Is TV Advertising Stagnating?

After writing this column for 23 years, I’ve learned some basic habits to help stay fresh.  One of those habits is to earmark articles I see during the week to comment on later.

This week, from what I was reading, there seems to be a storm rising around television, and it’s one I did not expect to see after all these years.

The stories were not written from the same POV, but they all spoke to a stagnation in TV advertising.  Mike Shields wrote about how the general advertising market seems to be performing well, but TV advertising is declining based on reports from major TV networks and providers.  The narrative for the industry is one of growth and excitement, but this narrative doesn’t appear to align with the actual revenue numbers these companies are reporting. 

Jack Myers wrote from the perspective of an observer in 2030, talking about how the early 2020s were witness to doldrums in TV advertising, but that innovation and technology created a new renaissance for TV advertising and the business skyrocketed later in the decade.



Other pieces said TV networks and providers who have both linear and streaming are seeing a decline in linear and an increase in streaming revenue, but one does not appear to offset the other.

These articles appear to call out an idea that I have written about previously, along with fellow Media Insider Dave Morgan.  The TV advertising business is on the precipice of change.  My perspective has been consumers like TV, but they want it when and where they want it, and linear does not provide that solution.  Streaming is the way of the future, which we all know, but the model for advertising that has been carried over from linear to streaming is not the right one.  It is analogous to the way general internet advertising first started.

When this business launched, we adopted a print advertising model by placing static ads on a page, and inserting full-page interstitials as if they were the full-page ads from a magazine.  Remember those?  They were interruptive, and they did not work.  The model of interrupting content to deliver an ad is not going to work in this new age.  We’ve already proven that time and time again.  Also, data is not the savior we hoped it would be.  The solution is more than data and targeting.  It requires a different way of thinking.

So where does TV advertising go from here?

I see two things that must happen.  First, we change the definition of TV.  TV will no longer hinge on linear.  We should examine TV as the amalgam of video advertising opportunities that are in the home. Underneath that category we have traditional linear TV, streaming on large, connected devices like smart TVs, and smaller connected devices like laptops, tablets, and phones.  I make that delineation because the experience of watching streaming on a TV vs. a smaller device is wildly different.  Simply put, I will never click on an ad on my TV.  I may click on an ad on my phone. 

Secondly, we must be clear that we need more models for advertising that don't interrupt the content.  They can surround the content, be embedded in the content, and even be clickable in the content.  They should not interrupt the experience unless the consumer dictates it.  This may be the renaissance being talked about because it would usher in an entirely new way for consumers to engage with brands in the content they love.

TV and search are the two primary pillars of the advertising business.  Search went through its biggest phase of change about 18 years ago, when Google came to a place of prominence in an industry that had been dominated by companies like Excite, Infoseek and Alta Vista.  TV is at that same place right now, but the foundation is so large that it remains to be seen whether the innovation will come from brand-new companies or from within those large companies who have so much to lose if it falters.

My money is on the combination of both. Through that combination, we can see the end of  stagnation in TV advertising.

What do you think?

2 comments about "Is TV Advertising Stagnating?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 15, 2023 at 2:45 p.m.

    Cory, with all due respect, it's not a given that everyone prefers the streaming approch to content acquisition or that linear TV will shortly expire and everything will be streaming. Nor is it a given the the only way that TV content will be offered in the future is on an on-demand basis so we  can "binge view" every episode of everything to our hearts'content.
    As for the sorry state of TV advertising, now that "TV" includes both linear and CTV, "TV"  ad spending is continuing to increase. Indeed in the just completed upfront, while linear was down slightly streaming was up by over 30% with the result being a net gain for "TV" in its totality. This trend will, no doubt, continue and the ad dollars will flow in increasing numbers---but they will be divided differently among the various "TV" time sellers.

    Finally, there's more to advertising than the amount of ad spend and how it gets divided among various networks or services. The real issue is whether consumers are turned off by the kinds of commercials they see to the point where they lose their effectiveness. While your typical TV commerical of today is presented as a"15" or a "30" in a sea of ad clutter---compared to the way it was in the pre-cable era when there were far fewer messages and much longer ones---mostly "60s"---that's ancient history. Nobody remembers--or cares. We have gotten used to how it is today. Is there any evidence that TV's ad impact in 2023 is rapidly declining? Not that I see.

    Of  course, "we" could be using "TV" better---especially in media planning and buying---but that doesn't mean that "TV's sky is falling.

  2. Sean Tracey from Sean Tracey Associates, November 20, 2023 at 2:16 p.m.

    Hi Cory,  
    I've written, produced, and directed TV commercials for over 30 years. I think it's "stagnant" in many ways, including the mandatory spot lengths (:15, :30, :60). There's got to be a better way—like allowing opt-in for longer video format stories from advertisers, additional content, etc.  TV is a powerful way to bring a brand or product story into people's homes or deliver it to their mobile phones.  If the commercial is expertly created and compelling, there's still not much in the media world that can capture the viewers' attention and create and share emotion.  I think the delivery is "what's broke," not the idea of TV (in all its current forms).

Next story loading loading..