NEW YORK: Interpublic, the agency holding company, has teamed up with broadcasters to develop an automated TV ad buying system that could be operational within six months.

"There is so much intelligence and data out there, we have to capitalise on that and it cannot be restricted to digital media," Matt Seiler, chief executive of IPG Mediabrands, the Interpublic division building the system, told the Wall Street Journal.

"Digital has paved the way for the reinvention of the rest of the media," he added.

A&E Networks, Clear Channel, Tribune Co. and Cablevision Systems are among the TV and radio companies working with the agency in the creation of the system. Mel Berning, president of ad sales at A&E Networks, said it would put traditional media companies "on a level playing field" with digital media outlets.

Tad Smith, Cablevision's president of local media, described the existing process of buying TV ads as "truly brutal". It was, he said, "labour intensive, very complicated, expensive, and challenging and not very user friendly".

The new system will enable a media buyer to see the available inventory at each TV or radio outlet and to choose ad placements based on data that the ad buyer has on its customers and their media habits. Unlike automated buying systems for online display ads, the TV system will not use an auction format and media companies will continue to control how much their ads sell for.

"If you have the right targeting and the right data then I think you can drive yield and this doesn't have to be a race to the bottom," observed Tim Castelli, president of national sales and marketing at Clear Channel Media and Entertainment.

There was optimism about the level of targeting that would be possible. "We can go from buying TV ads that reach women 18 to 49 to buying ads that reach women who buy makeup from a particular cosmetics company," said Kristi Argyilan, president of Magna Global's North America business, a division of Interpublic.

Seiler indicated that at least half of IPG's clients would buy ads of this kind in an automated fashion by 2016.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff