The Journey of Programmatic TV: Interview with Sean Galligan, Publica


In association with Publica.

In this exclusive interview ahead of ATS London 2022, Sean Galligan, chief revenue officer of Publica, outlines how programmatic television is evolving, how key challenges within the channel can be resolved, and the role of context in CTV.

What challenges exist today for streaming publishers, and how can these be resolved moving forward?

Streaming publishers have historically faced a number of challenges, be it around ad pod construction right through to frequency management within their ad breaks. However, the IAB Tech Lab recently published OpenRTB 2.6 and there are a number of great updates in this spec designed to improve how programmatic connected TV inventory is transacted.

One of the main updates we are excited about at Publica and proactively helped to develop within oRTB 2.6 is a feature called pod bidding. Pod bidding allows advertisers to target various positions within a publisher's ad pod, which enables publishers to provide the buy side with the targeting controls they need to increase their advertising investments in addressable TV environments. This in turn makes our publisher partner’s inventory more valuable to buyers.

We are also starting to see the scaled adoption of server side ad insertion (SSAI) technology by leading streaming publishers and smart TV manufactures to improve how their ad breaks work.

This increasing adoption of SSAI means more publishers than ever before can now deliver a seamless stream of content and advertising to their viewers, all while offering their advertisers increased controls around frequency and competitive ad separation, controls that have been available to them for a number of years in their traditional TV ad buys.

The implications of not adopting SSAI aren't just about a poor commercial break or ad experience. A bad ad experience reflects poorly on the advertiser and highlights for the consumer that CTV isn't as good of an experience as linear. A better ad experience reflects positively on the publisher and increases the value of their inventory, as the viewers are more likely to be engaged.

Where are we on the programmatic TV journey today? How is the industry set to evolve moving forward?

The TV industry is going through a seismic change at the moment. We haven't seen a shift like this since mobile disrupted the desktop. CTV ad spend increased 57% in 2021 to USD$15.2bn (£12.3bn) and is expected to grow an additional 39% in 2022 to USD$21.2bn (£17.2bn). Between 2020 and 2022, CTV ad spend is projected to more than double (+118%) and three out of four video buyers (76%) now label CTV as a ‘must buy’ in their media planning budgets according to the latest IAB data.

With this forecasted increase in ad budgets, streaming publishers need to be able to provide advertisers with the ad break controls they are used to in traditional TV, but with all of the contextual insights, targeting and transparency they have come to expect within their digital ad buys.

Television is evolving quicker than ever before and at Publica, we help our publishers to navigate areas such as ad break construction, frequency management, data enablement and the complexities of the programmatic ecosystem via a unified auction that empowers publishers to see holistically across all of their demand partners, and extract real time bid data that can be used to inform their CTV yield strategies.

What role can context play in CTV advertising?

Sean Galligan

Sean Galligan, CRO, Public

The role of ‘context’ in CTV advertising is an extremely important one. However, up until recently it has been pretty hard to do (properly).

In traditional TV advertising, it has been very easy for the network or broadcasters to communicate to the advertiser exactly what the show name is, the genre of the show, the rating, on what channel it would be delivered, etc, all information that is ordinarily visible within the electronic programming guide also (EPG).

Up until recently, it has not been that easy to pass granular meta data in CTV bid requests to illustrate the types of show-level information traditional TV ad buyers have been used to receiving. However, within oRTB 2.6, there are new ‘object’ fields where these data points can now be passed by publishers to their programmatic demand partners and this makes it much easier for CTV ad buyers to understand exactly where their ads will appear and alongside what type of content. This enables advertisers to better understand the context of their CTV ad buys and can drastically improve their ROI and business outcomes.

This full disclosure of content is the direction that we need to head as an industry if we want to enable streaming publishers to grow their share of global ad budgets. At Publica, we’re making a commitment to bring linear-TV-level insights to CTV and the recent launch of our Contextual Segment Manager is a big first step on that journey. We would recommend all publishers to explore the passing of video level contextual insights if they are looking to increase their ad break yield and demand.

At an industry level, when we talk about contextual suitability in video formats, this includes classification whether a video frame is related to violence or a festive celebration, for example. Additionally, using optical character recognition (OCR) to extract text from video and determine if it is a brand safe or contextually relevant environment.

What excites you most about the growing CTV ad market in 2022?

I genuinely believe the golden age of TV is ahead of us and not behind us! There has never been a better time to be a CTV/TV viewer. We have seemingly endless options of high quality content, and the rise of lower cost and ad supported streaming services now means great content is available to all and not just those that can afford to pay monthly subscriptions.

Data and programmatic technology is increasingly democratizing TV advertising and enabling social, DTC, and digital advertisers to get their ads on the biggest screen in the household for the very first time.

I am excited to see the continued innovation taking place in the TV industry around measurement as we migrate from a panel to an impression based holistic methodology that will enable even more traditional TV ad buyers to transition their ad budgets to where their audiences are now increasingly spending their time, on affordable and ad supported streaming services!

Why did you decide to join Publica, and how is the company set to address the challenges raised above?

Very few technology companies in the CTV sector have the capability to be truly demand agnostic, publisher centric and in the advantageous position to have been built entirely from the ground up around CTV. The team at Publica has further capitalized on this position by listening to their customers' needs and driving innovation with impressive speed - this is why I am so excited to be part of the Publica team.

Publica has been instrumental in helping the IAB Tech Lab to build out the key protocols currently shaping the future of addressable TV, such as OpenRTB 2.6 and ads.cert 2.0, and I believe we are now uniquely positioned to help TV manufacturers and streaming services build the ad breaks that programmatic ad buyers will want to target, all while delivering a better consumer experience for their end viewers.

I am excited to be joining Publica at a key stage of growth and am looking forward to scaling up globally at what is already one of the most respected commercial teams in the CTV AdTech industry.