Programmatic Advertising: Marketer Spotlight – Michael Irvine

Programmatic Advertising: Marketer Spotlight – Michael Irvine

Michael Irvine

After 40 years of working at ABC braving the various challenges and changes of the media sales industry, Michael Irvine, the former VP of ABC National TV Sales, decided to retire February of 2014.

Michael is well known for his tenacity, whether working for ABC, Capital Cities, Walt Disney, or any of the other renowned companies that highlighted his illustrious career. He has won numerous awards for his work, most recently, the Silver Award for Excellence in 2004, a Lifetime Achievement Award granted for his work promoting and developing the media industry and his contributions to the community at large.

We grabbed a hold of Michael to hear what he had to say on how programmatic was rocking the media industry and learned a good deal about TV advertising as well:

Programmatic Hey Michael, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. From your perspective, how is programmatic advertising and growth of marketing automation changing the world of advertising?

Michael Irvine: I relate the job of Chief Marketing Officer to the first and second officer in WWII because he was the one to lead the troops. If anything happened, he was the first to go down.

And, you see an ungodly amount of turnover in that level of office. As a result, everything today is like sports. Win today. Don’t worry about tomorrow, don’t worry about the future, just win today. Do it now!

Marketing guys get in there and they realize that there is an ROI that shows that if they spend X amount of money, X amount of people go to the site. They say, Oh wow, that’s great! They have a broad TV commercial, because they think that’s a good idea, but they have no fucking idea how marketing works…

I reached 250,000 men aged 25-54.

So? Who are these men?

I don’t know.

That’s why when you look at my business, someone who is buying an ad in different types of programs will pay a different rate, our evaluation is cost per thousand (CPM), and will pay a higher rate for ads that are targeted to the behavioral audience that they want to reach.

For example, you may labor to buy the news for 28 cost per point for men 25-54 in the morning news, but how many of them play golf? You don’t have a freaking idea!

You go and turn on a golf conference on Saturday afternoon when it’s a beautiful day, and you know that if men are watching that, you have a pretty good chance that 95% of those are golfers.

Programmatic Right.

Michael Irvine: So, you’ll pay a higher cost per thousand because its more valuable to you. But that’s all done in the mind of assumption, that’s not an actual raw data statistic.

That’s different than the guy that says, WOW – I generated this many leads for our product but they weren’t interested in it, etcetera.

That’s not what I do. That’s not what we do in the media industry. I generate the lead. The rest is not my problem.

Today’s Spots and Dots article, which is an industry newsletter, says that the growth of online and growth of mobile is like 30-40 percent. It’s ridiculous. Now it’s a much smaller growth of television, which is 3 to 4 percent. TV is a mature business.

What you are also finding now is people are using one to drive to another. You’ll see a lot of ads saying, oh, visit us on Or, they will do that with the click-through on a certain site that will send them to another place.

At Disney we weren’t allow to give people our list of users to people to show who was interested in buying luxury cars, etc.. Given Disney was a family company, and concerned with kids, it had to be overprotective.

You know, the television stations aren’t really the problem. They follow the corporate rules.

The answer to your question is, at least, from a statistical standpoint, these marketing guys have a gun to their head to show today’s action has to produce tomorrow’s sales. They can show a better ROI by using digital. Now, they can target even better using a programmatic approach to it.

I know these people are the ‘programmatic’ type of customer – because they want to know which audiences are their type of customers.

Again, going back to the general ad, TV in many ways, in a general standpoint, is a mass-communication medium. While Tennis Magazine or Money Magazine is a lot more selective in who their client is.

Programmatic Keeping what you’ve said in mind, what systems, and what ways of thinking are being disrupted as programmatic ad buying is emerging?

Michael Irvine: I think it’s disrupting the amount of business – it’s shifting monies from other products, be it magazines, newspapers, television or radio, because again, it’s a more specific way of looking at who you are targeting and reaching them.

That’s why you don’t see so many of these banner ads loaded with shit any more.  Just because you have a banner ad out there is anyone looking at it? Who knows?

But, if you have it set so that you can drive action through that ad and prove that you delivered X number of potential clients, that’s where the value is. With a TV ad, pick Dial soap, a simple product and pound away at your audience on TV, showing ad after ad after ad….

Is that what generated the sale?

Was it display advertising in the supermarket? Was it eye level on the shelves? These are all key things to your product. If you’re down on the bottom or up on the top, people don’t see you when you are walking down the aisle, that is, unless they are specifically driven to by Dial soap.

Then you get into that whole thing on cognitive dissonance. The more important the decision to the consumer, the more they labor on it…

People will agonize over decisions that are important to them.

Will I buy a Chevy or will I buy a Ford?

They bought the Ford. From that point on, they will look for a Chevy ad and find everything wrong with it.

What’s disrupting the world is that programmatic is the cool thing to do. TV is old, so people want to move on to something else. It’s like restaurants. You go somewhere too much and you want new food. It’s about what’s trending at the time and right now, digital is trendy as hell.

Programmatic  Given what you said about it being really trendy and cool, do you think there is any staying power to behavioral based targeting?

Michael Irvine: Yes, because quite frankly because people laugh about TV. One of the big negatives is that there are too many ads. Go on the internet and everywhere you go, you are going to be served with a billion ads. You no longer pay attention to them. Now, they are making you watch the first 15 seconds online. They are just trying to lure you in.

For us, ABC asked, what business are we in? What is the biggest product we have? News! We do news! We do news all day long, all weekend long. We have video coming out of our asses. We put it on the damn website and then charge for it. So, along comes ABC and if you miss Modern Family on Wednesday, you can now watch it on Now those ads that are embedded (you only get 6 or 7 ads in the whole half hour now, you don’t get 7 minutes) you cannot fast forward.  You got to watch them in order to watch the show for free.

So, that’s how everybody else is trying to get more value from their media. But now [with programmatic] all of a sudden you are getting a lot more views AND your audience. You can use those views to get a lot more weight and points, because when we sell TV ads, we guarantee an audience.

With TV, the rating system is a piece of shit.

So, from day to day, you don’t know if you’re getting what you want with the rating system. Say, if I am going to give you 50,000 women aged 25-54, and I only give you 24,000, basically I owe you 6,000. I owe you a bunch of eye balls. Well, maybe I’m sold out on the TV station and I’ll give you the eye balls on the internet?

Programmatic Oh, that’s interesting.

Michael Irvine: Programmatic is massively exploding in all of these areas. When you look at the internet, you’re talking about an unlimited number of ads.

That’s a great angle. So, how is this affecting our culture?

This article I was reading (on Spots and Dots) was talking about multitasking while you’re watching TV. They may be watching TV and tweeting back and forth, saying, Do you know what such and such just did? Or, they could just be sending emails or texting or who knows what.

They found a very small percentage are actually involved in multitasking on the same subject, on something related to the TV show. And then you go the problem we’re running into, this is the killer for us – the internet just about crushed us – but now the DVR won’t stand for a delayed (advertising) message because they think the customers are just fast-forwarding through them.

Programmatic And they are, well, I am.

Michael Irvine: Everyone I talk to is too. The statistics show that less than 30 to 35 percent of the people really fast forward through the commercials.

Programmatic Wearable technology is taking off. We’re tracking all of these metrics on your person.

Michael Irvine: Whoa, are you talking about the Upband that I wear on my arm every day?

Programmatic Yeah, and other wearables too, like iWatches. How do you think this is impacting your programmatic space? We’re talking about strategically placing ads on these devices.

Michael Irvine: They aren’t going to stick them up everywhere. There aren’t any on my Upband.

But you know, people are going to try to put ads everywhere. Here’s another problem. The onslaught of ads thrown at you.  You get in the cab, they got video ads. You get [ads] on the bus – the side of the bus, inside the bus, they are in the train station. Everywhere you go!

I mean, your hit with ads every second of the day…and how much do you remember?

You go to programmatic and someone is shopping for a car, that’s what they are doing, they click on an ad and they go to Then, you find out they’ve looked at the Infinity and the BMW and they eventually get a call, etcetera. Have they looked at cars over $70,000? They could get targeted for an ad for that product.

I’m an old guy, and in the back of my head I’m saying, How the hell do they do that?

It’s like the thermostat. How do they keep it hot? How do they keep it cold? I don’t know!


Programmatic One more here, what are you excited about in the future of advertising?

Michael Irvine:


Good lord. I’m glad to finally be out of it!


I know, that sounds stupid. But to be honest with you, it’s just getting to be too much. It was so much fun when there were just 3 networks. Now there’s like, 14? You have all of the commercial availabilities on cable, and then when through in internet? How do you keep up with it all? You have got to be on 24/7. The lady that replaced the guy that I worked for the last twenty years, she’s sending emails at 3:00 AM Saturday morning! You love her to death, but it’s absolutely crazy. Come on!

I don’t have the answer. But I think we have such an onslaught of ads thrown at us, and not as much in the field of high-end, specific ads, but stuff from the poorer (less sophisticated) advertiser. It’s stuff that you don’t care about.

If I’m looking for something and I’m fast-forwarding through TV and all of I see that Lexus S-Series on TV, I’ll backup and watch that ad.  But If I’m not in the market to buy a car, I don’t give a shit!  I don’t wanna look. I don’t want to be tempted.

The future challenge for the marketer will be to dig through all of this noise! And I’m telling you, I don’t have an answer for that, cause’ the noise is just getting louder and louder and louder!

Programmatic Michael, thanks so much!

Michael Irvine: You too, have a good day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *