Why It’s Important to Resist ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ in TV Advertising

By Charlie Holmes, SVP of Sales at New York Interconnect

The TV landscape is in a state of transformation, as is the advertising that powers it. When you combine the sudden viewership shifts sparked by the pandemic (including the unprecedented growth in audiences who added streaming to their TV consumption) with the rise in addressability within TV, you see that tremendous new opportunity has been unlocked in the space—and advertisers of all shapes and sizes are taking note.

However, we would be remiss to treat this period of rapid evolution within the TV space like we treat other so-called “emergent” advertising opportunities. Applying our industry’s standard “shiny new object” lens to what’s happening in TV right now does the reality of the opportunity a disservice. Here’s why.

Power in Progress, Not Wholesale Paradigm Shifts

The TV advertising landscape of today looks a lot different than it did just 10 years ago, both in terms of technology and the advertisers themselves. That’s not because of some cataclysmic shift in what TV advertising does or how it’s done. Rather, it’s the culmination of the steady progress that’s been made over the course of decades.

TV advertising is no longer the domain of only big brands with big budgets. Over the past decade, we’ve seen gradual democratization of the space, driven by a number of factors. Part of this has to do with the maturation—and ultimate saturation—of many digital channels. As disruptive direct-to-consumer brands began to hit the point of diminishing returns in search and social channels, many expanded their efforts into TV advertising as a means of both building their brands and expanding their reach.

The migration of smaller, younger brands into TV was accelerated during the pandemic. A recent VAB analysis found that nearly $460 million entered the national TV marketplace in the first half of 2020, representing 110 first-time national advertisers across 59 categories. Almost 70 percent of new first-half national TV dollars were invested during the second quarter, in the heart of the pandemic. There were a number of reasons for this sudden surge, one of which is the increased sophistication of targeting and measurement capabilities in the space that, taken together, decreases TV’s barrier to entry for brands.

But it wasn’t just young brands that started looking at TV differently in the pandemic. Across the media landscape, the pandemic wiped the slate clean for many advertisers and allowed them to break free of many traditional ways of doing things. Agencies and brands of all shapes and sizes were given permission to evaluate alternatives that previously received little consideration.

In the TV space, a lot of that exploratory attention has gone to addressable, connected TV channels—but this opportunity doesn’t fall into the “shiny new thing” category. Rather, the brands that are gaining traction in this space and realizing the much-discussed efficiencies it offers are doing so thanks to years of incremental progress by companies that have been building and aligning the addressable opportunity with the larger TV landscape since the birth of digital capabilities.

Celebrating the Incremental Advances

There are a lot of emergent companies operating in the TV space today, all committed to doing something better than everyone else, be it targeting, measurement, creative optimization—you name it. Their cool new tools are just that—very cool. But the real opportunity within TV is the same as it ever was: superior brand-building at scale. Thus, every cool new tool needs to be viewed through that lens. Can it be leveraged, scaled and replicated for maximum effect?

Ultimately, advertisers are looking for partners in the TV space that help them put it all together so they can be consistent and comprehensive in their approach to TV. This is where the power of past and ongoing incremental advances is evident. The reason TV is capturing new attention among advertisers isn’t because of some new technology leap, but rather the many small advances we’ve seen in areas such as the following: 

  • Aggregation and organization: Just as viewership patterns have fragmented across linear, digital, streaming, VOD, addressable, connected and any other number of descriptors for new TV modalities, companies have been racing to reunite these pieces into scalable, understandable packages that help advertisers reach their target audiences everywhere they’re watching. Those that have put in the most work in that regard are the ones that are positioned to help advertisers meet their evolving media goals.
  • Simplification: For advertisers, the small stuff matters when it comes to media-buying efficiencies. Even small advances, such as the consolidation of buying codes, contracts and invoices when running a campaign, can add up to big gains for brands and agencies.
  • Comprehensiveness: Advertisers today are seeking end-to-end solutions that can help them consistently get their message out to the masses, while still taking advantage of niche opportunities to connect with audiences on a deeper level, whether that’s through local community tie-in activations or more-nuanced messaging to multicultural communities. Thus, companies that have developed the partnerships needed to offer diversified access and executions tend to move the needle for these companies more than those that perform a single sophisticated task at a limited scale.

The TV landscape is most certainly having a moment right now, but it’s much different than the moments we’ve seen come and go in digital and social channels in recent years. There’s a sophisticated technology component underpinning the TV revolution, yes. But more than anything, it’s about building—building relationships, infrastructure, organization and understanding. This process of building takes time, but the long-term payoff is worth it. Right now, we’re seeing the fruits of decades of labor come into full bloom in the evolving TV space. It’s no accident, and it’s not a flash in the pan. This is what real, long-term progress looks like.

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