Doomsday For TV? Not According To Gotlieb

by , Jun 6, 2012, 4:33 PM
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Henry Blodget has industry types talking with his TV-is-going-the-way-of-newspapers treatise this week. It’s a lengthy piece on BusinessInsider.com, but the upshot put before industry oracle Irwin Gotlieb on Wednesday was on-demand viewing and DVRs will kill the underlying ad model.

The argument from Blodget, the Business Insider Editor-in-Chief who had some issues on Wall Street, is pretty unoriginal. It’s a matter Gotlieb has been dealing with since probably the last days of the Clinton administration, if not before.

Yet if Gotlieb, the chairman of GroupM, ever had doubts about what ad-zapping could do – he had to, right? – those now seem to be fading. Gotlieb hadn’t read the Blodget post, but as far as its doomsday scenarios for the TV business, he had a rather simple retort: “With all due respect to him, he’s totally wrong.”

Gotlieb then proceeded to lay out various propositions about how TV advertising can grow in effectiveness over the next decade. There needs to be some refocusing, he said, but if executed well, he’s bullish on the living-room screen.

(He made his comments at a Broadcasting & Cable event in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett. First, he challenged Blodget’s suppositions that are based on behavior in Blodget's household, suggesting the sample size does not lead to the most insightful research. America broadly behaves a lot differently than high-earning, early adopters.)

Parse through Gotlieb’s comments and one could devise a four-point thesis for TV growth: better measurement, second-screen applications, addressability and budget shifts away from trade spending.    

So, Nielsen isn’t capturing viewership on iPads and other mobile devices satisfactorily? No worries there. “This is just a little bump in the road, we’re going to get past this,” Gotlieb said.

Makes sense. Nielsen knows widely accepted, cross-platform measurement might be the most pressing issue facing it. GroupM is working with Nielsen in pursuit. When the industry cried out for a currency shift incorporating DVR ad-skipping several years back, Nielsen moved quickly to offer actionable data.

Realizing viewers are increasingly watching while using a mobile device or laptop, programmers have been rushing to develop appealing second-screen experiences, where related content appears on both screens simultaneously. There’s opportunity to drive engagement with behind-the-scenes videos or actors’ live commentary on synched iPad apps. There are also opportunities for advertising that connects TV with the small screen.

“It will improve the effectiveness of my ads,” Gotlieb said.

He threw a bouquet to the “Today” show, but also a suggestion. He recently was enjoying a cooking segment, but the recipe was blocked by all the activity. Let the chefs do their thing and put the recipe on a second screen, he suggested.

Second-screen synching also could boost e-commerce. An avid cook, Gotlieb might immediately order ingredients.

The promise of addressable ads have been percolating for a good while, but Gotlieb remains a champion. The opportunity to deliver the proverbial dog food ad to a puppy owner, offers advertisers immense runway and networks the same. (GroupM parent WPP is an investor in addressable advertising company Invidi.)

“Addressability is just on the horizon … the financial opportunity starts to become a multiplier of what we have today,” Gotlieb said. “It’s a huge potential.”

Then, there’s the chance that e-commerce could help usher in more TV ad dollars. Here’s Gotlieb’s theory on this one: packaged goods companies spend a fortune on trade and retail marketing -- signs in store aisles, payments for displays closer to the checkouts, etc.

But if more and more people shop for the likes of detergent and toilet paper online, the emphasis on in-store marketing could decline. That cash could be reapportioned and payments around “shelf space” could be shifted towards “paid media,” Gotlieb said. (Amazon may be offering a sort of template now.)

Gotlieb, of course, has other thoughts on how content models could use changing and the potential of set-top-box data, so any four-point plan could have six and 12 planks very quickly. Hopefully, someday he’ll write a definitive book: “Gotlieb On Media.”  

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