AT&T, with Videology, to Sell Programmatic Ads on Linear TV

AT&T has partnered with ad technology company Videology to introduce a “private marketplace” for a handful of select advertisers, who will be able to buy linear TV ads reaching 26 million households. Beginning in Q3, advertisers can use their own data and data from third parties to reach targeted audiences on cable networks on AT&T’s U-verse service or DirecTV, which AT&T acquired last year for $49 billion. Advertisers will be able to purchase ads via a self-serve website, although the back-end will operate manually.

The Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T AdWorks executive Jason Brown says the new programmatic ads will make it more likely that advertisers will reach specific target audiences. In the next few months, AT&T will run a beta test with one advertiser. Programmatic TV, which makes TV advertising function more like digital advertising, has been much discussed but rarely implemented until recently. Last week, NBCUniversal said it would sell some national TV ads via data and automated tools.

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Even so, this version of programmatic ads on linear TV doesn’t operate exactly like its digital sibling, notes WSJ. “Unlike many digital ads, which are delivered to people in milliseconds and targeted to them based on their Web surfing history, the AT&T TV ads will still be placed within shows ahead of time, and advertisers will need to book ad space in advance.”

Transparency is a key factor behind the move to this type of advertising. “What we’ve heard in the marketplace [regarding other programmatic TV offerings] is that you don’t know where your ads are going to run and there is limited access to quality ad inventory,” Brown said. “This solves for both of these things.”

Brown also revealed that AT&T “will explore” programmatic advertising for its offerings to mobile consumers, including DirecTV subscriptions and a standalone streaming service.

But all eyes are now on national advertisers moving to a digital model. “What is unique about this is that we’re talking about premium, reserved, upfront and scatter-based TV ad inventory,” said Videology chief executive Scott Ferber. “That’s very different than what’s been available historically. This is aimed at 99 percent of the ad money that is out there.”