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Cleaning The Dust Off TV Preconceptions

John Piccone
John Piccone
Published: Dec. 19, 2014

Originally posted on MediaPost

When dust accumulates on an object, it loses its twinkle. Although the general form, purpose and value of the object are unchanged, it somehow loses that special luminescence that originally caught our eye. Since the birth of the Internet, dust has started to accumulate on TV in spite of the fact that its form, purpose and value in the media food chain did not change.

But now it's time to get out the feather dusters. TV is about to get its groove back, and the shine will be blinding. Here's why:

Unlike with digital media, advertiser's ability to value the direct business impact of TV has been vague. The correlation of gross rating points to sales is a good enough placeholder, but it's big and round and sedentary and collects dust, while digital media measures move fast and keep changing, staying shiny along the way. Digital media also remains shiny by providing access to planned target audiences. This combination of seeing who does what, and then who buys how much, allows planners to see the impact of their target audience selection and optimize accordingly. TV uses the dust-laden history method of using demos for much of its purchasing, so the momentum remains slow.

This notion of optimizing digital media and audiences against advertiser sales is so standard that to bring it up as a unique value proposition is laughable. It's a commodity feature, and it's why digital advertising works. TV now has the ability to do make a similar link, but different in that the scale is so much more powerful. The result will be a dramatic restructuring of the business structures that buy, plan and sell television advertising.

Unlike digitally focused agencies, where the planning and buying can be done within the same group, the planning and buying functions for TV are housed in different teams, floors, buildings and even companies. And unlike digital, where there is one language for both planning and buying to measure advertising's impact, TV has two languages. The TV planner's language is focused on audience attributes such as behavior, demographics, psychographics and sales and the foundation of the buyers language is cast in demographics and pricing based on CPM.

As better TV data on viewership, targeting, and audience characteristics becomes available, and the market gets better at protecting, managing and using it, more advertisers are matching their sales with television viewing data to show the impact TV advertising has on sales. This in turn allows for better analysis of how ad spend works against specific target audiences who have been exposed or unexposed to their messaging. Deeper insights such as TV's impact on gross sales, basket sizes, number of store visits and heavy/light shopper activity are coming to light, forcing marketers to rethink the connection between TV and digital media on business outcome.

After over a decade, TV advertising is back on a level playing field with digital advertising in understanding an advertiser's return on ad spend. The impact will be profound. Planners will now be able to see what audience attributes are responding to which creative, and be able to optimize their audience selection based on sales data. Buyers will be able to apply the outcomes of the media they buy to make decisions based on more than just CPM pricing metrics. And lastly, sellers will be able to expand the yield on their inventory by translating demo-based packaging into purchase-based insights.

Make no mistake about it, the dust is blowing off TV and it's about to ah ah choo! (sorry, there is a lot of dust in the air). TV is about to prove its value in a big shiny way.