Shereta Williams, April 29, 2019

As someone in ad tech, my answer for radical change in our industry would normally be focused on how technology is developing at a fast pace. But today, I’m thinking about our industry’s obsession with storytelling, authenticity, engagement and connection.

While it’s easy to think about how these human qualities might affect creatives and even data analysts, they have the potential to radically change the jobs of media planners and buyers, too. These professionals must constantly learn how media buys can support better storytelling and engagement. Advanced TV advertising is a relatively new way media buyers can reach humans rather than targets.

People, not targets

Twenty years ago, fashion industry advertisers retouched images, striving for absolute perfection. People — with millennials leading the charge — are reclaiming and celebrating being human. They reject retouched images. They reject being told how to look.

Now, some fashion companies are changing in response to customers saying, “Real is in, and perfection is out.” Their focus on data collection is higher, but the goal is to better understand and connect with real humans. In turn, creative is more authentic, media buys are more personal and customers feel heard. And all of this leads to happier consumers and continued sales. This demand for treating customers as humans rather than targets extends across all industries.

Putting the person at the center of the broadcast buy

We all know how social media and digital advertising have helped advertisers collect data and reach and engage with individuals in meaningful ways.

While TV advertisers are still a ways away from leveraging data as precisely as digital advertisers can, the industry is making strides. EMarketer estimates that 57% of the U.S. population has a connected TV — a TV set that is connected to the internet through an over the top (OTT) device like Roku or Amazon Fire TV or through a smart TV with a direct internet connection. This number includes older Americans as well as millennials. We’re far past the early adopter stage.

Advanced TV has really changed the game, allowing media pros to consider more human (behavioral) information rather than broad target (demographic) information.

One example is linear addressable TV. It’s kind of a hybrid between digital and broadcast TV, allowing advertisers to reach families, or households, rather than huge groups (traditional TV) or individuals (digital). Two households watching Modern Family live on a connected TV at the same time may see ads for different brands based on their own behavioral data. One family may see an ad for an off-road vehicle, while a neighbor’s family may see the latest pharmaceutical solution for arthritis.

Getting even more personal, some ads are going the interactive route, allowing TV viewers to choose their own ad experiences from a menu. They can also take it a step further and interact with the ad in other ways. For instance, they may click a link to “buy now” or to “learn more.”

While TV was first threatened by digital, the industry is seeing the potential to leverage technology to be more personable.

It’s important to remember that, as always with advertising, a healthy mix is important. While addressable and other technology allows advertisers to home in on customers whose behaviors are already a good match for the brand, addressable TV and other advanced TV advertising are still reaching a smaller slice of the population and often, people who are further along in the buying funnel. Advertisers still need to reach people at all stages of the funnel, including that early stage of awareness — and TV is still one of the best ways to reach a large audience.

Finding the human in target markets

In conclusion, my takeaways from all of this change, new technology and a renewed focus on our humanness are:

1. While digital is making TV advertising more fragmented, it’s also creating more opportunity for engaging with consumers.

2. People are receptive to engagement from brands and more individualized advertising as long as brands respect them as people.

3. No matter someone’s role in a brand or an agency, it’s important to strive to keep the human in mind. Technology is here to help us be better at engaging and telling real stories.

4. People are becoming more open to being engaged with based on their own personal needs (as long as advertisers don’t get too creepy).

5. The line between digital and broadcast TV media planning is starting to blur. Traditional planners and buyers need to stay up to date on industry changes and be open to learning.

6. And finally, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Advertising 101 presents the case for a marketing mix. That’s still relevant, even with technology that can help us communicate one to one. It remains important to have a healthy mix of media. While advanced TV and digital advertising can help us create connections, linear TV still reaches the most eyeballs in one place and is especially useful for reaching people at the top of the funnel.

My world centers around technology, whether it’s reaching people through advertising or helping advertisers get back more time to think about how to reach individuals. At the end of the day, let’s remember that we all have a purpose to serve humans, not merely consumer targets.

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