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The Value of Television: Advertising Week Wrap-up

October 24th, 2018   ||    by Rick Howe

To quote the erudite Hannibal Lecter, “we covet most what we see every day.”

And that’s television.

At Advertising Week in New York earlier this month, we frequently heard from folks in the digital media space about how they were creating mass quantities of impressions at increasingly lower costs.

“Racing to the bottom,” somebody said on one panel, talking about the dropping cost (and value) of digital ads. Television, by the way, appears to be strolling to the top.

What none of the digital folks talked about was emotion, or engagement – the values that television advertising hold most dear and delivers to massive audiences every day.

Ad Age reporter Jeanine Poggi, moderating an Advertising Week panel, said, “There’s something about the reach of TV. Where else can you get that size audience?”

In fact, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the advertising space, whether digital or traditional, grew up with television. And the power of television (as we approach Halloween) haunts their very existence.

Television formed us.

Television informed us.

And now television is re-forming itself as a hybrid of traditional entertainment and digital advertising mechanics. Described in one Advertising Week panel as a “frustrating combination of essential and opaque,” television delivers the engagement we need, but is only now developing the mechanics – transparency, automation, and speed – to compete with digital. That’s what Videa brings to local television advertising, and why Videa asked me to check in at Advertising Week.

ComScore’s incoming president Sarah Hofstetter, in this piece in AdAge, supports the trend to traditional television advertising look and feel, with digital innovation:

Sarah says: “Despite the fragmentation of media and consumers’ media consumption across platforms – a topic discussed at length at Advertising Week in NYC – the television itself has a renewed and major role in the household: Hulu reports that 78% of their streams are on a connected or smart TV. Two things happened to make this a reality – great content and easy-to-use technology”

In spite of “cord-cutting” (which has slowed a bit), television audiences are bigger than ever, and we are watching more television than ever. But we are watching differently.

After Advertising Week, I had an opportunity to talk about television with a group of MBA candidates from NYU. They all watched Netflix; surprisingly they all had their own paid subscription, unlike a few years ago when they all were borrowing sign-on credentials. And Amazon, and Hulu, and a few others. But to a person, they all watched prime-time television shows, along with a lot of short-form “snacks” and quite a few shows I had frankly never heard of.

They all had broadband, of course, considering it a utility like heat, light and water.  It’s there. You have to have it. Period. End of conversation.

But none of them had cable TELEVISION (or satellite). They hadn’t said “no.” They hadn’t even considered it. And along with their disdain for cable, they had no real concept of broadcast television.

“My grandparents had an antenna.”

“Is that still on?” (referring to Ch. 4 – WNBC – in New York)

“If I can’t stream it, I don’t watch it”

Yet they ALL watched prime-time television shows. Old shows on Netflix; new shows on Hulu.

That’s OUR stuff, folks. That’s television. That’s what WE do.

Problem is, we’re not paying attention to what our VIEWERS do.  Location matters and mindset matters. The television may be on in the kitchen, or home office; but it’s background. We used to call it video wallpaper. It’s certainly a different viewing experience than sitting down in the living room at prime time. That’s easy to figure out.

But what if I’m streaming that same prime time show the next morning on my iPhone? I will NOT tolerate the same 2-3 minute commercial pods in the middle of the show. Won’t happen.

And my personal viewing preferences change with time of day and state of mind.

One way linear television cannot address that; but my iPhone can. It knows exactly who I am, where I am, and what I was doing just before I clicked to watch.

Our competition covets our business. They have the technology. We have the content.  And we have a much larger audience. We need to move faster to make it work for the viewers, and for our advertisers.

My friend Tal Chalozin (Innovid) summed it up best at Advertising Week: “We dream of the future of advanced advertising, but we are shackled to antiquated business practices.”

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