This edition of Real-Time Banter features a conversation about Programmatic TV with Joshua Summers, Founder and CEO of clypd. Joshua was interviewed by Jennifer Lum, Chief Strategy Officer for Adelphic.
Jennifer: What is clypd?
Joshua: clypd is a platform aimed at helping TV media owners get the most value they can out of their television inventory. We are focused on delivering software solutions that enable their sales teams to automate the workflow in delivering advertising solutions, but more importantly, to drive the use of advanced data and science into that process. We are operationalizing data sets that enable them to improve the yield of their media and deliver better value back to the brands that are advertising through them.
Can you share the founding story of clypd with us?
My co-founder Doug Hurd and I have been working together for about nine years now. Our last gig was at a company called WHERE. WHERE was a platform in location-based advertising and services. We built up a pretty decent business and ultimately sold that business to PayPal back in 2011. It was a fun ride and it really taught us about the need to sometimes pivot to find the right market fit and ultimately, to build a business that was able to produce sizable revenue and find an exit. We went onto PayPal and stuck around there for about 18 months while getting our master’s degree in online and mobile payments.
Then one day, we decided that we wanted to do it all over again. So over a couple beers up in Ogunquit, we decided there was an opportunity to leverage some of the advancements that had taken place in the digital advertising world and move them into a market that was ripe for innovation and that had scale beyond anything we’d ever seen (TV), but that also needed technology and data to come in and take it to the next level. That was our birth story: Where could we take some of the understanding we had from our time at WHERE and apply it to the TV marketing opportunity? It took a long time to get from that nugget of a concept to the right product market fit and the right value, but that’s been the fun ride of clypd over the last four years.
What types of companies are leveraging clypd’s platform today?
clypd is pure-play sell-side technology, so we work with the big media owners in television. We focus on linear television, which is the traditional living room experience where you lean back watching live TV or potentially time shifted TV on your television set.
The big media owners really fall under three key categories.
- MVPDs, which are the multichannel video programming distributors made up of the cable operators like Comcast and Cox, satellite companies like Dish and DirecTV, and telcos like AT&T and Verizon Fios.
- The local broadcast and station groups. That’s your local broadcaster in-market, and the station groups are the aggregate of a bunch of local markets under a single holding company.
- The cable networks and national broadcasters. That category includes ESPN, Discovery, Fox Network Group and others. This is where clypd has focused, where we’ve found our beachhead. We focus on national inventory and ultimately delivering value for these types of media owners.
What are the standards that are developing around programmatic TV and are they at all similar to OpenRTB?
When we first started the company, we were very familiar with OpenRTB, coming out of a mobile advertising company. We were hopeful and thought that we could adapt those standards to work in television, which would give us a strong, significant leap forward from where the TV market was. Unfortunately, you can’t take that digital standard and apply it to the linear TV space because everything about linear television is different – the time for delivery, reporting, round-trip delivery of data, the insertion of advertising and the tracking capabilities. Because of all these differences, we needed to start from scratch with redefining how that could work.
We did some early work to develop a spec that we thought might work called “TVonTap.” We released that, working with a number of partners to get to a V1, and we found some early interest. The digital players wanted to participate and be able to help drive it, but it still didn’t have enough industry backing to become a standard. Recently, a group called GABBCON released their own standard called “ABCD,” which, fortunately for us, draws on the TVonTap standard and uses it as a basis for developing a new standard. They’ve got a nice group of participants in the standards body ranging from digital platforms and data platforms, all the way through service providers and into media owners. We are seeing some nice progress there, with the GABBCON ABCD standards, and we’re pretty excited about that.
How has the programmatic TV industry evolved over the past few years? If you think back to when you and Doug were first starting clypd, has your vision remained true? Has the market moved the way you thought it would?
Our vision has remained true in that we believed we could bring value to the media owner, the sell-side of the opportunity, and that we would be pure-play and that we would not rep or arbitrage any inventory. It has also remained true in that those media owners are interested in opportunities to optimize yield and to make more data driven decisions.
Ultimately, I would say the world is vastly different today than it was three or four years ago. When we first started, we found a lot of push back on just the terminology itself. “Programmatic has no place in television.” There were lots of words that we would avoid using in meetings because it would cause different opinions to be raised about challenges.
About 1.5 to 2 years ago, we started to see a pretty impressive shift. People in the industry started having more conversations, they were more open around the need for automation and driving data into the decision process. Over the last year, we’ve seen the big media owners start to reorganize this and drive innovation directly in the space, bringing on Heads of Data-Driven Advertising, Audience-Based Selling or Programmatic TV. They’re really starting to think through the concept of “How do you drive value between linear and digital and back, and how you build linear-driven TV campaigns around more advanced audience-based sales?” This has been a very big shift in the last year, and now it’s a very open discussion. Frankly, we are impressed and excited by how much it’s been a part of the Upfront conversation this year, for the first time. I think it’s been a dramatic movement for the industry over the last three to four years.
Five years from now, will the TV industry still be focused on the Upfronts?
Yes, I think the Upfronts are not a phenomenon that is related to the lack of technology, but a phenomenon related to the way the market is structured. In the digital world, supply is a vast, open space. There is almost an infinite level of supply, and demand is the constrained asset. But in the linear TV world, it’s the opposite. The inventory is constrained in its availability. There is only a certain number of TV networks and a certain number of spots available and it is not growing enough to keep up with the demand. Because of that, the demand almost creates a market in itself.
That’s what the Upfronts are – an opportunity to pre-negotiate and buy in-bulk portions of your media spend over the yearto lock it in and feel comfortable that you’re going to be able to use those dollars. The scatter market complements that with buying throughout the remainder of the year, but the Upfronts are, in my opinion, a product of that scarcity, not because of the lack of technology. I think in five years, the Upfronts will not only still be here, but will have all kinds of new technologies and data strategies that support them.
It’s interesting to think about how inventory being sold at the Upfronts may not be bucketed by show, but may be more focused on audience segments.
It’s certainly a direction we see happening. Now I wouldn’t say we believe all dollars will be sold that way, either. Like any good advertising or marketing plan, you want to spread the way that you’re purchasing your media. That means you could be going after different goals: content, breadth of distribution, more reach, specific audiences or specific targets. A well-rounded media plan will still be a well-rounded media plan five years from now.
There’s been a lot of progress with the industry adopting automation, data, and programmatic technologies. What else is needed in order for programmatic TV to reach meaningful scale?
We are at that point where we are seeing the tip of the iceberg. But there are always things that need to happen for adoption to continue to grow. Moving to more industry standards will absolutely help. Industry standards around how data comes into and leaves the system – both from a segmenting and targeting standpoint and from a reporting and verification standpoint. Being able to reach scale is important on both the buy-side and the sell-side. In the national market, we are seeing great progress. I think we’ll continue to see that progress also in the local broadcast, local station group and MVPD markets. Ultimately standards will help ensure that we don’t have a lot of point solutions or one-offs that create fragmentation of experience.
When we get to a point where everything is truly automated – and I would say we have just started to really see the benefits of automation, but we’ve got a long way to go – it opens up the floodgate to really reach that scale. Automation is more than just connecting to buyers and being able to source demand effectively, it’s connecting all the way through to the delivery systems, traffic and billing systems, into video content delivery systems and ultimately reporting and data systems. There are a lot of disparate technologies using different integration capabilities and different ways of talking to each other and that just takes time for the industry to really connect.
What are some interesting new data sets and measurement solutions that are being applied to programmatic TV?
The TV world is quite different than the digital world. The ability to take a cookie and attach data to that cookie and dress up impressions is not the same. First, we have to talk about two types of data around television. There is currency data and then there is the advanced audience data you can attach to that. The vast majority of everything we see in terms of U.S. currency is Neilsen, which is based off of age and gender.
Once you have that currency set, you have to look at where to go beyond that, and that’s into advanced audiences. There are lots of data sets that have rich, advanced targeting capabilities and are in some ways becoming potentially interesting currencies. Some of the obvious ones that are getting a lot of talk are folks like Rentrak, now part of comScore, and TiVO TRA. There are other data sets that have been fused into primary currencies like a Neilsen, such as MRI Fusion, or NBI, which is credit card data, or Catalina, which is shopper data. clypd takes an agnostic view to the data, on both the currency and on the advanced audience data. We work with whatever our media owner customers and their buying partners want to use. Our job is to apply a gold standard to the way that it is used. clypd’s role is to ensure quality of use in data and how to operationalize it, but not to decide on the currency or the data set itself.
Now the final piece that’s starting to become pretty interesting is where we see digital data sets start to work their way into television. We are at the early days of this, but where it gets exciting is when customers can bring first-party data that they’ve used to deploy campaigns in non-linear digital video and bring those targets into television. I wish that were a straightforward process, but it’s certainly not a process outside our ability to deliver a solution on.
When you think about platforms that are interesting there, you have to think about things like the Oracle data initiatives – the Oracle cloud – and the Neilsen marketing cloud and their eXelate solution, and how they’ve brought data in and ultimately their ability to influence targeting and segmentation through digital data sets into linear TV, which is a very interesting and an emerging opportunity.
Absolutely. They are allowing marketers to get closer to the true cross-device dream.
A final, fun question for you. What was your first mobile phone?
In 1997, I had a Sony Ericsson. I think it was called the D1000. It had a pull up antenna, was about three inches thick by about three inches wide, and probably eight inches long. I would stick it in my pocket and it would stick out so far – it looked absolutely ridiculous. It had a leather wrapper around it. And my first mobile plan was thirty minutes of talk time but I had free incoming first minute so I would have everyone call me and I wouldn’t talk for more than a minute.
You have a great memory.
It was a meaningful phone for me – it was very exciting.
Thank you for speaking with us today Josh!