The Future of TV Advertising conference is becoming a fixture in the media calendar. This year’s affair featured a renewed confidence in the strength that TV can deliver for clients. This was largely due to two factors: a thorough econometric study from Thinkbox which showed the ROI of TV, and the ongoing brand safety and viewability concerns plaguing digital media. Several themes became apparent throughout the conference, which I have expanded on below:
The ROI of TV
A new study from ebiquity, commissioned by Thinkbox, has shown TV unequivocally drove the best ROI. This was true in the short-term, but was even more pronounced in the long-term. Everyone knows how powerful TV can be at building brands, but it was strange to see marketers having to remind themselves of this fact, and question the levels of investment they were getting from digital.
Hitesh Bhatt from Samba TV made the point that actually ROI is highest when TV and Digital work together. TV is misunderstood due to the inability to measure as much as digital, and actually broadcasters should be working with agencies and digital partners as much as possible to really prove their value further. This was reiterated by Ryan Jamboretz, CCO of Videology, who also called for broadcasters to define Advanced TV before someone else does.
Addressable TV is getting closer to possible
For a long time addressable TV, or programmatic TV, has been a dream for clients and agencies. It seems like that dream is close to a reality today, certainly in the UK and US markets. In the US, the introduction of OpenAP is allowing advertisers to reach specific audiences across a range of broadcasters. In the UK, Sky has been offering this approach for the past couple of years. The recent launch of Group M’s Finecast looks to broaden the opportunity beyond Sky, and currently involves all broadcasters bar ITV.
Does this mean personalised TV will become the norm? Interestingly, most major advertisers thought not. Many argued that in reality, there is little wastage in TV, as all views could be valuable. Richard Brooke, global media director for Unilever, pointed out when Dove for Men launched, the target audience, men, knew instantly what the brand positioning was. The reason for this was they had seen so many female-targeted Dove ads in the prior decade. Echoed by Rick Mandler, VP of Strategy and Digital at ABC, who said that as an industry we know that data driven advertising will always be part of our future, but if we only focus on micro-targeting we will lose the broader brand perception which gives them meaning.
The other downside is cost. The ROI for addressable still did not deliver compared to more large-scale TV campaigns aimed at broad audiences. However, addressable TV has been brilliant at persuading smaller more niche clients to use TV for the first time. For example, Mclaren, selling a £175,000 sports car, used TV instead of direct mail for the first time.
Brand Safety and Viewability is weighing on everyone’s minds
This was a TV conference, so the bias was understandable, but most advertisers expressed their concerns with digital marketing. David Benson from Google was left to defend YouTube, and pointed out that AI improvements are now helping remove unsuitable materials in 87% of cases before they have even been flagged. But this may not be enough to persuade some large advertisers back to the platform. They want to be able to target audiences, and TV now seems to be opening up that opportunity in a safer environment.
Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, had previously said Facebook delivers a Superbowl-sized audience every night. Fox TV looked at the numbers, realised this stat wasn’t close to the reality, and published the data showing they deliver the equivalent of 700 Facebook audiences each day.
Ben Sutherland, CMO for Diageo, shows a cartoon illustrating the thoughts of many in the room on the difficulties with digital advertising:
After outlining his approach for building a trusted marketplace for Diageo, he also called for digital partners to show a step forward approach in terms of the seriousness around brand safety and ad fraud across the board, more than just through white and black lists.
Will TV keep losing young viewers to OTT?
If there was a dark note to the air of self-congratulation, it was the growing reach, and deep pockets of Netflix and Amazon. Both services continue to be successful, especially with younger audiences, and are taking viewers into an ad-free space. Their success to date has been built around drama and comedy (see image) but there was much talk that Amazon in particular may explore live sports as the next step. In the US they have broadcast NFL games this year. Apple, Facebook and Google also look interested in growing their OTT services and potentially using sport as a way in. Sport has huge attractions for these businesses: a built-in audience, they are willing to pay a premium to watch, and they have shown already they will move platforms to view.
The final and over-arching message of the conference was that there is definitely a future for TV, and an exciting one at that, as long as broadcasters and agencies/brands take control and define their future in the right way with their consumers at front of mind.