Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris
Bob D'Amico / ABC

Exclusive: First Oscar Spots Bought Via Programmatic

Agency DigitasLBi makes buy in nine markets during awards show

And the Oscar for programmatic buying goes to ad agency DigitasLBi, which for the first time used software to purchase ads in the Academy Awards broadcast.

Acting on behalf of a client that asked not to be identified publicly, DigitasLBi bought local TV spots in nine markets through the programmatic partnership between media software companies TubeMogul and WideOrbit.

The Oscar buy follows a Super Bowl ad bought programmatically by Mondelez for its Oreos and Ritz brands in the Erie, Pa., market, and illustrates that programmatic buying is steadily spreading from the digital realm to the TV universe.

Programmatic buying automates the sales process and uses big data to identify advertising inventory that closely matches a marketer’s target audience.

“We wanted to really get in the marketplace with programmatic television,” says Scott Marsden, senior VP media at DigitasLBi. “Obviously we know that there is going to be more and more availability of inventory there and we want to develop the expertise as quickly and possible.”

Convincing the client to jump in was relatively easy, Marsden says. “They’re eager to learn and push in this direction for every channel that is moving to programmatic.”

Keith Eadie, chief marketing officer of TubeMogul, says when the Oscar spots became available, a significant number of brands and agencies were interested. The list was narrowed to those that were willing to execute the buy programmatically, he adds. The list was cut down to one because “the markets and the audience profile of the Oscars fit their needs relative to the rest of their marketing campaign very well.”

The price was not set by auction, but the eventual buyer was “the most aggressive with respect to testing a new way of acquiring TV inventory, as well as saying this is the perfect audience match for us,” Eadie says.

Among the stations involved in the programmatic buy are WTVM-TV, Columbus, Ga.; KAIT, Jonesboro, Ark.; WALB-D2, Albany Ga.; WLOX, Biloxi, Miss.; KLTV, Tyler-Longview, Texas; KSAT-TV, San Antonio, Texas; WDAM,-TV, Hattiesburg, Miss. and WENY-TV, Elmira, N.Y.

DigitasLBi expects its client to get better feedback on its programmatic buy than TV usually provides. “We’re hoping to get not just standard TV delivery data, but we’re hoping to be able to plug it into the data base that’s connected to TubeMogul and see what insights we can glean in the marketplace and add some context to our television buys,” Marsden says.

DigitasLBi is a digital agency, so buying TV isn’t one of its regular activities.

“As a digital agency, we are the experts in programmatic and we hope to continue to push that capability beyond just digital screens,” Marsden says. “The reality is the whole marketplace is going to move there at some point. Time Inc. just offered to sell print in programmatic buys. So any and all opportunities where we’re able to elevate or client and push them forward we will tackle and take on.”