While it sometimes seems like the streaming revolution began eons ago, it’s actually been only a few years. So it’s hardly surprising that marketers continue to wrestle with the complexities of creating optimally effective multichannel strategies and campaigns. Balancing streaming, linear TV and other channels to meet the objectives of individual brands as the media ecosystem and client needs continue to evolve is no small order.
Here are some observations about sidestepping common pitfalls to achieve that, from Nicolle Pangis, CEO of the Ampersand advanced television company.
You’ve alluded to marketers sometimes falling into “streaming tunnel vision” amid the proliferation of media choices — what does that mean, exactly?
Pangis: As a result of ongoing media fragmentation, advertisers are struggling to reach their target audience effectively. In some cases, this is exacerbated by brands and agencies being overly focused on streaming, and downplaying or actually dismissing linear TV. That may be the answer some time in the future, but it rarely produces the best results today.
It can’t be stressed enough that today, the decision should not be linear or streaming; it should be linear and streaming.
That said, managing across linear and streaming is not easy. It makes roles and coordination more complicated. So it’s not difficult to understand why some marketers are leaning too far into streaming.
But tunnel vision isn’t limited to streaming. Advertisers may become accustomed to relying on the data available within a specific, siloed platform, leading to a limited understanding of their target audience's behavior and preferences across different channels, and a struggle to attribute ROI accurately. They may also allocate budgets based on historical — outdated — spending patterns for each channel, leading to an imbalanced distribution of resources that overlooks potential high-value opportunities on other platforms.
This compartmentalization inevitably results in missed opportunities for cohesive, cross-channel advertising campaigns that maximize the impact of investments in TV and other media and platforms.
How do marketers best begin to build a more holistic or synergistic approach?
Pangis: Advertisers must adapt to viewers having multiple device options — from smart TVs to mobile devices to gaming consoles — as well as multiple media platforms and thousands of content channels from which to choose.
It’s crucial to establish a broad baseline of reach on linear channels, while also using streaming and addressable options to capture high-value audiences across various devices and platforms that deliver tailored messages to different households.
Brands and agencies should use a single source of truth within their walls to create and leverage audiences across all channels. This gives a single foundation of audience definition to leverage, making attribution and measurement not perfect, but certainly more accurate than using disparate audience definitions. On streaming platforms, use the data available — however siloed it may be — to target audiences based on their interests and behavior for personalized campaigns.
The major caution is that, if you want reach, the audience definition can’t be too myopic, or you’ll experience light delivery caused by too-small an audience. Narrow targeting is sometimes the goal, of course, but accidentally falling short on reach is much more common. And it’s usually an audience definition problem, not supplier issues.
Flexibility, agility and a deep understanding of the target audience are key to succeeding in today’s environment.
How does the current, post-honeymoon period of disruption in the streaming industry affect this process?
Pangis: Tunnel vision also seems to have masked the disruption and financial pitfalls underlying the explosion of streaming starting during the pandemic. But as we know, in the wake of billions in losses, industry giants are now pivoting away from emphasizing growth at the expense of profitability. That’s translated to the launch of ad-supported video-on-demand and free, FAST channels by major players including Netflix and Disney+ — options that in some ways resemble traditional linear TV.
The industry and its fee structure are under tremendous pressure, and the combination of industry complications while dealing with simultaneous pressure to cut costs makes for a difficult-to-navigate dynamic.
But that means that we need to double down on the basics. We need to look beyond the lesser issues and focus on how best to reach that target audience. That means analyzing how best to combine the individual strengths of coexisting media to produce optimum synergy and results.
For now, there’s still no better way to build a stronger and faster base of your strategic audience than through a national or local linear TV buy. However, as that reach rises it can just as quickly begin to flatten, wasting advertising dollars by reaching audiences that are unlikely to convert or those who have already been exposed to a brand's messaging. This leads to high-frequency ad exposure to some individuals, and a decrease in ad performance. Supplementing linear with streaming, using careful analysis to minimize under- and over-frequency, is the answer.
For example, a car company might generate broad awareness for a new model through a national TV campaign during prime time, and complement that with targeted ads on streaming platforms to reach tech-savvy and younger audiences and showcase the car's innovative features and eco-friendly benefits. Addressable TV campaigns also offer unique opportunities to fill gaps in reach.
A thoughtful integration of these based on data and testing is what will ultimately enable most marketers to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right frequency, ultimately driving maximum return on investment.