TV Is Dying (Still) (Soon) (Maybe)

According to Publicis Media's Zenith, TV will lose its dominant share of global ad spending within the next couple of years, with Internet display advertising moving into the top slot (although if you add search and classified to the mix, the Internet is already the top global ad medium).

There will be great celebration and back-slapping in the digital space, since grabbing TV ad dollars has always been the golden fleece of every other ad medium in history (we used to fantasize about it at Newsweek in the ‘70s, back when newsmagazines were a viable business).

In an effort to grab some of the crumbs that have fallen off TV’s table, digital relentlessly attacked its inefficiency, its audience fragmentation, its cost and falling ratings.

Meanwhile, brands who drank that Kool-Aid soon learned that when they cut back on TV their sales fell -- and the more they invested in online, the more headaches they had with fraudulent traffic, inappropriate content and how to calculate reach and frequency across five or six different digital platforms.



If you are a consumer, there is MUCH not to like about TV advertising -- from its ubiquity to its redundancy and often incredibly stupid creative.

Some cable networks have become utterly unwatchable because of the frequency and duration of their ad pods. Some channels have devised a clear strategy to increase ad frequency as a movie moves toward its conclusion, assuming that viewers have invested enough time to tough it out to the end. But in fact, we just turn it off and look up on Wikipedia how it ends. Or we ALWAYS record everything on those channels and skip the ads.

If you are an advertiser, there is also MUCH not to like about TV these days. Everything that digital folks say is a problem is, in fact, a very real problem with TV. Except for one very important footnote: TV works.

No one has yet developed a platform, app or idea that works better than linear TV. Advertisers know if they run an ad on Monday, they will see a tangible sales lift on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Does that mean every dollar spent on TV is well spent? Absolutely not.

It is not efficient to buy on the few demographics that linear TV has historically used to characterize its audiences (female, 18-35, etc.), especially when there is now a ton of data that can be cross-referenced to enable more precise TV household targeting.

It’s no longer efficient to buy a flight that consists of a few top prime-time shows. Target audiences are now in pockets all over the dial, and a typical schedule ought to have 50 or 60 shows spread across scores of networks. This is not only more cost-efficient, but can produce a lower per-customer acquisition cost and higher ROI.

I kid Simulmedia's Dave Morgan for constantly telling people that “Judge Judy” delivers more audience advertising minutes every day than all of the videos on all of YouTube across all of America all day. (More than 10 million people on average watch “Judge Judy” during every minute in the show, including the eight or so minutes of ads shown each half hour.) But those are pretty irrefutable facts. TV’s reach is still nearly impossible to top.

What about the reach of Facebook and Google, you might rightly ask? To which I would remind you that no less than P&G found that when it cut way back on its digital advertising, there was almost no impact on sales.

6 comments about "TV Is Dying (Still) (Soon) (Maybe)".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 12, 2019 at 8:59 a.m.

    Good one, George. What's really laughable about the anti-TV pitch is its harping on audience fragmentation, ad clutter and ad avoidance---all of which are more characteristic of digital media. Nevertheless, TV does have important issues to deal with, namely finding a way to mitgate its growing ad clutter issues and giving individual brands more of a say in buying time according to their specific needs---the latter being mainly an advertiser problem. Also much needed is an improved audience measurement system which takes into account not only whether a set was on but also that someone was actuallty watching. For example, when Nielsen says that 10 million people "watched" an average commercial minute of "Judge Judy" in reality an average commercial in that show probably reached only 5 million.

  2. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, July 12, 2019 at 9:10 a.m.

    Ed: it is simply unAmerican to to not accept the Judge Judy numbers at face value. I believe it was Hermann Goering who said if you just repeat it over and over, they will start to believe it. If Dave has to find another analogy he will be incredibly upset. Don't be the school yard bully, Ed.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 12, 2019 at 9:21 a.m.

    But, George, at least I didn't post my remarks on Twitter---like that other bully.

  4. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, July 12, 2019 at 10:18 a.m.

    Judge Judy is simply wonderful for such advertisers as car insurance, personal injury attorneys, and title loan companies, all eager to tap the median age 60 audience of less educated viewers. She can laugh all the way to the bank and linear TV can build her a statue.

  5. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 12, 2019 at 10:58 a.m.

    Douglas, I understand that Judge Judy will be retiring soon. That should be the final nail in  "linear TV's "coffin as once she leaves,  her worthless, low brow, oldster fans, who are the only remaining TV commercial viewers, will have no other choice but digital media---the medium where everybody--especially those wonderful millennials---- just loves those interruptive, tracking ads that follow you everywhere and make your pages jump as they are served.

  6. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, July 12, 2019 at 11:09 a.m.

    Hey Doug: According to Nielsen data, 18- to 24-year-olds watch significantly more linear TV than they do digital video, and a much higher percentage of TV ad time versus digital video.

    AND you still have not invited me to The Bennett for drinks.....

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