by Steve Olenski
I think I need to buy a new suit. It seems I’m getting invited to a funeral for the death of TV every other day. Here’s one article mourning its death from neglect, lamenting the fact that 18-to-24-year-olds spent 10 fewer minutes watching TV during the fourth quarter of 2016 than they did the year before, which was 39% less than in 2011.
Here’s another claiming TV succumbed to the fatal epidemic of cord-cutting, with 2.1 million households in 2016 canceling their paid TV service.
And then there’s death by jealousy, as it watched 19-to-25-year-olds spend only 29% of their TV time watching live programming, yet spend 39% of it streaming video. It would seem everyone agrees that television and television advertising are dead, making digital advertising the new destination for marketing budgets.
But I think everyone is missing the metaphor. TV isn’t dying; it’s fragmenting. That might be bad for AMC, but for advertisers seeking to reach fans of “The Walking Dead,” that actually presents a greater opportunity than ever to target their television ad dollars.
TV Advertising Is Healthier Than You Think
It’s true that a single program on a single channel can’t command the audience that programs did even 15 years ago. But television still delivers big numbers, and because of fragmentation, advertisers can target specific demographics in a way that was once only possible with digital ads.
PwC released a comprehensive report on the state of advertising for 2016 through 2020. The firm estimated that, in 2017, online will overtake TV as the biggest advertising market.
However, the report also recognized that TV advertising will still make up nearly $75 billion this year, and the growth rate of online TV advertising — estimated to be 8.9% per year — will far outpace traditional TV advertising, expected to grow 3.2% annually.
That’s because there are few opportunities for live TV to exercise its “live” advantage. Other than sports and elections, there’s not a lot else that can compete with the convenience of nonlinear digital TV.
But that dichotomy between traditional TV and digital TV isn’t one that consumers recognize. Viewers are channel agnostics, according to Media Design Group, a media buying agency that has embraced the fragmentation trend for years. In other words, what people watch is more important than where they watch it.
Done right, this fragmentation can actually make your advertising budget smarter. Here are a few key strategies to consider:
Direct-response TV: Also known as infomercials, there’s a reason this type of advertising has been around for so long: It works. Direct-response TV is great for creating impressions before a product becomes widely available in stores.
Addressable TV: This allows brands to create a more personalized TV- and video-watching experience by targeting ads at specific households. This works with video-on-demand and linear TV. Not everyone gets the same commercial. You can target the specific households you want, then measure the return on investment through engagement, brand lift, and conversions.
Programmatic TV: If you want to reach a certain demographic with your advertising — like women of a certain age and income who drive a hybrid car — and don’t much care which program it shows up on, programmatic TV advertising is the answer. It uses data to thinly slice audiences, offering advertisers much more granular targeting of linear TV viewers.
Connected TV: Advertising on connected TVs — TVs connected to streaming devices, such as Roku or internet-connected smart TVs — still presents some technical challenges, but also a trove of opportunity to reach a fast-growing segment of viewers, especially young ones who don’t watch much linear TV.
TV Sync: Dual-screen TV viewing is a challenge for advertisers because it’s hard to know whether people are actually watching the program they have on or just browsing social media on their laptops, tablets, or smartphones. What TV sync does is put the same commercials that are on the big screen on those small screens. This redirects the distracted viewer back to the ad and allows him to easily research the product or service through his device.
As Media Design Group CEO Stacy Durand has said, “Americans love their TVs. Television will continue to be the biggest driver of consumer behavior. Brands will continue to spend on this legacy channel as long as engagement levels are high. Right now, TV is as strong as ever.”
So don’t let the reports of TV’s death fool you. It’s still a dominant part of people’s lives. There simply aren’t enough consumers of digital media yet who can offer the kind of scale for advertising that TV can. But TV advertisers should be aware of the new landscape and adjust their TV advertising budgets accordingly.
Now about that new suit... I'm thinking black pinstripe.