TV Must Retool Now: Lessons Not Learned By U.S. Automakers In '70s

  • by , Featured Contributor, December 31, 2020
The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Media Insider.

The TV industry — its advertising business especially — must retool, and do it now, Here’s what I think it means to retool:

Reform core TV ad products. The TV industry needs to stop making the sale of gross rating points against sex/age by day and daypart as your core product. That does not solve marketers’ problems. That product is what commodity traders and intermediaries want, just as 1970s car dealers wanted to keep car buyers in the dark about vehicle economics to protect their margins, and cared way too little about selling and servicing better cars.

Marketers want TV advertising to help them grow their businesses. They want hearts and minds by the millions. They want sales. They want to reach specific audiences with specific message, and measurement that helps them understand how audiences received and reacted to those messages.



Reform core TV ad processes. Everything in the world of marketing and advertising is dynamic now. Recognize that fact and cater to it. Clients want to know how their ads are doing in real time. They want to get their campaigns up fast. They want to optimize them early and often. They want to get them down fast.

Media plans should be able to be converted instantaneously into TV media buys. This is the time to put software at the center of your business, not create tools to optimize with around the edges of the business. Real automation is needed to replace the daisy chains of dozens of folks that need to touch every plan, order, negotiation, spot and report to make it happen, or unhappen.

Fix TV ad measurement and reporting. This is the time for TV ad sellers to measure and report on what marketers and their bosses really care about most. They want to see campaign delivery in real time, updated regularly, across channels, de-duplicated by audiences and linked to actual performance like target reached. They want frequency de-averaged at the person and impression level. They want reporting on business outcomes, not just media outputs. They want to know attribution to their key performance indicators, like web visits, leads and conversions.

TV can win the fight on both media effectiveness and efficiency for many marketers against most other media, but only if it competes with digital head to head and apples to apples. 

Staying in its solitary measurement silo gave TV an extra decade or so of protection from other media, but it also prevented the industry from building the muscles it needs to emerge from this crisis in a state that it can not only survive, but truly thrive.

This is the TV ad industry’s energy crisis. Just as automakers were then, they are at risk of losing massive market positions from a failure to change legacy products, processes and business models that weren’t so badly broken that they had to be fixed. 

U.S. automakers didn’t fare well after the energy crises of the 1970s. Will TV advertising face down this crisis better?

2 comments about "TV Must Retool Now: Lessons Not Learned By U.S. Automakers In '70s".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 31, 2020 at 1:47 p.m.

    Dave, it's fine to dream about "TV" time sellers allowing advertisers to buy time---premium time? ---whenever they wish--based on refined targeting metrics that vary significantly from brand to brand. It's also fine to suggest that TV time sellers should track---or facilitate the tracking---of outcomes for every bit of audience their shows generate for every brand---so advertisers can respond almost instantly by cancelling buys that don't work and switching to others that do ( ? ) work. And who can be against TV time sellers being made responsible for the  results of TV ad campaigns---to say nothing of being able to define across platforms and networks what the reach and frequency patterns are for every brand's media buys. Did I  leave anything out? Yep---and all of this must involve strict performance guarantees by the sellers, nothing less will suffice. Meanwhile, advertisers will still be allowed to make corporate upfront buys where the emphasis at the all-important client bean counter level is on CPMs and, somehow, advertisers will create the huge, fully trained, media savvy, staffing at their brand manager levels that can devote much of their time to monitoring the effects of every TV buy on every channel---making daily adjustments to maximize their sales results. I think that about sums up the collective wishlists as stated by many CMOs who, by the way, have little  interest in actually getting involved in the boring and  tedious numbers sifting and crunching that all of this willl entail.

    The problem is that advertisers who make such pronouncements seem to think that marketing their products is very much  the responsibility of TV time sellers. Sure, they create the products, get them distributed and develop positioning strategies for them as well as TV ad campaigns to sell their stuff to consumers. But at that point TV is expected not only to provide an audience but also to become totally flexible about how it packages and sells these audiencees with the advertisers' best interests---not its own---in mind--but with guaranteed outcomes.Some will say that the two interests should coincide---but that, too, is a dream. I think it's time for advertiser CMOs to stop pontificating about things they don't fully understand and get in the media trenches with the pros to see what can actually be accomplished---which is a lot---and, also, to recognize what can not be done---or is too much to ask for.

  2. Daniel Cohen from Cohen Media, December 31, 2020 at 3:47 p.m.

    Good feedback Ed!  And my guess it Dave wants to pay for all of these upgrades without any support from the advertising community.

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