Insights

1,591,000 Reasons Why Greater Automation Is Good for TV Buyers

Joy Baer General Manager, FreeWheel Advertisers

According to a recent survey by Advertiser Perceptions (Jan, 2019), TV buyers say they spend 8.5 hours each week on tasks that they wish were more automated. This means that TV buyers spend 26,000 minutes each year, or 1,591,000 seconds, poring over Excel sheets, inputting data, scouring log sheets, and doing other general “busy work.” This time drain is especially onerous for agencies buying local broadcast, which is more complex and labor-intensive. In fact, in that same survey, over 70% of advertisers and agencies agreed that automation is important for Local TV planning and buying.

It might surprise some that TV buyers are not just receptive to automation, but wishing for it. If you are not intimately involved with media planning and buying, you might think that automation has already taken over much of the process. There is a false narrative circulating that suggests advertising automation has reduced TV buying decisions to algorithms, reducing the need for the human touch (or eliminating us all together).

The truth is, TV buying, especially at the local level, is still a highly manual process.

According to the aforementioned study, advertisers and agencies estimate that only about 25% of TV planning and buying processes are automated. This is in sharp contrast to the world of digital media, which, by its nature, is well-suited to automated technologies, giving digital media a natural advantage in a fragmenting media world.  We need to close this gap.

Why is it taking so long to bring automation to the basics of TV planning and buying?

Perhaps because it’s human nature to focus on the shiny new object.  For TV advertising, data-enablement, addressability and programmatic buying are understandably pretty shiny!  And all of these new capabilities require a sizable degree of automation that has captivated our best engineering minds.  But in reality, these new capabilities—as important as they may be—currently make up only a small piece of TV buying.

The industry has been talking about the problem of manual, labor-intensive Local TV buying processes for over 25 years: I know because I’ve been there!

It’s time to make a change. 

The world is moving too quickly for TV buyers to be shackled with the burden of calculating ratings estimates in Excel, emailing schedules and change orders, manually forecasting optimal schedule delivery, and similar tasks that take tremendous manpower.

The New TV landscape, as outlined by our sister company Comcast Spotlight, has been transformed by a proliferation of content, access and data. In order to get the most from linear TV, as well as benefit from the complementary forms of TV, including OTT, VOD and streaming, we need to automate the rote processes that can eat up a Local TV buyer’s day and give them back more time to strategize, learn and test new distribution channels within their markets. With the transformation of TV, we need to free buyers’ time to focus on strategy, define new rules, and drive meaningful results for their clients.

As a product person first, and a business leader second, I am constantly looking for ways to improve software to allow media buyers to work smarter.  So while it’s tempting to focus on the new things, it’s essential that we also focus on the bigthings. And I hope you’ll agree—one million five hundred ninety-one thousand seconds of wasted productivity each year is a pretty big thing!

Automation is a requirement to fully compete in this new world.  Done right, it won’t replace humans. It will make us all smarter.