There’s a lot of talk about redefining what is considered to be “TV” in this fast-changing media landscape. It’s appropriate that the FCC’s Media Bureau is currently mulling whether to expand the legal definition of television to include digital services (notably, though, only ones that pre-schedule their programming, so Netflix wouldn’t count here). Following on the heels of this year’s insanely digital-heavy upfronts, we in advertising are dealing with a world where what we consider to be “television” looks very different from how it did only a few years ago.
All these events bring up an important issue: If we’re redefining what television is at every turn, still, from what I can tell, the industry isn’t rushing to redefine the advertising that supports TV-quality content. As TV evolves, sticking traditional commercials on digital platforms is just going to look more dissonant than ever. Have you ever watched a TV show online and been bombarded by the same commercial for the same product multiple times, during what seems like way too many commercial breaks, and ended up hating both the advertiser and the show? That’s just a terrible user experience. Analog-style, frequency-based planning just doesn’t work in a world that’s going digital.
The redefinition of television may literally leave advertising behind. From Netflix to HBO Go to Amazon Prime, the most-talked-about new video players are all either subscription-based or have an ad-free premium version. If you control any portion of the massive, multibillion-dollar advertising industry, no matter how small, this should deeply concern you.
And maybe that’s why, as a fellow MediaPost writer noted earlier this week, traditional TV ad revenues are surprisingly higher than a lot of digital folks would assume, and they aren’t shifting the way we might expect them to. In fact, they’re still growing.
Here’s my theory: There simply isn’t a quality alternative for buying media in digital, at least not nearly as good as in “traditional” TV. I can tell you why TV dollars won’t go online in 10 words: TV impressions are 100% of the screen for 30 seconds. And until digital starts to face this fact, television advertising’s transformation is going to lag behind television’s own.