Like many execs in digital media, I had one of those "wait what?” moments recently when I saw that marketing intelligence company WARC found that the percentage of marketing campaigns leading with TV on its list of most effective advertisers has "steadily increased.” The report also noted a "sharp fall” over the past year or so in social-led campaigns.
WARC didn't disclose the data it used in its calculations, but I find the notion that advertisers are returning to TV to be far-fetched. To the contrary, the continuing narrative in 2017 is that advertisers are fleeing TV at an accelerated rate. eMarketer expects TV's share of the advertising pie to shrink from 35.2% today to 30.8% by 2021. If anything, the phenomenon that WARC has noticed is a blip, for the following reasons:
TV has its own viewability problem. Bots are such a part of digital media that it's common to see viewability rates in the 40–60% range. Meanwhile, how do you know that someone is viewing your TV ad? The answer is, you don't. Personal experience shows that often people check their phones, leave the room and change the channel when a commercial comes on. A 2010 Nielsen study found 14% of viewers change channels during a commercial break and 20% of consumers change rooms during commercials. Considering the average primetime CPM for adults 18–49 was $47 in the 2016–17 season, that's a lot of waste. TV is no longer the dominant device in the living room. A 2016 eMarketer study found nearly 85% of viewers surf the web while watching TV. Biometric data found that 60% of the time a person is most highly engaged during a TV session is actually while he is doing a non-TV related activity, such as using a digital device or talking to someone else in the room. Younger viewers are tuning out traditional TV in droves. If you're trying to reach younger viewers, TV isn't effective and is getting less effective by the day. A 2016 study by digital media firm Defy Media found that consumers 13–24 watch 12.1 hours a week of Internet-based video compared to 8.8 hours on Netflix and other subscription video services. That dwarfs the 8.2 hours a week they spend watching traditional TV. Some 30% of Millennials have also cut the cord, rejecting traditional phones and cable services, according to a 2016 survey from GfK MRI. TV advertising is still far too wasteful. While the majority of digital advertising is bought and sold programmatically and uses reams of data to determine whether the target consumer is likely to be interested in the product, most TV inventory is still based on demographics. This is outdated thinking; it's much more effective to target consumers who are interested in your product category and have bought that product in the past than viewers who just happen to be between the ages of 18–49. A decade ago, media sellers might have argued that video on TV was more effective than banner ads, but that video was now ubiquitous and a much better buy.
The caveat with this argument is that TV is changing. In a few years, most inventory will likely be bought and sold programmatically, the way that digital media is. That's not the case in 2017 though. Some top advertiser may have had success with TV-led campaigns recently, but there are smarter ways to go about it.
Shana Ireland is Account Director, Digital Media for GlassView. A digital media and business development professional, Ireland is driven by the intersection of technology, creativity and video marketing. She describes herself as a connector, a collaborator with a passion for bringing people together — and also a bit of a West Coast tech geek!