Smartclip Enables Programmatic Ad Replacement on Linear TV Ad Breaks

Tim Cross 04 April, 2023 

Smartclip, RTL Group’s ad tech unit, announced this morning that it has enabled programmatic trading of ad inventory on linear TV, via its HbbTV-enabled ad replacement tools. The technology, initially available in Germany but planned for release in more markets throughout the year, will allow broadcasters to sell ad inventory through programmatic pipelines, and advertisers to buy ad space via their demand-side platforms (DSPs).

Smartclip says that the new feature can replace single spots or an entire ad break within a linear feed. Buyers can book ads in any position within the linear ad break, and can also run a “pre-roll like formats” before a TV show starts. Campaigns can be targeted down to the household level according to Smartclip, using TV viewing data.

HbbTV-powered addressable TV advertising has been growing steadily in Europe over recent years, evolving from early ‘L-frame’ formats (which sat around the edge of the regular linear TV feed) into full-blown ad replacement (where audiences see HbbTV-delivered target ads during ad breaks in place of whichever ads are broadcast over the linear feed). And some of this inventory is already traded programmatically: RTL Deutschland and ProSiebenSat.1’s ‘dforce’ joint venture started selling ad replacement spots programmatically back in 2021 via its Active Agent booking platform. And indeed the first trial sales through Smartclip’s new offering have been carried out through dforce.

But Smartclip’s release will open up addressable TV inventory to the wider programmatic ecosystem. Smartclip says the technical implementation follows IAB guidelines to provide easy access for DSPs, meaning advertisers will be able to buy through their existing programmatic partners.

Programmatic TV taking off in Germany

Thomas Servatius, CEO of Smartclip, says programmatic ad replacement “is the next big opportunity in TV advertising, and will transform how linear TV ads are bought and sold”.

“TV advertising has adapted to digitisation and increasing competition for viewers’ attention across devices and platforms,” he said. “While we have made significant progress in connected TV advertising and addressable TV solutions with regards to special placements within broadcast TV, the traditional ad break was largely untouched. Digitising this last frontier of TV advertising, while broadcasters retain control over their ad inventory and usage data, opens up new opportunities to monetise the most consumed video medium in Europe.”

Indeed, the impact of the new technology will likely depend in large part on the broadcasters themselves, as they decide how much inventory to make available for programmatic ad replacement. Targeted TV advertising offers up now commercial opportunities for broadcasters and can bring new types of brands onto TV – but ad replacement compromises TV’s mass reach proposition.

Regardless of the growth of ad replacement, the integration of programmatic trading tools into linear TV seems to be taking off in Germany. Smartclip’s release follows a similar move from German broadcaster ProSieben, which last year started selling non-addressable linear TV ads programmatically.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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