Long Live Television

TV's Not Dead

There are a lot of horror stories out there that might have you believe that TV advertising, as we know it, (and watching for that matter) is dead. It would be easy to surmise that because of all the cord-cutters, shortened attention spans, the rise of premium Netflix/Amazon/HBO programming, and mounting cable costs, that there’s just no way to reach distracted, dwindling television viewers so there’s no point in trying. The reality of the matter tells a different story.

TV viewership is actually projected to stay relatively flat through 2019 – right around 234 million – and time spent with TV is still a larger share of overall media than other channels including video. Even among key millennial audiences, TV viewers are expected to rise slightly in 2018 though digital viewership still makes up the lion share of their video consumption.

It’s not that TV is dead, but rather that TV is rebranding as video. Instead of keeping strict separation of traditional and digital budgets, it’s time for advertisers and agencies to think smarter about their visual storytelling.

Luckily, we’ve never been known to steer away from a challenge.

New Terms

The first lesson of entering the new game that is TV advertising is to understand the terms. A lot of jargon is thrown around interchangeably, but there are some marked differences in what people mean when they talk about advanced advertising technology within TV. Some refer to advances in the way television inventory is bought and sold, and others refer to alternate ways of viewing. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of the linguistic landscape:

  • Programmatic TV
    A method for advertisers to purchase television inventory automatically via demand-side platforms similar to how programmatic online inventory is accessed.

  • Connected TV
    A TV that is able to access the internet and apps via that connection. Just like squares and rectangles, Smart TVs are included in the make-up of “connected TVs,” along with TVs that receive internet connection through external devices like set-top boxes (Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast, Roku, etc.) or Blu-Ray players and internet-enabled gaming consoles (PlayStation and Xbox). OTT or Over the Top streaming tends to get lumped into this category, too, while that term actually refers to the providers of streaming video content (whether accessed on a TV or mobile device or laptop) such as Netflix, HBO Go/Now, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube Red, Sling, DirectTV Now, etc.

  • Cord-Cutters vs Cord-Nevers
    Sometimes used inappropriately as a catch-all term for the same thing, “Cord-Cutters” specifically is a subset of TV viewers that relinquished all paid cable terrestrial services in favor of OTT apps, whereas “Cord-Nevers” never subscribed to any cable packages and therefore never made any particular switch. Though linguistically nominal, the distinction is important when trying to accurately measure the size of an impacted audience due to fragmentation.

  • Addressable TV
    In an effort to create more 1:1 targeting similar to digital targeting, addressable TV aims to accomplish this by delivering different ads to different people who are watching the same show via set-top boxes.

New Standards

What the evolution of traditional TV viewing is really changing isn’t necessarily just the way that programs and visual content are viewed by consumers, but rather about the way we define and measure it. For too long, brands and advertisers have shelled out millions of dollars in production and media to deliver their commercials in front of AD2554 and have been satisfied with reaching this vague demographic without knowing much about who saw it or even if they watched the whole ad or got up and went to the kitchen.

Compare this uncertainty to the specificity provided in digital – with what it lacks in reach, it more than makes up in accuracy and data. Thanks to the likes of Big Data and programmatic buying, advertisers have been able to efficiently deliver ads of all lengths directly to the screens of the people most likely to engage in the formats they’re more likely to engage without waste. Social giants like Facebook and YouTube and the grave of Vine have long since known the power of the shortened video message to tell volumes and Fox is bringing this value to primetime when they test the six-second spot in their NFL and MLB telecasts.

The promise of digital measurement and creative optimization puts more pressure on traditional TV measuring giants like Nielsen to provide richer audience data to deliver ads, but also more pressure on marketers to show how TV advertising impacts the bottom line.

New Approaches

Hopefully, the horizons within television advertising are looking a little brighter. Instead of considering how linear television is eroding, marketers need to embrace the change in consumption and incorporate these nuances into their go-to-market strategy. Creative no longer has to fit within a certain length or appeal to the most common denominator. What was once a TV strategy is now a video strategy that spans across screens, platforms, publishers and lengths.

The power of consumers to watch their programming whenever and however they want is an opportunity for marketers to incorporate social and online opportunities into their primary video mix without sacrificing measurable reach. Including digital in the go-to-market approach not only ensures reaching customers at the right time in the right place, but also efficiencies across the overall media mix. After all, a TV buy by another name is just as impactful, right?

Like we said, TV isn’t dead – it’s changing into video -- forcing marketers to become more strategic about who their audience is and tailoring their message to the right screen and time for when it can be best be received. Regardless of how the landscape changes, telling a clear and compelling story is still the goal for selling brand value. How you deliver that is in the details.


  • eMarketer, March 2017 “TV and Digital Video StatPack 2017” 
  • https://digiday.com/marketing/users-guide-advanced-tv-jargon/
  • https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2017/02/04/super-bowl-ads-are-a-bargain-at-5-million

For more tips and insights on how to take your marketing from now to next, subscribe to our newsletter or contact Nicole Stone – Senior Vice President, Business Development at nicole.stone@laughlin.com or 414.270.7235.

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