2020 was a ‘wake-up call’ for TV advertising, says The Trade Desk CEO

Key Points
  • The Trade Desk CEO and co-founder Jeff Green said on the company's fourth quarter 2020 earnings call Thursday that last year marked an inflection point for the ad tech company, as well as a major point of change for the ad industry as it pertains to traditional television advertising. 
  • The company says its connected TV revenue doubled in the fourth quarter year-over-year. 
Jeff Green, CEO, The Trade Desk.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

The Trade Desk CEO and co-founder Jeff Green says last year was a wake-up call to the advertising industry, as consumers move away from watching traditional TV and toward streaming and online video instead.

"2020 was a wake-up call to the advertising industry when it came to TV," Green said on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call on Thursday. He said the company's connected TV business, where it sells ads on streaming platforms, doubled in Q4 from a year ago.

The Trade Desk, which has a burgeoning business in the area of connected TV, has a lot to gain as ad revenue shifts away from traditional linear television. With more people in their living rooms streaming shows and movies during the pandemic, The Trade Desk has seen more opportunities to show them ads on streaming platforms. Green has said that the pandemic has accelerated a shift in this direction and in other areas. 

"We've talked a lot over the last 12 months about how the pandemic accelerated trends that were already underway, but we couldn't have predicted quite how sharp that acceleration would be." 

The company's shares were down about 1% in after-hours trading, even after it reported $319.9 million in revenue and non-GAAP earnings of $3.71 per share, handily beating expectations. The company's technology helps brands and agencies reach targeted audiences across media formats and devices.

Green also cited a recent presentation with Procter & Gamble's chief brand officer Marc Pritchard. "He and I believe we're heading toward an inevitable future where all of advertising is, and I quote using his words, 'digital, programmatic, data-driven and automatic.'" 

Green echoed Pritchard's sentiments about the traditional TV buying process, in which advertisers typically commit much of their yearly TV spending in deals during the spring "upfronts" season. That's when the networks throw presentations and parties to show media buyers their programming, audience data and ad tools. Pritchard criticized the process last September, asking for a later upfront marketplace, along with more flexibility when buying ads closer to airing. 

Trade Desk CEO says content owners will benefit the most
Trade Desk CEO says content owners will benefit the most