Time To Stop Chanting 'Shift Your Spend From TV To Us'

According to the fine folks at eMarketer, by next year digital ad spending will top $77 billion, overtaking TV as the biggest advertising medium in the U.S. TV has been in the ad game for 76 years (the first official paid television advertisement was broadcast in New York on July 1, 1941).

Digital advertising launched in 1994, a mere 22 years ago. Both have undergone fantastical metamorphoses: TV, from basically three national networks to hundreds of cable channels, from being analog lines in a box in a furniture console to being available on every device and surface that can support its (now, ironically, digital) images.

Digital has moved from punch-card, room-sized industrial machines to the desktop, to the pocket (or wrist or glasses), and from 2,400 baud modems to nearly universal WiFi (with the exception of some airlines, which I swear are still offering about 9,600 baud throughput rates). It has put entire library buildings worth of information at our fingertips, and given us the ability to communicate across the world in an instant.



While we wait for both systems to join like two dwarf stars imploding, creating a new universe of possibilities, we have to indulge the whiny digital argument that video views are "equal" to, if not "bigger" than, TV's. You need not be much of a student of this business to know that such claims are nonsense.

Said NBCUniversal's Linda Yaccarino: “The average American spends seven times as many hours watching television as they do on Facebook, and 15 times more hours on television than they do watching YouTube.”

And then there are all the negatives about digital video, like transparency, viewability, fraud (including “bots”) and everyone's favorite: ad blocking.

Not that TV is immune from problems. Audience fragmentation (across video sources and devices) has certainly gathered some dark clouds on Sixth Avenue, as has the ability to time-shift and skip past commercials.

Ironically, the biggest arrow in the quiver of each is data. A small part of it is first-party, but now everyone has partnered with outside sources of demographic, psychographic and spending data to claim that THEIR ads move product more than the other guy's. The assumptions in these "business outcomes" calculations are a little squishy. So far, no big marketer has pushed all its chips in one direction or the other. Right now, everyone is playing both black and red.

Growing up in the print and then the digital eras, it was always about "How do we get brands to shift dollars out of TV over to us?"  Unfortunately, when they did, their sales suffered, and they put most of their spend back on TV. The fact that digital will surpass TV (thank you, mobile, thank you, thank you...) pretty clearly demonstrates that digital created a new set of channels to reach consumers without making brands "choose" between the two media.

If I were a digital video provider, I would kinda shut up about my reach and focus more on the fact that most consumers HATE many aspects of digital video ads, according to a recent survey by text-to-video creation platform Wibbitz. TV has its own problems talking Megyn Kelly down off the pedestal she put herself on.

1 comment about "Time To Stop Chanting 'Shift Your Spend From TV To Us'".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 19, 2016 at 4:27 p.m.

    Good points, George. I've been telling the same thing to my magazine friends for years. Stop bashing TV and show advertisers how to use magazines more effectively. But they don't listen. Maybe now, it's too late.

    Regarding the ad revenue figures, they have virtually no significance not only because only the stupidest advertiser makes media decisions base on what someone else is doing but, more importantly, because the data is for many types of advertising---direct response, search, sales promotion, yellow pages, etc, as well as true branding campaigns. If one makes reasonable estimates of the latter, TV remains far and away the leader in ad spending with about 60% of all branding dollars,while magazines, radio and digitall split the remainder. Ten years from now I suspect that TV, in whatever form it morphs into, will continue to dominate, though by this time it and digital may well have merged into something we haven't seen before.

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