CMO EXCLUSIVES | September 24, 2013
by Keith Loria
To paraphrase Mark Twain: The death of TV has been greatly exaggerated.
- Television is no longer a one-way flow of information.
- The intersection of TV content and digital content has helped boost the ability of TV to engage audiences.
- What happens in markets like China will be key.
Despite the rise in numbers of digital and mobile viewing, industry experts say TV won’t become obsolete anytime soon; in fact, numbers show that TV remains marketers’ top choice for their initiatives.
Erik Dochtermann, CEO of KD+E, a New York-based media research, planning, and buying agency, said what he has noticed during the past two decades is the continuing, cyclical pattern of both advertisers and consumers flirting with a new advertising/marketing concept, seeing little visible return, and then returning to television.
“There is no indication that this roller coaster will end—advertisers and consumers will always look for the latest and greatest, but in the end it comes down to sales,” he told CMO.com. “If you afford the minimum thresholds for creative and media budgets, television is the most effective medium to grow a brand quickly. However, in the long term, the spread of TV viewing to other mobile devices will be more rapid as the younger generation gets older, as their viewing habits are significantly different than the previous generation.”
According to Nielsen, 98 percent of homes own a TV and most have some kind of device hooked up to their television; in addition, 85 percent of TV content is viewed live. This presents advertisers with the opportunity to target a large group of like-mined people in an entertaining manner.
There’s a ton of data out there, and it all seems to point to the fact that the DVR adoption rate hasn’t followed the rate established by broadband. That’s not to say live TV watching isn’t decreasing and DVR usage isn’t increasing—but live TV is still way ahead. Studies indicate that even though DVR users can fast-forward through commercials, most don’t. And those who do use that time to watch more, so they’re still in front of their TVs.
The Second Screen
As TV become more app accessible, small screen marketing —smartphones, tablets, etc.—will carry more weight, but because of the family and group dynamic of watching TV together in households, the TV is still very relevant.
Matt Britton, founder and CEO of New York-based MRY (formerly Mr. Youth), a social media and youth marketing agency, said the benefits of television viewing is based solely on the size of the screen and the habitual nature of a permanent device in the household.
“From an advertising standpoint, no other medium is able to provide the scale that television does,” he said in an interview with CMO.com. “Various studies have proved that TV ad recall is enhanced drastically with second-screen integration. Successful second-screen integration identifies areas of unmet needs within the linear television viewing experience and provides them to consumers in ways that enhance the content they are viewing or the advertising content itself.”
Television is no longer a one-way flow of information. Computers, smartphones, and tablets let viewers interact with their favorite shows in a variety of ways, both real time while the show is on and afterward—thus increasing the impact of TV in our lives. This intersection of TV content and digital content (i.e., second screen and social integration) has helped boost the boob tube’s ability to engage audiences rather than pander to them, and it seems this integrated approach will have the greatest impact on the ultimate survival of TV marketing.
“While media consumption habits have evolved over time, TV still dominates the scene in the U.S. Digital has actually led to a rebirth of television, allowing brands and programs to interact directly with their audiences,” said AJ Gerritson, founding partner of 451 Marketing, in an interview with CMO.com. “Brands who really miss the boat are ones who completely ignore one medium or the other. Going all digital doesn’t work for most brands, and ignoring the conversation online is a huge misstep. Whether you are active online or not, your audience is already there and likely already having a conversation around you.”
Millennials, in particular, are multitaskers who like to learn more about the programming they are watching and use mobile devices to delve deeper into the conversation. But the current landscape is one still very much dominated by TV and the sheer volume it commands, said Tom Prewitt, digital trends expert and director of corporate marketing at Blue Fountain Media.
“Many companies highlight Twitter hashtags on TV ads in order to keep the conversation going with their customers,” he told CMO.com. “Shazam, the audio identification app, also allows viewers and customers to easily segue from a two-minute TV ad to some form of ongoing engagement on their phones or tablets.”
Craig Kallin, SVP of product marketing and incubation for Primacy, a full-service digital agency, warned that because second-screen experiences are relatively new, advertisers need to be careful not to hinder adoption rates by overwhelming consumers with gratuitous advertising that gates experiences.
“That is, while advertisers have a lot to gain by finding a way to incorporate second-screen experiences into their integrated marketing plan, they need to look for opportunities for more subtle brand exposure,” he said in an interview with CMO.com. “They need to make it clear that their brand is helping to enable this great, new experience–not delay or exploit it.”
Greg Consiglio, president of second-screen app company Viggle, noted that TV marketing is continuously evolving and is actually being further enhanced by second-screen and social TV platforms across tablets, computers, and mobile.
“As set-top boxes become smarter about audience segmentation and networks utilize second-screen devices to further augment TV marketing opportunities, TV marketing will only become a richer and more interactive option for advertisers,” he told CMO.com. “Savvy marketers understand that TV marketing is evolving with the increasing use of second-screen devices, and that they have to closely monitor and understand how consumers are enriching their TV watching with immersive, interactive, and rewarding experiences.”
An example occurred during the broadcast of Nik Wallenda’s Grand Canyon tightrope walk, which was broadcast on the Discovery channel. Viewers could go online and select any one of the different camera views that were feeding into the control booth. TV viewers saw only the angle the director chose for that medium. Viewers watching on the Web could see real-time audience reactions and add their own comments in a live, scrolling feed.
“The most critical aspect of the future of TV is that it is incredibly well-positioned to help usher in an era of video advertising across all screens,” said Mike Caprio, VP of video, broadcast, and connected devices for DG, a New York-based ad serving company. “Today, broadcast networks are selling cross-screen in their upfronts, and Nielsen has implemented a GRP that covers both television and online. And since that panel includes both, you can determine unduplicated reach to that audience. This, along with the right planning and campaign execution tools, helps pave the way to follow audiences across devices and geographies to deliver more relevant and engaging content.”
A Safe Investment
Even in the era of niche entertainment, television still possesses collective immediacy. Live events, such as sports or award shows, still have a “can’t miss it” cachet. Recent Gallup data shows that 55 percent of Americans turn to TV for news about current events.
Marketers are already beginning to use service provider data. Reuters reported in late June that satellite TV providers and U.S. cable companies are creating customized commercials based on data from their subscribers’ digital video recorders coupled with third-party research. One example includes a cat-owning female subscriber receiving a cat food spot, while a bachelor neighbor watching the same channel might get a car commercial.
Jay Miletsky, CEO of Sequel Media Group, said he believes some prognosticators will always claim TV is a dying medium, but it’s not now, and won’t be in our lifetime.
“The TV experience is a completely different experience than the experience of watching video content on a PC or mobile device. For one thing, TV is more communal—you watch with your friends or family, while PCs and mobile devices are more isolating,” he told CMO.com. “For another, TV is more of a ‘lean-back’ vs. ‘lean-in’ experience, where people watch TV with more of a relaxed attitude than they do strictly Web content.”
Then there’s the structure that TV allows—programming that airs at a certain time gives way to a schedule, of sorts, for when that program is discussed with others. Web-based programming, which can be watched any day, at any time, not only loses a sense of urgency, it also loses any social aspect outside of hitting a “like” button.
In its 2013 “Edelman Global Entertainment Study,” the PR company found that TV still remains the “most turned to” device for watching entertainment, but geography does matter. Out of the eight countries it surveyed, TV took the top spot in the U.S., U.K., India, Brazil and Germany, but in China and Korea mobile phones were the No. 1 go-to device for consuming entertainment.
“We found in our survey that people around the world are eager for more ways to interact with their entertainment, with the emerging markets—Brazil, China, India, Turkey, and Korea—leading the trend,” said Gail Becker, chair, Canada, Latin America and U.S. Western Region, Edelman, in an interview with CMO.com. “What we also found in every market was an increase in binge viewing. Of those we surveyed globally, 88 percent said they watch more than one episode of their favorite TV show in one sitting.”
A recent Harris poll said one reason for the rise in binge viewing is the motivation behind the social aspect of being caught up.
Becker adds that what happens in markets like China will be key, and once YouTube and other online services get more traction in Asia during the next few years, the battle for eyeballs will evolve.
Product Placement And Brand Messaging
Television remains a major influencer when it comes to lifestyle and trends. Consumers still want to experience and be reminded of products, be that through prime advertisement spots, talk-show giveaways, or thoughtful product placement. The latter has been on the rise in recent years, with notable brands appearing on hit shows like “New Girl” (Ford Fusion), “American Idol” (Coke), and “The Office” (Hewlett-Packard).
“The growing prevalence of DVRs means that marketers will increasingly focus on promoting products and services within the actual program to avoid commercial skimming,” Becker said. “We’re already seeing an evolution in product placement on shows like Fox’s ‘New Girl,’ where an advertiser’s wares (Best Buy, for one example) has an organic role in the plotting of the episode. In the earliest days of television, Texaco, for instance, had its moniker right on the title of Milton Berle’s variety show, and such naming rights will likely grow.”
Joe Germscheid, director of consumer engagement and senior partner of advertising agency Carmichael Lynch, laughed off TV marketing becoming obsolete.
“In fact, it’s stronger than ever. What is certain is how marketing with video is changing,” he told CMO.com. “Technology is fueling our viewing choices and fragmenting delivery. It’s also applying pressure to our interruptive advertising model. The ‘Field of Dreams’ method of advertising is what’s in danger of becoming obsolete.”
That’s why you can’t just rely on commercial breaks to deliver reliable message views in the future. His solution is to concentrate on how to build brand messages that people will seek out and enjoy.
“Our industry has to change how we tell brand stories,” Germscheid said. “I think brand storytelling is always going to be something that is done best with video; we just need to figure out how do that without relying on the 30- or 60-second commercial we’ve inherited from our grandparents in marketing.”
The conventional television season can drive away viewers. The networks have been slowly catching on and launching new series, some limited-run, throughout the year, but the trend needs to expand. While it serves advertisers to focus programming around certain blocks of time, concepts like “Sweeps Week” no longer pertain to today’s consumers, who want fresh content year round.
According to Germscheid, the set-top box is delivering us into a new world where we can finally stop relying on survey results that are projected onto the larger population to figure out what people watch. Companies such as Visible World, Fourth Wall, Rentrak, Simulmedia, Dish Network, and DirectTV offer various methods of targeting audiences today.
“The data on individual viewing can be matched with other behavioral data about a person or household to target audiences now instead of using shows or content as a proxy for targeting,” he said. “One-to-one communication through targeting is the future of TV. Marketers that start working with them now will be ahead of the learning curve when it becomes more mainstream in the near future.”
On final analysis: Television is nearly 100 percent penetrated and an imbedded part of the American culture, making it a trusted and reliable source for delivering entertainment, and, therefore, the advertiser’s messaging along with it. So don’t worry, experts said: It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.