Member blog: Consumers want more TV but they don’t care which screen

by Martin O’Boyle, Managing Director of Partnerships PMX, Publicis Media

Over the last 10 years, the narrative has consistently pitched TV against digital, suggesting that one is better than the other. However, the reality is that consumers don’t look at it this way. They are simply looking for the best quality content to watch at their convenience, and they want to watch it on the best screen available.

The numbers back this up. Sales of TVs globally continue to be strong with consumers investing in bigger, better screens for their living room – GFK estimates sales of 4K UHD TVs have increased nearly ten-fold from 2014 to 2018.

TV viewing is still healthy. In 2018, the England v Croatia Football World Cup semi-final on ITV averaged 24.3 million viewers. This was higher than any England game since World Cup 90. If you take into account the 4.3 million people who viewed the game via the ITV Hub, the number actually exceeds the peak viewing figures of the World Cup 90.

However, the reality is that consumers are now taking a far more ‘on demand’ approach to TV and video content consumption, watching content across many different screens and not necessarily during the initial TV broadcast.

From an advertising point of view, the lines are a little more distinct. Traditionally, TV has been seen as the home of quality content which has been a distinct advantage for TV broadcasters, but now many of the platforms that this content is consumed on is delivered using digital technology.  That could be an application on your connected TV or personal device, or a streaming device or set top box plugged into your TV.  This means that traditional TV broadcasters are now having to play in both the TV and digital arenas. Similarly, the growth in internet enabled TVs means that we are now seeing traditionally digital players hosted on both TV screens and other digital devices.

The challenge here is for TV broadcasters to keep apace by enabling capabilities in TV and video that advertisers take for granted in digital, such as only showing ads to the relevant audience rather than to whoever happens to watch TV at that point, regardless of whether they are the target audience or not. Progress in this area has been slow to date and this has given digital publishers more space to play in this area.

This convergence of TV content and digital capability is creating an increasingly complex market for advertisers. While we are able to buy ads targeting broad, indistinct audiences in the TV broadcast feed, digital publishers give us the opportunity to buy ads in TV and video content with far greater targeting, only showing ads to those who we intend to see them, in an automated way. Complexity occurs because there is a lack of consistent data allowing agencies and advertisers to evaluate the differing targeting, content and platforms for delivery to see how they complement each other in order to drive KPIs.

There are initiatives to fill these data gaps such as BARB’s Project Dovetail in the UK, Mediametrie’s 4 screen TV/Video measurement in France, and the Dutch SKO initiative – all promising moves, however they are all currently focused on TV broadcasters, and so not yet the solution to evaluate an overall campaign across the TV screen, let alone video across all screens. There is an opportunity for technology and data companies to lead in this area.

In spite of the gaps and complexity, it is no longer sufficient to limit video campaigns to the traditional TV spot advertising – we can no longer reach everyone that way. We need to use both TV broadcasters and digital publishers and use each platform to reach our consumer when they are in different mindsets; from predominantly passive, laid-back viewing on TV spots; to the more lean-forward viewing in on-demand, digital, environments.

To maximise effectiveness of these campaigns today, agencies need to navigate this increasingly complex world and provide solutions which deliver greater effectiveness across all aspects of TV and video. Broad, indistinct targeting and incomplete or inaccurate measurement should not be the best that can be offered. We have a joint responsibility in the marketplace to drive this; we can do this through strategic and progressive partnerships, and by developing models that bring together the capabilities of digital activation with the great TV content out there.

The norms of yesterday and today will not be tomorrow’s reality. The landscape is shifting rapidly and the pressure is on established players to move more quickly or be marginalised. They have to adapt to the realities of the dynamic market of today. Consumers have spoken and they want great content, whenever and wherever they want, on the best screen possible. There is an opportunity to offer advertisers access to the best TV content with the best digital targeting capabilities – the best of both worlds.

Those who get left behind will only have themselves to blame.

IAB Europe’s Connected TV White Paper provides an overview of the status, key opportunities and challenges in connected TV advertising in Europe.

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