A lot has been written recently about the demise of linear TV. This has mainly been driven by the adoption of connected TVs changing viewer behaviour from a controlled fixed menu of scheduled programmes, to having content curated for us so we can watch what we want when we want it. Without doubt, the primary pioneers of change have been the combined innovation by Sky and the meteoric rise of SVOD services.

It is true, however, that the monetisation of these channels has become a little blurred as the more traditional advertiser-funded led media owners continually adapt their content schedules towards an on-demand model and the primary subscription-based platforms begin to contemplate pursuing a slice of the advertising cake, as the viewing population gets a bit more selective in what they are willing to pay for. Add on top of this the rise in FAST (Free Advertiser Supported Streaming TV) services, the planning of TV campaigns is going to get even more complex.

So, what does this huge fragmentation of audiences and explosion of viewing options mean for the advertiser?

The effectiveness of TV was built on immediacy, mass reach, trust and creating brand fame, the delivery of millions of viewers all at the same time was a compelling proposition for advertisers. TV was positioned as the ultimate media choice for brands, the most effective medium and the best ROI!

Those mass audiences (bar mainly big events and one off’s) are no longer so much in abundance. The media “sell” is now more about “efficiently targeted solutions” as data is generated, collated, and processed. With the growth in the eCommerce culture, there has been a shift in expectations from creating brand “pre-disposition” to help drive future purchasing intent, towards a “buy now” call to action, with instant performance metrics dictating campaign effectiveness.

There is no going back to what was a tried and tested formula of success. We need to adapt and embrace the new culture but, equally, take experience from the past by asking the right questions via stringent testing and querying the effectiveness of advertising on the connected TV screen in the living room.

Surely, tighter targeting, greater efficiencies, real-time campaign analytics and insights are good news but, what are the watch outs? Here’s a few for starters: –

Data Validation: The source and modeling of the targeting and audience delivery data is invariably handled by the seller or at best an invested third party. Nick Manning wrote a great piece recently about “the more complex media becomes, the less independent the measurement”, which articulated this issue very well. Basically, as more targeting capabilities come to market, we end up with a multitude of inconsistent sources of viewing data. Trust in the audience data is vital and, whilst huge in-roads into verification are being made, care should be taken that we are not being sold the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Cost Efficiency: Generally, the more data points you overlay the greater the CPT/CPM (the cost of 1,000 impressions). If you are going to pay a higher premium to reach a relatively niche audience, you need to be very sure your target audience is that specific and equally consider the volume of impressions being generated. Obviously, there are some data points such as location or in-market indicators that make perfect sense, but most goods and services are not unique to a particular “niche” audience. We must be careful that we are not hyper-targeting to excess. Traditionally, “free” impressions outside of your trading audience (but still potential customers) were a secondary benefit of Linear TV. If those additional impressions are minimised or lost altogether, then what effect will it have on brand growth? Equally, let’s hope the media owners don’t over inflate price of the new targeting capabilities to the point where they become ineffective. Over time and, with more analytics, clients and agencies will be able to understand where the “tipping point” will sit. Remember, communication effectiveness isn’t necessarily the same as cost effectiveness!

Common Sense: Often, when we let AI and programmatic systems drive optimisation, the results are very different from those we perceive as logical. The human experience is still essential. Sense check everything. Yes, this seems obvious but, the number of times I’ve said, “that doesn’t feel right” or a media owner says, “I’ve never been asked that before”, just highlights how easy it is to simply accept what the algorithms are churning out! Delivering an agreed number of specific impressions when and where the audience is available, is just part of the equation for effective strategies. There is still a definite role for all those factors which have contributed to campaign successes in the past. Factors that drive attentiveness like timing, positioning, environment, context, and relevance.


Frank Lyons



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