Who'll Give Voice To TV's Next New Fragment

When I started covering television, there was still only one form of it -- linear, and primarily over-the-air -- and only one trade association representing it, the Television Bureau of Advertising. Then Bob Alter created the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau in 1980, and the great hyper-fragmentation of the medium began. Alter, who died in 2006, didn’t create the cable TV industry, but he did give a unified voice to it at a time when only a few people on Madison Avenue were taking it seriously.

Don’t get me wrong. The ad industry knew something was coming. Talk to any old-timer, and he'll tell you stories about Ted Turner making sales calls at one of several big ad agencies that no longer exist, jumping up on a desk and demonstrating why he was called the “Mouth of the South.” It wasn’t long before his “superstation,” TBS, and then CNN, were on the agency’s schedule.

But it was Alter who brought a disciplined approach to lobbying Madison Avenue to take cable seriously, using numbers and logic -- especially the concept of “under-delivery” of important households and audience segments as cable’s penetration began to rise. And within a few short years, you had agencies like Ted Bates (since subsumed into Publicis’ Zenith unit) calling for a “5% solution” that earmarked a line item for budgeting cable into their massive TV advertising expenditures.



The rest is history. But today’s TV Watch is about history repeating itself. In the years since Alter demonstrated how successful a powerful research-based lobbying group could be at fragmenting the way Madison Avenue thought about, planned and bought television, the medium has continued to hyperfragment -- in every which direction -- but no entity has emerged to organize it.

Sure, one of Alter’s successors, Sean Cunningham, rebranded the CAB as the Video Advertising Bureau last year, and expanded its mandate to cover all things video. But even as he did that, the medium continued fragmenting from within, and all about.

We have Barry Frey’s Digital Place-Based Advertising Association (DPAA) representing media outside the home and in some of what arguably are the most captive audience locations. We have the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) doing the same for online and mobile video.

And just this week, the newly formed eSports Advertising Bureau announced it would begin representing the burgeoning marketplace of competitive video gaming, something that has been marginally on the fringe of Madison Avenue’s awareness, but which the EAB (or is it eSAB?) says is about to change, thanks to the legions of young people -- especially young men -- who are gravitating to those screens.

Amid all this fragmentation, the TVB continues to do a powerful job lobbying the interests of local TV broadcasters. And, yes, all you have to do is look at Nielsen ratings to understand they are still very much a vital part of the video advertising marketplace.

My point? TV, er, video, will continue to fragment ,and as it does it will need new organizing principles to unify our collective consciousness -- and wisdom -- around the most meaningful pockets of it. If you listen to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, the “Social Media Video Advertising Bureau” may be the next one in line.

2 comments about "Who'll Give Voice To TV's Next New Fragment".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 2, 2016 at 2:49 p.m.

    Joe, I knew Bob Alter when he was at the RAB---Radio Advertising Bureau-----before the CAB and he applied many of the approaches in positionning radio to advertisers and agencies to cable doing a terrific job for this new form of television. Unlike radio, the CAB had one tremendous edge---it was TV---and this made all of the difference as advertisers were not going to reject cable because they believed that its commercials couldn't motivate consumers.

    I think that you are right in that each segment of TV/video needs specialized treatment, rule making and promotional efforts. But it dosen't always work. For example, we have had the Syndicated TV Association and a similar organization designed to promote the broadcast TV networks come and go. In both cases, their scope may have been too narrow and their backers too short sighted to see these groups through and support them over an extended time frame. What's next? Maybe a TV Programmatic Platform Association or a SVOD Advertising Bureau---when Netflix and Amazon finally decide to accept ads.

  2. Chris Pizzurro from Canoe, August 3, 2016 at 9:41 a.m.

    What is interesting about eSports Ad Bureau is the addition of the "venue" to the mix (e.g. Madison Square Garden is a Board member). So under a one "genre-based ad bureau" for eSports, it is video via TV, via digital, and in venue.  (for disclosure, my company, Canoe, is also on the Board)

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