In the Era of Ad-Blocking and On-Demand Content, How Can Marketers Ensure Their Ads Reach Their Target Audience on TV?

By R. Larsson, Advertising Week

In an age dominated by ad-blocking technologies and the proliferation of on-demand content, marketers’ ability to captivate their target audience on television has become more complex than ever. As we celebrate World Television Day, the medium itself is at a crossroads, navigating a landscape in which viewers increasingly have the power to choose what, when, and how they consume content. The pressing question for marketers in this dynamic environment is: how can they not only break through the barriers of ad avoidance but also ensure that their messages resonate with the right viewers in the ever-changing realm of television?

We spoke to leaders from adland to get their thoughts.

Bhavin Balvantrai, Chief Market Analyst, Omnicom Media Group UK

The structural shift in how people are watching TV content continues to develop. In a sense,  the COVID pandemic meant that we passed through the age of subscription VOD at pace, and we’ve already seen a plateau in adoption. We are now firmly in an era of advertising-supported VOD platforms, and that is great news for advertisers.  As damaging as subscription environments have been for reaching audiences with commercial messaging, advertising VOD platforms present an opportunity to reach engaged audiences with rich creative across more platforms.  Formats are becoming unskippable, contextual targeting is becoming more sophisticated, and audiences are scaling. And of course, the majority of consumption is on the ‘big screen’, the main TV set in the home, where adblocking is much more difficult than on a phone, tablet or laptop.

The slowdown in subscriptions has meant that the likes of Netflix and Disney+ have introduced ad-funded tiers. Linear audiences are migrating to broadcaster VOD platforms, and YouTube viewing on connected TVs is growing exponentially. These changes require a new holistic approach to planning, trading and evaluating video across screens, taking a multi-platform approach. Audiences are by and large agnostic of the platform they are operating on, and agencies are adapting structures and offerings to reflect this.  Measurement will be one of the key unlocks for this, and with CFlight joining Barb in January 2024, coinciding with the start of beta trials for Origin, the data appears to facilitate this.

Gregor Chalmers, Head of Broadcast, The Kite Factory

My advice to any marketer wanting to ensure their ad reaches their target audience on TV is to work with an agency that understands the art and science that go into crafting a TV plan. It’s one thing to throw together a TV plan, but to understand the nuance of a channel mix requires time and precision. Pulling the lens back a bit, we now know that on-demand viewing, be it BVOD, SVOD, CTV, FAST or whatever other acronym you fancy, is overwhelmingly watched on the big screen, and we’re blessed with an ecosystem rich in high-quality, engaging content. People are still watching swathes of this long-form TV, so the opportunities for brands and agencies are vast; you just have to have the ability and the desire to harness them. I recoil when I see headlines proclaiming the death of TV, as it couldn’t be further from the truth: once you realise what “TV” actually means to viewers in the modern world, you realise there really isn’t any excuse for your advert not to reach the right people.

Justine O’Neill, Senior Director, Analytic Partners

There is a lot of debate around mass-market advertising versus targeted advertising at the moment, and while their challenges are not unique to TV, they are similar irrespective of what medium the audience is on the end of. However, what is unique to TV is the move away from the broad reach of linear TV, which has been around for decades, to digital channels that come with potentially better targeting options.

Targeted advertising can often be perceived as more effective as it has the potential to activate prospective customers and support short-term sales. However, it isn’t always the most efficient option due to expensive costs and the lengths required to reach audiences. On the other hand, broad reach is essential for acquiring new customers. It often acts as a customer’s first interaction with a brand, leading to a strong impact on improving performance marketing and long-term brand equity.

Once marketers get the basics set on what they want to achieve with TV, it is key to assess the cost required to reach specific audiences. Brands need to be asking themselves whether there’s room in the budget for hyper-targeting or contextual targeting, or perhaps the broader option. Ultimately, the answer needs to align with the businesses’ needs.

While marketing budgets are on the rise once again, they are still under a lot of pressure. When building a TV strategy, brands can leverage synergies with other channels to boost the effectiveness of their campaigns. Applying a test-and-learn approach can help figure out what channels, media or creatives are working for them. Finding the optimal mix of effectiveness and efficiency and Broad vs. Targeted will maximise the impact of a brand’s marketing budget.

Emma Dean, Client Manager at Cream

Reaching audiences effectively with ads is harder than ever. With a rise in media fragmentation, ease of avoiding or blocking ads and a general decline in industry creativity, advertisers must now harness digital-era methodologies to navigate the complexities of TV advertising and promote messages that resonate effectively amid evolving audience behaviours. Below are three ways advertisers can improve accuracy and efficacy of TV advertising.

  • Audience data has never been so plentiful and useful – this is a good place to start. Build your channel and media planning strategy on this data to gain a true understanding of media behaviour, aesthetics and brand universe, as well as attitudes to advertising and TV more generally.
  • Measurement & optimisation is vital – long gone are the days of guess work and purely basing campaign strategy on intuition. Applying marketing mix modelling and holistic econometric methods to TV delivery might not give you immediate optimisation insights, but can and will power medium and longer-term advertising success – especially with TV where we still see a more pronounced advertising impact.
  • Bring together creativity and media planning to improve chances of success – this approach has been the default in digital advertising for a long time, but the siloed nature of ad agencies still negatively impacts campaign performance. When audience research, creative development, creative testing, channel planning, and media delivery, are brought closer together, you end up with campaigns built on shared insight and data. You also improve your collective adaptability by speeding up decision making – which is vital when you need to react quickly to campaign results or optimisation cues.