TV's Still Where It's At, Even If Upfronts Are Moving

The death of TV as the most dominant medium is grossly exaggerated. We all know that TV is, in fact, still the most used and best suited media tool in our box of marketing and advertising tricks.

How do I know? I downloaded a copy of the British Thinkbox presentation called “TV advertising’s ultimate nickable charts.” It is a collection of insights collected from across the U.K. media research spectrum, covering mundane datapoints like reach and impact for a variety of touchpoints all the way to brand health and ROI building ability.

Thinkbox is the organization paid for by the U.K. commercial TV industry, so it does have a bit of an agenda, of course. But many of the findings are transferable to the U.S. market with some probability (cue Ed Papazian to tell me I am wrong! Just kidding, Ed!). 

There are of course stark differences between the U.K. and the U.S. ad and TV market. However, I have seen enough data from across the world that seems to align with the U.K. findings, which show that:

  • TV outperforms all other forms of video by quite a margin. If you rely on just online video, you’re missing out on reach and are a frequency champion (that may or may not be a smart strategy for your business, and that is for you to decide).
  • Live TV still makes up the majority of TV viewing, although “new” forms of TV like VOD, subscription VOD, etc. are beginning to add meaningful reach. This is especially true for young audiences.
  • TV outperforms all other media, including all forms of online video, in terms of its ability to drive incremental ROI from incremental investment. There are laws of diminishing returns for all media, but TV is doing better than all others.
  • TV’s full short-term and sustained effects means it generates the best sales volume overall, and it is also the medium that adds the most when used in combination with other media.



There are many other interesting datapoints in the deck, but for that I recommend you nick a copy yourself.

Obviously, the #stayathome period, which most states are now beginning to abandon, has led to an increase of viewing here in the U.S. and elsewhere. Daytime viewing, viewing among adults and kids, viewing of (new) paid VOD platforms like Disney, Netflix and others are all up. 

Will that last? Probably not. We are entering the summer, and if my N=1 observations and anecdotal information from friends and clients across the country is worth anything, the American population has decided that about eight weeks of being careful and living the isolation life is about all we can muster. It is summer, so it is time to go outside, mingle, and hang out. What do you mean: face masks and social distancing?

This will undoubtedly lead to a reduction of TV/video viewing and some of the gains that the medium generated over the last few months (and possibly a second pandemic, but who cares, apparently). It is interesting to note that all of the data from Thinkbox is pre-COVID. So all those statements I shared above are true regardless of people having to spend time at home in isolation or not. A lockdown just adds incremental performance. These are important considerations as we fret about the future of the upfronts, whenever they take place.

3 comments about "TV's Still Where It's At, Even If Upfronts Are Moving".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 12, 2020 at 1:26 p.m.

    Maarten, I have often referred to Thinkbox and some of its research---much of which is fairly credible and is supported by parallel findings in the U.S. As you know, I agree about TV being the big show when it comes to branding, but I and others are trying to get certain needed reforms adopted. Unfortunately we are largely sytmied by the almost total lack of interest at the advertiser CMO level. Maybe that will change---but I'm not holding my breath waiting on it.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, June 12, 2020 at 5:54 p.m.

    All good points Ed.   I just hope to still be breathing by that time and not pushing up the daisies!

  3. Debbie PATTERSON from Independent , June 16, 2020 at 1:13 p.m.

    As far as branding and finding new ways its best to go back to old school and use the brands written into the TV show! Best case of seeing something like this was the show Leverage when they used there phone you could see the carrier on top which was then Cingular, Driving the car instead of not looking at the back of trunk with the identifying enfinity it shows very clearly the brand driven by the Lead actor when setting the GPS which is specific to this car it shows the start up screen thus identifying the car's extra options available! You also here Alex Hodges say he's set up a facial ID data base and a DirecTV package with the extra sports channels for Elliot because we know he has to have Hockey! These commercials are likely to be not forgotten by even the average person because they are apart of the show and cannot therefore be FF or getting up to get coffee as you miss the plot there are so many others I couldn't possibly list including Elon Musks electric hybrid car in bright Red something else not forgotten! This method was used back with I Love Lucy why it's been shelved is for someone else

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