21st Century TV strategy: feel the fear… and do it anyway

21st Century TV strategy: feel the fear… and do it anyway
Opinion: Strategy Leaders

TV advertisers and broadcasters need to embrace programmatic, streaming and measurement technologies instead of sticking with the status quo, or risk being left behind by consumers.

We are hearing more about the decline in viewing on traditional TV channels, particularly amongst younger, more affluent and family audiences. Yet at the same time, linear TV still makes up the lion’s share of video ad budgets. Why is this?

Steered by smart leadership, traditional TV businesses are evolving their offerings to take advantage of increased viewing of TV over the internet. They are also supported by impressive trade bodies such as Thinkbox in the UK, who put forward compelling arguments for continued investment.

However, there is another factor lurking behind this evolution that remains a major contributor of the traditional broadcasters’ high advertising revenues: fear.

A recent study from the IAB UK described how the ever-increasing complexity of digital media, with multiple challenges around privacy, IDs, fraud, and brand safety, was making advertisers understandably fearful.

The complexity and pace of change in modern media is uncomfortable and difficult to keep up with. This is leading to conservative behaviour, sticking to what they know and feel safe with.

Traditional TV advertising is one of those things. For now, you get pretty high reach, TV shows that you can relate to, spot times to send to your CMO/CEO/family, and familiar faces to deal with.

There is also plenty of research to support the fact that TV advertising is the most powerful and effective medium. So let’s sign off on another large linear/BVOD campaign, and the job’s done!

At the same time, broadcasters are in the difficult position of managing the decline of a huge, linear TV business, while trying to address the challenges around changing viewer behaviour.

The current status quo

Overall, they are doing a good job at keeping much of the ad revenue and adopting new practices such as programmatic trading, but on their terms.

At present, this tends to be converting insertion order (IO)-based buying to automated IOs via Programmatic Guaranteed deals. Biddable, auction-based programmatic is considered far too risky, with fear around fraud, brand safety and a race to the bottom on price.

Much of this is based on historic, and largely unfounded, experiences on their web and mobile inventory from years ago. However, the negative perception around programmatic remains, even though programmatic is now a preferred transaction method in these formats following significant industry innovation to alleviate any concerns.

As with disruption in the music, movie and book retail sectors, the status quo suits the incumbents…until it doesn’t, and then it’s too late.

TV viewing is fragmenting at a pace never seen before, and reaching an audience at scale, with effective levels of frequency, is becoming a huge challenge for marketers.

When your audience is not just on four, five or even 10 channels, but hundreds, how can you reach them effectively and efficiently?

You could just settle for reaching most of them by sticking with legacy TV channels, and try and top up elsewhere.

Or you could embrace the challenging new world and develop a TV strategy fit for the 21st century.

What is a 21st Century TV strategy?

This will include the traditional broadcasters, who remain the bedrock of TV advertising. It will also include the larger AVOD streaming platforms, and it will include the increasing range of specialist streaming channels.

In an ideal world, this will be planned and bought via unified platforms, utilising data, brand safety and fraud prevention tools to address these concerns. It will be measured in a unified way, by independent bodies, covering all available channels.

We are not quite in that ideal place yet. There is not a unified way of accessing TV inventory or measuring it.

Things are moving in the right direction, and I believe that advertisers would be best served by broadcasters and streamers embracing a more open and biddable selling environment, as well as becoming part of an independent industry measurement initiative.

At the same time, programmatic platforms need to demonstrate their value and understanding of why advertisers love TV. Brand safety, lack of fraud and adhering to regulations are all basic table stakes in traditional TV. They need to be in programmatic TV as well.

The real benefits to be had are in aggregating quality inventory from hundreds of sources, enabling efficient transactions, offering flexibility to support agile and responsive media buying, optimisation tools to help plan and buy TV more effectively, complete transparency around fees for services provided, and more granular targeting.

The world of TV advertising is changing dramatically as viewer behaviour changes, with audiences becoming increasingly fragmented. This is an uncomfortable scenario for many advertisers, but not one in which legacy behaviour will succeed.

Those who thrive will feel the fear and do it anyway, supported by partners in broadcasters, streamers and technology platforms who can help them navigate the uncharted terrain ahead.

Hitesh Bhatt is senior director, CTV/OTT, EMEA at PubMatic

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