Can't We All Just Get Along? Execs On Both Sides Look At the Gulf Between TV And Digital

One of the few endearingly snotty things Don Ohlmeyer did when he was a major NBC programming executive was to put out a press release every week proclaiming NBC as the nation’s top cable network.  At the time, that kind of stuff cheesed off cable networks, but Ohlmeyer patiently explained that overwhelmingly, NBC viewers got the network via cable, and it had hugely larger numbers than, say cable’s USA or any of the other true cable properties. So there.

Well, things changed. Counting heads, and the quality of heads, is still competitive business, but now it’s television vs. the Internet, or perhaps it’s really television and the Internet vs. advertisers. The ad biz buys too much television and not enough Internet.  Television’s audience data pales to what the Internet can offer advertisers. The Internet can’t even verify viewability.

Can’t they all just get along?

Of course they can, says Nielsen’s Amit Seth, EVP for Global Media Products, and Dave Morgan, founder and CEO of Simulmedia, who issued a white paper kumbaya,  Video Buying Selling and Trusting Across Platforms, based on three long, chatty dinner meetings the two executives and others had with about 40 marketers, researchers and corporate executives. 

Their conclusion: “The agency model is built on two separate buying structures: one for TV and one for digital. While that’s starting to shift as advertisers seek multiscreen campaigns, our conversations demonstrated that, for the time being, the online and TV video ad markets will remain separate as they are now—but the movement toward integration is real and accelerating.”

By accelerating, they end up saying, they mean that by 2020, the two buying places ought to be pretty well meshed into one thing. Using projections from Myers BizNet Media and Marketing Investment Data, by that year, total TV spending will reach $83 billion (from $69 billion in 2013) and digital video will reach $33 billion (from $6 billion in 2013).

The report says, “From our discussions, we gleaned that TV media owners will primarily continue to sell against classic GRP and cost-per-thousand (CPM) metrics in the near future, but enhanced measurement opportunities will open the door to other metrics as well. Participants indicated that some in the industry will start making ‘secondary promises’ about the total cross-media video reach they deliver.”

But there are obstacles, the most endearing of which seems to be that people aren’t machines, and machines don’t eat shrimp, or politely laugh at bad jokes, or flirt.

In short,  programmatic is a problem.

Says the report:

“The process of buying and selling television advertising is surprisingly efficient, thanks to a stable, simple and accepted standard of measurement, as well as a high level of trust between critical market participants. Most senior TV media buyers know each other and have worked together for decades.

“For many of the online executives who participated in our discussions, this emphasis on trust and human relationships was a surprise. A large and growing portion of online advertising is bought and sold ‘programmatically’… More technology and increased automation make digital media more profitable and scalable for agencies, but this shift toward automation is largely incompatible with the human relationships that underpin the TV advertising business."

“As the TV ad market becomes more data-driven and integrated with digital media, it too, will inevitably become more automated, but there’s a prevailing sense of apprehension looming over the shift toward automation. As one marketer remarked, ‘Silicon Valley doesn’t understand TV. They only understand digital. And, until they begin to understand both, there will be a disconnect.’  TV buyers and sellers will need to reach a level of trust in automation for adoption to occur.”

Well, that’s just sweet. I think it might miss the point, in a sweet way, too. The two businesses just operate in two worlds and in some Venn diagram, there would be overlap, but not as much as in the past, when newspapers meshed with radio, or broadcast with cable.

Beyond what’s being delivered, and how it’s measured, digital video and TV may be something like a quote often attributed to George Bernard Shaw about Great Britain and the United States being "two nations separated by a common language."

Here's looking at you!

 pj@mediapost.com

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