidentally buying fake inventory from questionable ad exchanges or publishers.

But among the speakers at the BrightRoll Video Summit in Toronto on Wednesday, the message was that programmatic doesn’t mean marketers are scraping up ads from the bottom of the barrel. Instead, programmatic can come in handy to reach audiences that are consuming more digital video alongside watching broadcast TV.

“TV is still the first dollar spent,” said Jeff Thibodeau, senior vice-president of digital media at SMG Canada. However, in his presentation at the video summit, he said there are a lot of reasons to consider programmatic ad buying – like the ability to measure every impression, the power to optimize, and the opportunity to delve into the data it can generate.

Canadian consumers are known as some of the most voracious consumers of digital video in the world. On average, Canadians spend almost 2,500 minutes a week watching digital video – more than twice the amount of time they spend with radio or audio, and substantially more than the time they spend with both print and digital newspapers, social media, and digital gaming, said Chris Williams, president of IAB Canada.

Then there’s mobile video, which is also driving more video consumption among consumers, said Thomas Eaton, vice-president of platforms at Nielsen. During his presentation at the video summit, he showed how using programmatic ad buying can also cut down on buying ad inventory manually, as the method relies on automation.

And given that ad inventory during TV’s primetime spots is both expensive and in limited supply, everyone involved in the digital advertising space is increasingly eyeing programmatic ad buying for digital video as a way of reaching their audiences.

Among publishers, this has certainly been the case. Rebecca Shropshire, CBC’s director of digital commercial innovation, said programmatic ad buying has helped the CBC manage its growing number of customers.

“If the industry was ready for it, I would move all our inventory into programmatic tomorrow,” she said.

Still, just because audiences are more interested in digital video, doesn’t mean they’ll be abandoning their TVs any time soon, Eaton said. “Cord-cutting,” the idea that consumers are cancelling their cable subscriptions and hopping onto the Internet to watch their favourite shows, has been pretty overblown. People are still watching TV, but mobile is yet another option and marketers can invest in both, he added.

Eaton said right now, it’s worth experimenting with advertising on mobile video as it’s still comparatively inexpensive. Mobile is underappreciated and people don’t recognize its true worth, though that may not hold true in five to 10 years, he said.

“Today, if you want to go after better reach, smooth out that frequency, and reach viewers who are not being reached or are underexposed on television and save some bucks … this is a pretty good option to look at,” he said.

For marketers and agencies who are considering trying programmatic ad buying, Thibodeau recommends they take some time to figure out their goals. At SMG Canada, he’s focused on measurement, and he feels BrightRoll provides that “in spades.”

But for other clients, their biggest consideration might be pricing, or reaching the right demographic – for example, a luxury car company might want to appear alongside other premium brands. Whatever their needs, they need to figure that out before jumping into programmatic, he said.

Still, Shropshire said she believes it’s worth trying programmatic ad buying, especially for those who haven’t waded in before.

“If all you think about is what you might lose, you will be too late to the party,” she said. “Keep iterating, be nimble and agile … [or] you’ll never be able to test and learn.”

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