That was the thinking in 2010. Digital had successfully overcome one giant industry — print — gobbling its market share and its cultural relevance over the course of a mere 10 years. So why not swallow another sector? Why not TV?
No matter what digital executives would say publicly, privately they were emotional. Why are advertisers still spending so much money on TV? they fumed. It galled them that advertisers’ biggest ad spend had not shifted to the efficient, data-oriented, targeted delivery of the Internet.
Besides, they sputtered, TV wasn’t measurable. Sure, its delivery was measured — the Nielsen ratings — but to an Internet person, that was antiquated. Internet people get ad server impression logs proving delivery just as a matter of doing business. Measuring impact on the consumer — now, that was exciting. Digital advertising could do that; TV couldn’t. Yet TV got all the budget. How could such an injustice persist?
The poor adoption of addressable TV, and the fizzle of impact metrics like Nielsen’s Project Apollo, cemented these views. TV people were dinosaurs. Digerati were mammals. It was only a matter of time.
Cut to 2014. Not only has TV grown steadily in both usage and dollars, but the sexiest corner of data-driven media is in TV.
What has changed?
First, TV data. Many TV advertisers have embraced targeting data with the same gusto that digital did back in the mid-2000s. Advertisers can now use demographic data much richer than age/sex for their TV campaigns. They can use past purchases (“own a certain make/model of car”; “Tide loyalist”). They can even use data sourced from the Internet: the in-market or retargeting data that’s been the secret weapon of Internet media performance.
Second, TV technology. Many operators are now running healthy addressable advertising businesses (yes, the proper household addressable advertising we’ve been holding our breath for since 2008). This is thanks to the bridges built by TV-tech companies Invidi and Visible World (and thanks, presumably, to the patience of their investors). For addressable advertising, the challenge is no longer mere evangelism (no, really, we can do this, and it’s good for you). The challenge is scaling operations to meet demand.
Programmatic, too, is enjoying rapid growth. Programmatic TV is a broadly abused term in the industry. Hence I will offer a definition. “Programmatic TV” is the execution of a TV campaign that:
a) uses inventory chosen because it reaches high concentrations of the right kind of audience;
b) uses audience data that is richer than age/sex;
c) measures delivery in impressions, not GRPs; and
d) delivers on diverse inventory (broadcast, cable, many DMAs and day parts) for a single campaign.
Third, TV measurement. As anyone knows who has launched a groundbreaking new product, there are two phases to selling it. First explaining what the heck it is (You can do what??), and second, reassuring the client that it works — mainly through measurement (Okay, if it’s as good as you say, prove it). Audience-driven TV is in this phase now. Sellers are loading up campaigns with ROI analyses to prove that addressable delivers results that justify the high CPM. The fact that addressable TV delivers ads at a household level, means that test and control groups can be created, and impact — consumer impact — can be measured.
Fourth, TV is following the digital pattern. In 2014, it is commonplace that big brands like P&G and Walmart do audience targeting online. But it wasn’t always the case. The early adopters of digital targeting were direct-response advertisers: teeth-whitening and belly-fat-reducing and low-rate-mortgage-selling companies. But over time, brands adopted audience targeting. First came the categories with an opportunity for online conversion:finance, onsurance, auto, travel. Then, lured by measurement solutions, CPG, pharma and others entered. Eventually the biggest advertisers overall also became the biggest audience advertisers.
TV is (more or less) showing the same pattern; and is currently in the DR phase, transitioning to the early adopter phase. Welcome to the Year One of TV audience buying.