Fewer ads, more value: TV must reinvent in the 'New Normal'

"The pandemic is an accelerant to viewing trends that have been building for years."

Heading into 2020, the fundamental pillars of TV were eroding – especially considering the 70-plus million US subscribers enjoying streaming. Now those pillars are crumbling as consumers viewing habits shift to streaming services.

Don’t believe it? During the first three weeks in March, streaming soared 85 percent compared to the same time period in 2019, according to Nielsen.

The pandemic is an accelerant to viewing trends that have been building for years. But this is not the end of TV; it’s the rebirth. I know that we’ve never been more prepared to rise up, thanks to the pioneering work by those willing to lead their industry’s disruption.

Two quotes embody our need to use these turbulent times as a spark for TV innovation...

From Paul Romer, American economist: "A crisis is a terrible thing to waste" – and I would add, "So is people’s time and money."

And from Henry Ford: "Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save the time."

Marketers’ demand for buying TV has dropped sharply, and that’s a mistake. We know the demand will come back as TV is still the best medium to reach people, tell stories, build brands and, yes, even sell products.

Once we establish our new normal, TV advertising can’t revert back to all its old ways. Marketers will focus much more on performance and outcomes. They’ll examine what they buy and how it performs with greater scrutiny. With even more finite resources, marketers will demand greater value and flexibility. 

On the other hand, consumers will emerge from this pandemic with increased appetite for control over their viewing options. They’ll seek content on Connected TV and over-the-top (OTT) platforms that have a significantly reduced ad load. This doesn’t mean that people are running from ads; instead, they want ads that provide relevant value.

In our new normal, marketers and audiences will have new expectations – new goals that we have to meet to succeed.

So, how do we move forward? Fewer ads, more value. 

What if we don’t simply wait for a marketplace restart, and actively plan for a total reboot of TV?

And, how do we accomplish less ads with more value without losing the needed monetization that advertising provides audiences?

Clarity!

There is only one meaningful solution: Universal Addressable TV+. This means the ability to deliver universally orchestrated and targeted TV ads to real people across any platform on which they wish to consume TV (linear, set top box, smart TV, ATSC3.0, OTT/CTV, plus other new ways we have yet to imagine, hence the +).

Imagine the intersection of the Venn diagram of the best of TV with the best of digital. At the intersection you would have quality, emotion, transparency, reach and trust meeting targeting, measurement, and automation. Focus there.

Measurement!

We need to understand the reach and frequency of ads delivered to real people. Without optimized investment and experience metrics, you can’t build and deliver advertising campaigns that have less ads and more value.

We’re making strides in the amount of available viewing information, but it falls short of the goal of measuring real people’s media and ad consumption on any and all platforms on which they watch TV.

We must unify all viewing data sets. It’s not enough to understand viewing from a set top box when the OTT/CTV viewing that is not captured by a box is growing to well over 25 percent of all viewing. It’s not enough to capture viewing on a particular brand of smart TV without unifying it with others. It is not enough to capture impressions and not people because about 30 percent of TV viewing is done in a co-viewing environment. That leaves 30 percent of the money and opportunity on the table.

Coordinated scale!

Universal addressable TV+ brings a greater potential for automated flexibility. The longer that distribution sources of addressable ads live in uncoordinated siloes, the harder it will be for the supply source to offer universal addressable solutions across all the potential viewing options.

A large part of OTT/CTV advertising is automated but not enough of it is addressable. Several linear sources are addressable but lack automation or coordination. This means you, working from home, having conversations with partners whom you haven’t engaged before.

Demands!

Demand must make demands. Nothing frustrates me more than the amount of OTT/CTV inventory – addressable by its very nature – being bought in bulk without addressability at its core. Compounding this issue is the lack of buyers demanding better accountability and targeting in linear. If the demand side unifies and settles for nothing less than more relevant addressability, change happens faster.

Demand side: you have an important role to play in our reboot. Play it.  

We’ve yet to write the complete chapter on our industry’s response to this pandemic. Let’s not squander this moment. Let’s focus on building a new, better and more relevant environment. Just focus: less ads, more value.

It will not be easy, but it can happen if we all work on it together… from home.

Tracey Scheppach is the CEO of Matter More Media.

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