By Christine Grammier
When viewers sit down in front of their living room TV, there’s a good chance they’ll turn on their [insert TV-connected streaming device]. Or, perhaps viewers are settling in with their phones to finish an episode of something they were watching while [insert on-the-go activity].
In many households, there are more likely than ever before multiple people in different places on different devices consuming a wide variety of completely different types of video. The limitless choices for consumers have caused massive fragmentation within the TV advertising industry.
Unfortunately for marketers, the legacy system for planning and buying TV ad time does not reflect how consumers are accessing content, and it does not meet advertisers’ needs. In fact, a number of challenges are contributing to diminished returns on TV spend. No matter how one develops a network and daypart mix, it takes incredibly large investments to achieve the desired reach. This results in tons of wasted impressions going into heavy TV-viewing homes that have already seen a brand’s ads too often.
With more than 500 scripted programs produced in 2019 and, as Broadband TV News reports, an average of more than 100,000 hours of programming available to homes with subscription video-on-demand services (SVOD), it’s “Good luck!” to marketers trying to predict what their audience is going to watch over the next 12 months. Now, more and more of these viewing minutes are available with household-based audience targeting applied to impression delivery.
The trusted simplicity of traditional linear TV planning does not work in the complexity of this new environment borne out of the pandemic. And those who use a traditional marketing mix model for overall budgeting decisions will know the 24- to 36-month-old data used in their models does not reflect the current market at all. It’s hard to plan without historical benchmarks and trusted tools, so iteration and flexibility are now required.
Despite all these challenges, two things remain true: content is queen and consumers will find it.
In years past, content meant a few highly rated prime programs and sports. Today, it’s thousands of titles available across multiple platforms, so each consumer can seek what they love. So far, it does not look like there will be a winner in the ad-supported streamlining platforms; instead, those that generate great content will get time from consumers. As the TV landscape continues to shift, marketers will need to change in kind; here’s what they can do to adapt.
What Are Brands Doing to Navigate Fragmentation?
Splintered viewership has resulted in disparate TV budget planning approaches for 2021. Almost every major advertiser asks the million-dollar question: “How much should I invest in connected TV/over-the-top (CTV/OTT)?” In the urgency of the past few months, brands and agencies have done the best with what they have, including:
- Adapting the linear TV planning process for CTV/OTT. Given planning timeline pressures, agencies and brands have tried to adapt old-school linear TV planning programs combined with “back-of-the-napkin math” to help get plans together for investments they are making now.
- Pushing more dollars to a programmatic TV partner to “check the CTV box.” This is a quick fix to add “reach extension” on a TV buy. An additional conversion tactic to a digital plan doesn’t take advantage of CTV/OTT’s potential. Digital veterans now informing these strategies are trying to avoid prior mistakes made in the programmatic space around lack of control for where inventory is served, viewability and fraud, the inability to measure across platforms, and extreme high-frequency levels.
- Requiring flexibility in any committed dollars. Marketers trust that their partners, who generate great content and attract audiences, will continue to do so. Still, they want tons of flexibility within those commitments.
These are a good start, but unfortunately, as impressions start rolling out across screens, many brands continue to operate without a common metric for impressions, reach, and frequency across their investment.
What Can Marketers Do to Better Adapt to Fragmentation?
The industry has been moving slowly to accommodate these changes since streaming first came on the scene about a decade ago. While the past few months have felt like a frantic rush to find a way forward, this new world is here to stay.
The path bridging the known with the new is a balancing act, but if the following thoughtful steps are taken, brands will be well set up for the future:
Establish a cross-screen measurement tool.
Every day without this is another day marketers miss critical information about how their impressions are delivered into homes. There are pros and cons to each platform. Marketers should pick one or try a few to find the best fit.
Accept the inflexible nature of linear TV and work around it.
It’s a fact that all marketers face. Accepting this, marketers can use their cross-screen measurement platform to find innovative ways to manage other investments and screens with more flexibility.
Consider owning audience data.
TV veterans who are getting comfortable with this new world hate the surprise costs of audiences. Transparency is critical, so marketers should plan for it and consider the benefits of buying the audience data without a CPM-based model.
Manage cross-screen frequency.
Marketers can utilize cross-screen measurement with business outcomes, such as website visits, to identify the frequency per household saturation point. Marketers should find the point where frequency is no longer driving more response, then use audience data to find the homes that are of the most value but that are not seeing many of their TV ads. Managing frequency this way allows marketers to distribute their budget effectively and value impressions based on their business effect, not just the CPM.
Once marketers know the saturation point, they can find the households already seeing too many exposures in linear and suppress them from their addressable/CTV/OTT targeting.
Because fluidity will be critical in 2021, marketers should negotiate flexibility in guarantees and options with partners by utilizing audiences and measurement.
Marketers must understand in near real-time if their video advertising drives searches, website visits, or even sales.
Encourage agencies to test and learn.
Every brand and agency is navigating deep changes to the ecosystem. It’s time for marketers to embrace that change and give their agencies room to test and learn what’s most effective. It will not be perfect on the first attempt. It’s about encouraging depth of knowledge and flexibility to pivot with learnings. Holding agencies accountable to the lowest CPM possible is not the right path to better business outcomes for most brands.
What Does It Mean for the Future?
Consumers are driving these changes. Their experience should be at the center of the entire advertising ecosystem. It’s important to navigate consumer changes and rise to meet them.
TV networks and studios will continue to produce content their audiences love. Marketers can match this innovation and home in on their data and measurement strategy.
While many marketers scramble to adjust, some brands will use the Band-Aid approach and apply linear TV planning tactics and push some investment to programmatic TV. The ones who will prosper, however, are those who invest time and energy to understand the tools, implement cross-screen measurement, and build new systems and processes to navigate the evolving ecosystem.
Marketers should embark on the steps laid out here to help their teams bridge the known with the new.
About Author: Christine Grammier is the head of buy-side TV at LiveRamp, a partner in the ANA Thought Leadership Program.