Advertisers Need Attention Balance To Sell More Stuff

Media has been a balancing act since the first person called himself a planner somewhere in the mid-20thcentury. That’s truer than ever in the 2015 upfronts, which present advertisers with more video options than ever before.

Selling more stuff –- the underlying goal of all advertising –- takes scale of attention in predictable, reliable places and forms. While attention always matters, it matters more now that (a) people have so many things competing for theirs, and (b) there are relatively fewer platforms with scale of attention.

To sell more stuff now, advertisers need to use all the video options in balance. That means building a base in the places where consumers devote the majority of their time and attention, and extending it via channels attracting smaller yet concentrated audiences.

To do it, they’ll need to look past a news cycle dominated by emerging video ad platforms, aggregators, enablers and surrogates. All help propel an ironic attention imbalance: Decision makers paying the most attention to what consumers actually commit to the least.



To understand total scale of attention, it’s useful to look at media across platforms, since that is how the wider scope of advertising is sold. Combine the time Americans spend every month with TV on all screens -– from TV sets to mobile devices –- plus the four Internet portals and Facebook, and the total is 181 hours. Of that, 80% is with ad-supported TV content.

Importantly, Americans spend as much time -– 35 hours/month –- with ad-supported TV content on computers and mobile (tablets and smartphones) as they do with the four portals and Facebook; TV is half the Internet. Factor in what people are actually watching via streaming services, and it may well be considerably more.

The scale owes to people’s commitment to premium, professionally produced content. Content commitment is advertising’s most natural, and powerful, organizing principle. It’s what has enabled TV networks to expand across screens to meet viewers wherever they are, so that TV Web sites fill the top-five online rankings across a range of categories – from comedy to kids to sports – and top the traffic charts for tablet apps.

It’s why Nielsen now holds up social TV as proof of intensity of engagement with programming. Committed audiences at scale give advertisers a multiplier effect.

While there is professionally produced content on YouTube, for example, it’s important for advertisers to recognize that these represent a few programs surrounded principally by a mass of user-generated content. Top YouTube networks are algorithmic aggregations of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of channels whose small audience pools have little content in common. For the top 10 YouTube networks, that’s 28,000 channels, most of them UGC.

Given the news volume, it’s natural for advertisers to assume that there is a profound shift of attention to native Internet video. The parade of little engines that might is a source of great news energy, but news attention and consumer attention are very different things.

From an advertising standpoint, YouTube, to take one example, is smaller, more fragmented, and more user-centered than one might get the impression it is. The total video views on the top 10 YouTube networks (2.72 billion, Jan. 2015) is equivalent to one popular cable TV program (“Chopped” on Food Network, 2.79 billion, Jan. 2015), while total monthly views on all of YouTube is equivalent to the Hallmark Channel.

From an attention perspective, people aged13+ spend more than 99 hours a month watching ad-supported TV and five hours watching YouTube; for 18-24, the spread is 55 to 7.

There’s not yet enough prime video content or attention on the four portals and Facebook to carry the mass of a brand’s ad weight, let alone buttress all of American business. That’s the job of ad-supported TV today.

When it comes to video, advertisers need to use all the elements for what they do best. The magic’s in the mix; and the mix is a balancing act. Advertisers can win by maintaining the perspective to use all the video channels for what they do best.

Tap TV for 8 trillion impressions, a ride-along on the Internet and a turbo boost on Twitter. Then go deep with small but powerful concentrations of specific viewer types on streaming sites, the portals and Facebook, and extend the online presence meaningfully.




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