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Calum Smeaton 

The Great TV Ad Waste Debate

The Great TV Ad Waste Debate

Advertisers need to make television work better for viewers, writes TVSquared's Calum Smeaton

One of the biggest complaints aimed at TV advertising is that it suffers from high levels of waste. Earlier this year, ITV's group commercial director, Simon Daglish, came out in defence of ad wastage, arguing that it's actually a good thing.

While there is some truth to this (at times, any exposure is good exposure), the TV ad industry no longer needs to rely on a strategy that is essentially throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks. This is especially true since today's linear TV is, in fact, an optimised marketing channel.

Changing a long-held belief about TV

It is undisputed that TV is an incredibly effective advertising medium and unmatched in terms of sheer reach. During peak-time shows, a single ad has the potential to be seen by millions of viewers, but not all of those viewers will have an interest in a brand or be in a position to become customers.

While a wide-net approach can and has worked for some brands, it's also proven to be ineffective for those brands where the KPI is to grow sales at the lowest cost possible.

Arguments of brand building aside, why do so many advertisers accept ad wastage? The answer is because many think there is no alternative - operating under the assumption that TV can't be measured at a granular level or optimised in a timely, accurate manner.

And who can blame them for thinking that way? Most advertisers are still measuring TV with inaccurate audience data, which is received weeks after a campaign airs.

But herein lies one of the biggest myths around TV: that it can't be measured or optimised in the same way as digital. It absolutely can. By using data-led technologies, brands that want attributable sales - and not just increased awareness - can make their TV budget work smarter and harder by reaching target audiences at the places and times they're most likely to respond.

Advertisers need to be encouraged to plan and optimise campaigns based on response and the actions generated from TV spots.

The role of data

Where I agree with Daglish is around the role of data and how, when combined with the right context and content, it's an integral part of TV ad success.

If broadcasters can use data to better understand their audience, they can better justify the price they command"

Broadcasters - most notably ITV - are testing the waters with programmatic buying to make TV more accountable to advertisers who want the same granular detail that digital offers. If broadcasters can use data to better understand their audience, they can better justify the price they command.

For brands, it's an exciting time because new technologies exist that provide same-day TV performance measurement and the insights needed to optimise on-air campaigns.

By analysing day-of spot and response data (from call centres, SMS, app downloads, web/mobile, etc.), advertisers can understand what's working and what's not in terms of programmes, days, dayparts, networks, genres and creatives. This information can be used to improve the efficiency of both on-air and future campaigns to drive the greatest response.

These data-driven technologies are not only giving TV advertisers more understanding of and control over their campaigns, but they're also helping them to optimise TV spend.

By identifying high-value spots, as well as those that fail to perform, advertisers get a data-backed view of how TV will work for them in the future - and use that information to buy media that will drive the best possible results.

Right people, right places, right time

The bottom line is that TV is still the most effective marketing channel for advertisers - but now it can be even more powerful. With the right technologies, advertisers can reach target audiences with tailored messages, they can accurately know who's watching and when, they can measure the impact of adverts and they can optimise those adverts while they're still on air.

For years, TV advertisers didn't have these capabilities, so ad wastage became an accepted issue.

Most brands simply don't have the budget for wide-net TV advertising - and the ad wastage that comes with it. In a day and age when people have scores of options to consume content, advertisers need to make TV work better for them: reaching the right audiences, in the right places and at the right times to drive maximum response and increase sales.

Calum Smeaton is CEO at TVSquared

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