While still a small percentage of total television viewers, the numbers around cord cutting are staggering. 1/3 of American adults have a subscription to Netflix, 400,000 people cut the cord in 2015, the average cable subscriber has 200 channels, yet only watches 17. Couple that with the fact that the average cable subscription has increased 5% in the past year and you have a recipe for discourse. (source) Fortune boasts that 1/5 of all U.S. households have cut the cord. These are staggering numbers. Numbers that are forcing the traditional TV media buyer to find new ways to reach the same audience. Luckily, there is still 4/5 of the U.S. households to target, but with things like completely addressable TV media buying is becoming a much different place then buying audience based on gross rating points (GRPs), the question is not if the traditional TV market will continue to erode, but a matter of when. Even in its current state, buying ads on TV is significantly different then it was a few years go. Yet the same strategies and methodologies to buying TV ads remains the same, while the need for more advanced skillsets is present.
According to Google, Addressable TV advertising is the ability to show different ads to different households while they are watching the same program. With the help of addressable advertising, advertisers can move beyond large-scale traditional TV ad buys, to focus on relevance and impact. Now I purposely selected this source from Google since they really pushed this addressable TV tactic back when they launched the much-hyped, poorly received Google TV.
Let’s take the season finale of the critically acclaimed show “This is Us.” I purposely picked this show because it is one of the big network darlings, while Amazon and Netflix’s original programming are winning many of the awards, “This is Us,” dominates viewership and buzz. According to Nielsen, 12.84 million people tuned into the “This is Us” season finale. Now think of the “This is Us” audience. Is it families, interested in watching a heart-heavy show boasting the highs and lows of marriage, family, and life, is it the single love thirsty person longing for their chance to enjoy that sector of life, or is it the casual one-time viewer, interested because of the hype, yet hasn’t watched a previous episode; they just want to fit into the water cooler conversation.
These can be very different audiences, with different brand profiles, different income levels, different needs, yet we market to them with the same creative, promoting the same message. Doesn’t this feel clunky just saying it out loud? Our typical bet is to just bank on the primary audience it reaches and hope for the best. A show like “Empire” did a great job of targeting the young, urban group and brands flocked and drove up the cost per commercial rates. Addressable TV allows you to implement targeting to show a different creative/message/show your ad altogether to one audience and not the other. This is the thing that could make TV advertising more palatable for the small/medium/local business.
Yet targeting isn’t necessarily a skillset that comes natural to the media buyer; since they are taught to focus on GRPs and mass awareness. While the idea of targeting based on previous user behavior, user location, user interests, serving the best ad to the consumer at the best time, and platform specific messaging, it does to another group of advertising professionals… the Search Marketer.
When Google released information about YouTube TV, my head instantly went to a world in which you are buying ads within the Adwords interface, addressable to targeted consumers (much like a YouTube ad would be), self service with actionable measurement and delivery insights, on-demand. Think about that for a second… that could definitely happen, and it would change everything you know about TV advertising. Addressable TV is available now on OTT devices, Smart TVs, and Video On-Demand, so if Google is building a platform in which they control the ad content, couldn’t they sell ads against it in their own platform?
Facebook is now doing it with their Mid-Roll ads within ‘Live’ broadcasts. Facebook is controlling the content, controlling the environment, and ultimately controlling who and when you can buy ads. Why can’t the largest digital advertising platform in the world do it?
Digital is slowly (or not so slowly, depending upon who you ask) eating away at the budget dollars previously allocated to TV, yet marketers that require mass reach find traditional TV a mainstay in their marketing mix. Smaller advertisers who have a product that does not appeal to the general population are usually boxed out of TV due to cost restraints and the lack of targeting available. By introducing a way to buy TV ads, inclusive of targeting they know and love from Adwords/YouTube ads, marketers could extend their message across channels and devices, thus delighting the consumer, and allowing the marketer of a true way to improve reach and frequency.
The search marketer, historically known as a specialized skillset fluent in keywords and feed management, could be the same person employing their targeting first mindset to an audience bored with irrelevant ads, increasing commercial breaks, and a cord cutting mindset. By focusing on them and serving them ads relevant to their geographic market and interests, could be an answer to the disinterested consumer, drunk on ad blockers, and a binge watching mentality.