March 24, 2018

TV advertising can be made much better: better for brands, for networks, for viewers. But this won’t happen until TV advertisers speak directly to TV ad sellers.

With a new array of advanced TV ad products, there is so much that they need to talk about — but unfortunately, the traditional TV media agency’s aperture just isn’t wide or robust enough to facilitate all the communications that need to happen today.

I’m aware that what I’m suggesting is blasphemous in some quarters. The long-established practices of the TV market are that when advertising “clients” are present, TV ad sellers should be seen and not heard.  It’s okay for them to chat socially at industry events, but meaty business conversations should only occur when advertisers are properly chaperoned by their agency account execs.

The historic wall between TV advertisers and TV ad sellers hearkens back to a day when media agencies acted more like exclusive sales channels between their clients, the brand advertisers, and the TV networks, which  provided them platforms every week to reach hundreds of millions of their current and prospective customers. In those days, TV networks focused on telling unique stories about their programming and audiences — and then stayed out of the way and let agencies do the hard work to market and sell in TV across the advertisers’ business enterprises.

Times have changed. Now, large media agencies need to focus the majority of  “selling-in” efforts on bringing new digital offerings to their clients. Google, Facebook and Snap are big and complicated and have the attention of the CEOs of most major advertisers. Professional service resources tend to be deployed where CEOs’ attention is focused.

With massive reductions in agency fees over the past 10 years, it’s difficult for agencies to fully staff both the emerging digital areas as well as keep investing in their TV teams. For example, TV research departments at large agencies have been decimated this decade.

The timing could not be worse. Just as agencies have fewer people that know TV data, TV is becoming a very powerful data-driven advertising platform, with most of the major TV networks now selling sophisticated audience targeting and ROI reporting products.

Selling advanced TV advertising requires a lot of data sophistication on the buy side, as well as a tremendous amount of direct client interaction to manage the movement and matching of proprietary data on both the client and TV side.

Google couldn’t build the deep integrations it has into advertisers’ e-commerce platforms and customer relationship management systems without having direct client teams driving its efforts.

If clients want their TV advertising to become as predictable, provable, performant and integrated into the enterprise as search or social, they need to get to know their TV partners better. Clearly, that's the path of the fast-growing direct brands, marketers like Casper, Warby Parker and Peloton that choose to tightly control their data and their media partner relationships. As I have noted before, direct brands are likely to dominate the consumer economy over the next decade.

To be clear, I believe that agencies serve a critically important role in the media process and will continue to exist for a long time. However, things need to change. By not talking to advertisers the way Google and Facebook do, TV sellers are fighting with a hand tied behind their backs. They won’t be able to chase out all the industry’s antiquated processes, including how TV ads are bought, sold, packaged, measured and accounted for, without significant changes in how advertisers, TV companies and agencies interact.

It’s critical for agencies to take stabs at disrupting the process, too. Just this week, Omnicom Media Group announced that it's creating a special three-day upfront with media sellers, including TV companies and digital publishers, to pitch their teams and their clients with special opportunities. This kind of direct interaction can only be good for the business — as will recognizing that TV sellers will sometimes need to go visit clients on their own.

by Dave Morgan
Courtesy of Mediapost


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