Why TV should still be big news for advertisers

04 Apr 2017  |  Mark Jackson 
Why TV should still be big news for advertisers

Marketers have become too binary - and relying solely on Facebook and Google will only go so far, writes Mark Jackson

How advertising has changed. Where once we worried about Murdoch creating huge media empires, today we fret that Google and Facebook will dominate the conversation.

To show just how little advertisers are bothered by the machinations in telly land, the hoo-ha Murdoch's Fox/Sky deal created five years ago raised barely a peep when it was finally tabled at the end of last year.

Instead, advertisers spend a great deal of time hand-wringing about where the digital giants might go next. Marketers' love affair with digital shows no sign of abating.

We wait with baited breath every time it looks like a move from Google or Facebook might cause another seismic shift in the ad landscape.

In fact, it seems even Murdoch’s spooked about the levels of TV watching. The details of the deal suggested Sky’s acquisition moves a greater share of revenues to subscriptions ‘reducing the reliance on advertising’.

It just shows how binary marketers have become. We're turning into a real 'eggs in one basket' bunch. The pendulum has swung from mass media to targeted digital when the truth is, neither was ever the ideal.

Marketers may say they're working on their mix but the truth is there's always been a heavy swing towards digital. It's seductive. So many metrics, so much real-time reporting. Whether or not it's doing the brand any good seems moot.

And then there’s the suggestion that so much video content is available online that viewers are deserting linear TV in droves. They can skip the tedious ad breaks, the thinking goes, they can watch when it suits them.

This might be why people started watching online but it’s not making them stay to the exclusion of all other channels.

For one thing, channel owners got wise to the ad skipping. If you want to access some of the most popular TV programmes online - a slice of Broadchurch with breakfast perhaps - you’re still going to have to pay with some advertiser attention time.

And so it’s also a myth that people don't watch as much TV as they used to.

According to an Ofcom study in association with Kantar Media, younger people (16-24) are, as you would expect, glued to devices and video on demand (VOD). But they very quickly change their viewing habits once the family comes along.

It’s in the mid section where the biggest shift happens. The 25-54 year olds are both digitally savvy but old-school TV watchers. They bring the habits of their earlier years to bear on family TV viewing, mixing linear TV with devices and on-demand.

It doesn't have to be two kids and a Volvo, any convivial group set up will do.

The fact is that once they enter the cohabiting, house-owning years, linear telly watching goes right back to pre-digital levels. Destination programming is still a thing and digital recaps aren't a lot of fun because, spoilers.

The older, less digitally native demographic is still largely indulging in linear TV but they too are gradually including non-linear and digital channels. TV is still king for the majority though.

The hype around video on demand and Facebook Live creates the perception that no-one watches TV when that’s fundamentally wrong. If marketers want to stop paying lip service to the mix, they need to get back into mass media again.

That word ‘mix’ is the critical thing here. TV is still the biggest performance channel. It can drive customers to websites as well as build brand trust. The sooner marketers can drive TV audiences, the sooner they can build their brands.

To solve the TV problem, media agencies are touting addressable TV as a marriage between the presumably ‘unmeasurable, untargetable’ blunt instrument that is linear TV with the seductive, laser-focused digital world.

It has its uses, certainly but it’s not a better ‘alternative’ to mass TV advertising, nor should it be.

Addressable TV has the potential to be a powerful tool but not until the price is right. Sky AdSmart is more expensive and we haven't seen comparable increases in response for advertisers to justify the channel.

We know, we’ve tested it multiple times. Addressable isn’t the future of TV until the pricing model is where it needs to be. Ultimately, marketers want scale and by maximising reach of their audience - and the cheaper you can buy it, the better.

As for letting go of the metrics comfort blanket, marketers need to stop clinging on to multiple media KPIs, CTRs and any other largely pointless TLAs. Find out what drives your business forward and assess every channel, whether TV or mobile app, in the same, robust way.

When you’re going from start-up to scale-up, relying solely on Facebook and Google is only going to ever get you so far. Offline is where you start driving into a position of growth.


Mark Jackson is managing director at MC&C

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