If you were to take a survey of media industry publications over the past ten or so years, you’d find a quite tiring pattern: every year, there’s been an in-depth feature about the internet KOing television. And while positioning television and the internet at opposite corners of the medium ring might make for juicy headlines, it’s not really an accurate tale of the tape.
Sorenson Media’s CRO Pat Ivers provides his insights into the current media canvas, discussing how media consumption isn’t a zero-sum bout, how forward-thinking marketers are preparing for the future of television, and how the platform still packs quite the punch for advertisers.
Q: There are many metrics-based reports and headlines that claim advertising dollars are migrating out of television and into the digital space. What’s your perspective on the intersection of advertising and television?
PI: Let’s have a little fun with it: Think about television as a slumbering behemoth, comfortably resting on a belly full of advertising dollars. It grew into what it is today because of how easily it was able to get to the top of the ad-spend food chain—radio and print didn’t pose much of a threat to it as it climbed its way up the competitive ladder.
But over the past ten or so years, a new predator—the internet—has been making a lot of noise as its been trudging towards television to take its spot at the top. And all that clattering has finally woken television up—and now it’s forced to defend its position.
You hear stories like this all the time in the media—that the internet is coming to slay television once and for all. But that really is a fairy tale: television is very far from being killed off—it’s even very far from being marginally displaced. To understand why, and to understand how television will respond, it’s important to understand the two trends that put it in the place we are now:
First, television’s massive size actually hurt it, to some extent. Some marketers, particularly ones without very deep pockets, weren’t exactly sure about the return on investment of television advertising because it relied more on a ‘shotgun approach’ of blasting a message to a mass audience without being able to qualitatively interpret the return. As a result, some marketers turned towards digital advertising, where it was becoming possible to target unique audience segments.
Secondly, the internet started to challenge television as a content channel, which really ramped up when broadband distribution was wide enough where cord-cutting became a real possibility.
Television’s chance to defend its spot on the food chain basically depends on whether or not it can adapt to these two changes. And the reality is that it can—it just needs to start using data and technology the same way that digital channels do.
Q: How will television be able to compete with the strength of technological innovation occurring in digital media? What changes will have to happen to keep television competitive?
PI: I think the first step is to fundamentally change how we think about TV.
We need to stop looking at TV as just a content source and start looking at it as a device. For example, the Samsung or Vizio smart TVs I might have in my house are content mediums like their CRT predecessors, but the ‘smart’ part also makes them devices—not dissimilar from your laptop or tablet. Think about it: if you have a smart TV, you can pick when to watch what you want, whether it be live, recorded, or streaming.
The challenge for television is finding a way to harness that power to deliver customized, measurable content—the same way digital marketers do.
For television, it’s classically worked like this: you, Ryan Walker, are a 25-35-year-old male. And advertisements have been placed based on a composite of what 25-35-year-old-males are supposed to like and when they watch television. But with television technology and data, I can tell exactly what it is you like—25-35-year-old-males like sports, but maybe you’re a basketball fan and not a baseball fan, and now we can target basketball-related merchandise to you with addressable advertising.
The application of this type of addressable advertising combined with a critical layer of near real-time digital reporting will propel broadcasters into the fast-emerging reawakening of TV. TV still garners significantly more consumption than other devices in the home, and it will continue to do so for a long time. Combine this with the fast growth of smart TVs within the home and you have a very exciting formula for success which is not lost on advertisers or brands. I’ve been selling TV advertising for most of my professional life, and I don’t ever remember the landscape shifting this quickly. Contrary to the doom and gloom narrative, this might even be the golden age for television advertising.
Q: Digital advertising will eclipse television advertising in 2017, but what advantages will television have over the internet?
PI: Television has TVs—as funny as that sounds, it’s still a worthy distinction because it drives such a unique competitive advantage. While television viewing on your phone or laptop have grown, the majority of viewing is still done one the first screen. You’ll hear that reference a lot – “first screen,” and it’s well deserved because it’s still the king of the hill in the modern household. And that won’t really change for the foreseeable future.
Earlier in my little fairy tale set up, I positioned television as a slumbering behemoth—and there’s a purposeful negative connotation to that. That’s because manufacturers, content owners, and cable and satellite companies slept in while the internet was rising and grinding in the mid-2000s advertising market.
But better late than never—and they’re all awake and starting to capitalize on the opportunities being offered during these truly exciting times.
Q: What about the format of television advertising?
PI: I think there is immense power in the 15 or 30 second spot. The ability of a television ad to tell a story, connect with a viewer, demonstrate a product, and invoke emotions cannot be achieved in display or with other online advertising techniques. Leveraging data is the big advantage of the digital space. Now that level of data can inform decisions for television advertising and allow the right message to be delivered to the right audience at the right time.
Q: How do you see digital and television working together?
PI: I can understand why people naturally position television and the internet as competing interests, but I think it’s important to look at it from the advertising level. Tactically, sure—companies want to make their marketing dollars work as much as possible, so they focus on things like the internet as a medium where they can reach a certain audience. But the idea that getting people through the consumer funnel is a one-step or one-tactic process isn’t really an accurate reflection of how it works.
In today’s reality, television and the internet will work together as a cohesive consumer funnel—each will have its own relative strength, so each will have it’s own unique but equal value to companies that are trying to get their message out. Understanding what connects with consumers, whether the first touch is taking place on television or digital mediums, for example, can help inform other marketing decisions. Continuing a digital campaign through to television or extending the reach of a television campaign through to digital is a CMO’s dream. And it’s happening.