Not a week has gone by over the past 10 years when I’ve not been asked by someone in the ad industry, “When will we be able to buy TV ads like we buy digital?”
When I would describe many of the new TV ad technologies emerging — from TV ad analytic systems and audience-based planners to real-time ad delivery reporting — I could tell the questioners weren’t quite satisfied. The fact that technologies now existed to make TV advertising work very much like digital didn’t really matter to them.
What they were really asking was not “when will we be able to buy TV ads like digital?” but rather, “are people like me buying TV ads like we buy digital yet?” As anyone who has ever worked in a technology-driven market knows, the difference between the two — the perspective of an “early adopter” and that of a pragmatist who's part of the “early majority” — is enormous. In fact, as legendary tech marketer Geoffrey Moore has famously taught us, there is a a chasm between them.
Anyone who has ever dealt with buying TV advertising and also been exposed to digital advertising self-evidently knows the problems of TV and the promise of digital. Lots of folks — me included — have been working for years to fix the linear TV side with technologies and approaches developed at first for digital ad buying.
However, in spite of the fact that a not-insignificant portion of total TV ad spend is now transacted over digital-like TV ad platforms — eMarketer and others estimate that portion of spend is already in the billions of dollars a year in the U.S. — digital TV ad spending has still been a realm of the visionaries, not the more classic pragmatists, most of whom don’t adopt new technologies until they are part of the mainstream.
Yet in the past year or two, mainstream has arrived for platform-driven TV advertising. For reference, I’ll borrow from Moore’s classic book on the subject, “Crossing the Chasm.”
According to Moore, several developments make a market “mainstream.” They include: pragmatists begin taking charge of the buying decisions; integrated platforms emerge (many morphed from managed services); industry standards become established; supporting infrastructure and systems take hold in the ecosystem; and, critically, incumbent players begin to adopt, recognizing that what was disrupting and threatening them is now their path to future relevance and growth.
As I look at what has been happening in advanced TV advertising, I see the indicators that the mainstream is now adopting a platforms-driven future in TV advertising.
Virtually every TV network, major media agency and top 100 advertiser now has an advanced TV ad strategy. What was dabbling a few years ago is now part of the core business. All the major analytic and measurement companies are offering advanced TV ad ratings or enhancements, recognizing that this is now table stakes. And, just as critically, all the digital companies now want in on the TV ad game, adjusting or adopting streaming and over-the-top products to capture some of the $72 billion linear TV market.
It still has a long way to go, and will certainly be very dynamic even if driven by pragmatists, but the future of platform-driven TV advertising is going to be driven by different factors than those that brought it here. Mainstream pragmatists scale their needs very differently from early adopters.
Tune in here as I write more on this over the next months.