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Media Industry Leaders Reveal How Cross-Channel TV Is Reshaping Advertising

With the cross-platform, omnichannel TV landscape growing more complex, consumer behavior evolving and economic uncertainty intensifying, the KC Ad Club gathered the Kansas City ad community’s brightest for a special evening of presentations, information-sharing and in-depth conversation (plus plenty of local Boulevard brew) about how to successfully steer clients and partners through today’s dynamic media environment.

Joining host Dina M. Roman, SVP of Sales for Simulmedia, on the panel were Kelli Anstine, President of Bernstein-Rein Advertising; Sam Bonds, SVP of Creative at Barkley; and Ellen Martens, Managing Director, Client Leadership at OMD USA. Here are highlights from their thought-provoking, wide-ranging discussion:

Simulmedia and Industry Leaders Reveal How Cross-Channel TV Is Reshaping Advertising at KC Ad Club in Kansas City

The Biggest Challenges Facing TV Advertisers & Agencies

Roman: What do you see as the most significant changes happening in TV today? Is it audience fragmentation, alternative currencies, or something else?

Anstine: I think one of the biggest changes is technology. Because whether you're thinking about it from a linear perspective or a streaming perspective, it’s all driven by technology and where people are when they're taking in the impression, the reach point, the moment, the creative message. And if you can find a way to use technology in a unique way to grab someone's attention, I think that's where we find our opportunities. But technology is throwing us all into chaos, and I think we just have to find the right way to harness it.

Martens: My client goes into the upfront and buys a bunch of television at the beginning of the year. And what we're seeing is the cost-per-point (CPP) is going up, but the viewership in linear television is going down. So what I'm seeing is our effectiveness is declining on linear television. Then you go over to connected TV places and spaces and a lot of times you're seeing the cost be exorbitantly more expensive, but we haven't really figured out how to make it truly addressable or personalized to the same capacity that we've been able to make other channels. So we haven't seen the increase in cost of CTV in some instances pay out to the same effectiveness of other non-video formats.

It's kind of the conundrum of video: We know sight, sound and motion is so important to consumers and so important for brands to be able to connect with consumers. But now our tried-and-true linear TV is not as effective as it used to be, and we're struggling with measurement and other things on CTV. It's a really hairy problem that we need to dive into because the solution is not to just pull all the money out. There are still viewers there, but there's a lot of things that we need to work through. And we also need to look at a different competitive set to video -- like social. TikTok is now another form of entertainment to a lot of consumers. So how do we start to think about the competitive set to video? We shouldn't even call it TV anymore. We should call it video.

Roman: If you're buying all these different channels, and sometimes at your agencies they're also in different budget buckets, you're getting different inputs from the different channels that you're buying. How do you manage all that measurement coming in from different people in different ways?

Martens: To me, the easiest way to describe it is that we used to target or create audiences in all these different channels, and then we'd try to bring one form of measurement and measure across. But with privacy concerns and walled gardens, that's not possible anymore. So a lot of times we try to create one audience using a bunch of different data segments – first-party data; other proprietary data sources -- and we try to then deploy against that audience consistently in different channels. But then we usually must use pretty disparate measurements, like MMM (media mix modeling), which is a very archaic, slow and clunky way of measuring. You could maybe see things to a daypart level on TV – maybe -- but you certainly can't see things at the inventory level that we really expect to be able to optimize and our clients expect us to optimize against. We do data clean room work, but that's not really available as much in this space. So within more of the social partners or within Google's app data hub, we can connect with retailer data and look at our impressions and look at attribution.

But it's a huge challenge of also being able to understand the effectiveness of one platform, but not necessarily understanding the effectiveness of one platform versus another platform, which is when you would start to say, maybe we should shift money out of this. If you have your own point of purchase, it sometimes gets a little bit easier to understand. But if you're not the retailer --  if that client doesn't have their own sales data -- we've actually found that MMM still reigns supreme as to how we decide what channel is effective in comparison to each other channel.

Anstine: I'm just glad to know someone else is also still using media mix modeling. You'd think that there's got to be something better than this but it's what’s available. It's the currency that we have right now, and so it makes it difficult. Whether you're at the top of the funnel or the bottom of the funnel, you're trying to figure out how to factor each of those pieces through all of that to manipulate because clients are relying on you to come up with something. We have to have a currency. You’re right that it's a matter of how all those pieces come together. And they're not the same; they're absolutely not the same. So it's not fair, but it’s the reality.

And we see that sometimes when we test into channels, MMM doesn't even pick it up. So when we test into CTV, we don't even have the scale sometimes that we need to get a read on its effectiveness. Or it's so small, the effectiveness looks horrible because MMM will always favor volume. And so then that's this perpetual cycle: We know that this is where the eyeballs are shifting for our target audience. We're trying to talk to the multicultural youth -- they're likely not just sitting on linear channels, other than sports (I saw a stat that said 95 of the top 100 rated shows last year were NFL, so it's literally sports). So outside of that, we need to be moving to CTV, but our clients are basically saying, justify it.

How Measurement Informs the Media Planning/Creative Relationship

Roman: Sam, can you talk a little bit about the feedback loop from the metrics your media partners are getting from cross-channel, and how you're trying to balance that from a creative perspective?

Bonds: Years ago, when creatives were given a project, the question was: what's the budget? And that was really all about what's the TV budget that I get to play with? How grand a thing can we make? And eventually the drive for that budget was about how grand a story can I tell because of all of the platforms that can work together? So we're now having to craft a narrative that's flexible. We're having to execute in ways that are dependent on one another, and it's exciting. It's not a thing that takes away from the opportunity that TV is creatively. It's something that adds to it. So that's how we creatively process it.

Roman: Do you have different demands now? Are the clients coming to you with greater expectations about how creative is supposed to work on one channel versus another, or why can't they have interactivity here when they can have it there? Is that a dialogue you have often?

Bonds: Not quite that, but more so about how are these things supporting each other? What jobs are they having? Not just can we put the TV spot on YouTube, but what are we expecting YouTube to do? To compliment what's on TV. What are we expecting TV to do? To support social. That's mostly what I'm experiencing. And I don't think that's uncommon.

Roman: Ellen and Kelli, what do you think the relationship is between media and creative? Is it much closer?

Martens: Some of the roles have, not reversed, but have really blended. For example, where I work, we actually provide a lot of the data on the audience, whereas the creative agency used to do a lot more of the field research and focus groups to understand more about the consumer. But now we will use a plethora of data sources, first-party and others, to understand who the audience is and what their consumer behavior. We then partner very closely with the creative team so they can bring a story to life with all the different experiences that we're going to provide to those consumers, which should weave together to ultimately drive them to that conversion.

We feel like it’s our jobs to make sure that we're all working, first and foremost, from the same group of people. What used to happen is that the media agency was doing their whole thing and the creative agency was doing their whole thing -- sometimes actually working off of different people as their targets -- and then trying to then match it up later. Now it's more married at the beginning. We go off and do our own work but everyone's informed off of the same thing, and then we end up delivering.

When I think of the creative challenge, there's been a 25% decline in consumer attention in the last decade. That's crazy. So what do we do in advertising? We fight for consumer attention. That's what we do. And with the 25% decline, it's not fair to go to our clients and say everything's going to be 25% less effective. So we have to find ways to make up that effectiveness via the types of creative experiences that we can provide. And also, consumers expect relevancy. So that's really the expectation of the clients and why we all have partnered together, and there's a huge opportunity for CTV. And there’s also empirical evidence that feeds -- versus stories and social -- have so much less consumer attention than stories. Sight, sound and motion in video opportunities and in stories within CTV can garner consumer attention and then deliver effectiveness. It's just hard -- again, back to the measurement piece -- to sometimes actually prove it.

Bonds: Those are the insights that we're always looking for whereas years ago, it was just strategy. We were trying to be informed by how much can we know about the consumer. Now it's how much can we know about their behavior on these platforms. That's been the piece that's new but still growing. We can't assume from one project six months ago that something hasn't changed drastically.

Anstine: I think [understanding] behavior is so important because it's not even just how they're behaving within a channel, it's how they're how they're making a decision and what's driving them to do that. And the more that you can know about those customers, those potential consumers that you're going to draw in -- whether it's for a consumer packaged good or a retail environment to make a transaction happen at the register -- if you can understand what's going to motivate them and how you can connect with them, then you can get to creative and grand storytelling and all of the essence of what's going to really resonate with them and what they're going to carry forward. But also, it's about making sure that the messaging is right in the moment and in the channel.

So we do want to start from the same starting point, the same brief, the same insights, but we also want to be aligned on what each of those components truly does in terms of what your action is. And what are we driving them to do? We want them to interact with us, we want them to view us, we want them to complete a video, we want them to do all of these things. We need them to make a sale. And how do we actually get them to that point? That behavior piece is so critical to weave that into our strategy, our channel strategy, our messaging strategy, the brand purpose and the strategy that we have there. And I think that only comes with true integration, and sometimes it's hard to get right.

How Brands Should Approach TV Advertising During a Recession

Roman: I want to bring up the “R” word: Can brands recession-proof themselves? Is it wise for clients to pull back on TV ad spend when the economy gets like this? Or is it the time to double down and create awareness and try to steal share?

Anstine: It depends on the maturity of the given brand. If you have a brand that has great resonance with a customer base, you might take what you're doing with them and pick and choose the things that are absolute must-haves and then look for the other pieces to surround them so that you're continually putting that message out there for that consumer and making sure that you're driving demand. And I'm not saying that you want to deplete [their TV spend] by like 25% or anything significant, but I think you just have to think smartly about what their maturity level is in the marketplace.

And for a brand that doesn't have great maturity in the marketplace, it might absolutely be the opportunity to pour dollars into it, because you can get consumers to make a decision to try something different, to move from a brand name to a non-brand name or something like that. Those are the moments when people are feeling the pinch of what's happening around us. Their actions are going to be true to what they need, so we really have to think about what that brand can do for them. It's an opportunity for brands to really accelerate but, again, it depends on the maturity of the brand.

Bonds: I’d add to that the position of the brand. There are a lot of brands that are just known. Super familiar. But if they need to lean toward a younger audience, you have to tell a brand story as opposed to what they’d done for so many years, which was a retail story -- price point, price point, price point. You have to make the investment, even in a recession, to do both. You need to be able to get people in the door now, but you also need to plant seeds to encourage an audience going forward.

Martens: I think clients' knee-jerk reaction is to try to move money from long-term to short-term. That's the knee-jerk reaction: How do we milk the bottom of the funnel as much as we can for shareholders, for our earnings calls, those sorts of things. I'm a big believer in mental availability, especially if it's a low-interest category. Obviously, if you're purchasing a car or something high-interest, you're doing research. But a lot of it is about mental availability and a lot of it is subliminal. It's-top-of-mind awareness that is unconsciously processed. So it’s about trying to continue to have messages at the top of the funnel that allow your brand to be top of mind of a consumer. You need to evoke an irrational relationship with a brand, so that when they go into a store, they choose your brand over the generic, but they don't know why. If you go with a functional message at a moment when price is the number one concern and you can't overcome price, you're not going to win. It's actually more important that you're going with an emotional and irrational message to create an emotional connection with the brand.

And we have tools that allow us to show that when you starve the upper funnel, what it does in year two, three, four, five. And you'll see that if you take significant money out of upper funnel, that by three years down the road, you will significantly hurt your brand effectiveness and your brand equity to the point that it might take you five years to overcome what you did in one year of reducing it.

Roman: In terms of the opportunity cost, what is the cost is to get a customer to come back versus getting them in the first place from a media perspective and from a creative perspective?

Anstine: That's a tough one. To Ellen's point, you don't want to erode that top funnel, but you also have to protect the bottom of the funnel, because you can't lose those loyal customers. And so the cost for acquisition for that is great, and if you started eroding at the top, the cost for acquisition to get back to where you were is going to be even more expensive. It’s a double-edged sword.

Martens: To me, the most important thing is reach. I would play with frequency before I would play with my weekly reach. I'd want to understand how many people I can reach that week, and maybe before I could reach each person X amount of times, I would actually start to eliminate how many times because I want to keep that top-of-mind awareness. That's how I would make decisions on what channels to cut and where. And then to go back to MMM, it is certainly not about protecting upper funnel at the cost of other parts of the funnel, but at the same time, it’s not about seismically shifting money from the top of the funnel.

Bonds: From a storytelling perspective, creatives are at the mercy of the experience that can actually be fulfilled. So there's always room to tell a great story -- no matter what the brand situation is, you can tell a great story. But if the experience with that brand does not meet the expectation [despite] the excitement that you generated with these new stories or a grander story or a story that just cuts right through, there's nothing we can do. We can just tell more stories in more places that resonate with the right people at the right time.

Audience Member: Plenty of people my age use ad blockers. How do you combat that?

Anstine: If you don't have the content that people care about, they're going to use ad blockers, they're going to do everything to avoid you. So let's find a way to engage you and give you some content that you are going to care about and some content that we are going to care about, and that's going to bring that brand message together. Because if that consumer and that brand can have an engagement, that's what we're looking for.

Bonds: Absolutely. There's nothing you can really do from a marketer's perspective about ad blockers, but you can diversify the ways in which you view advertising and branding and look for every opportunity to bring in nontraditional new things that haven't been done to support your media buy, to support your TV buy.

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