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Why television will remain king of brand advertising

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The interactive programme guide on the TWC TV app

 

In order to reach their target consumers, brand marketers in the past have bought advertising across outdoor, radio, newspapers and magazines as well as television, and today they are showing a willingness to complement traditional linear TV with spending on multiscreen devices within games, second screen apps designed to extend programming brands and within TV Everywhere services. Joan Gillman, EVP & COO at Time Warner Cable Media believes the opportunity facing the television industry clearly outweighs any threats presented by new media consumption patterns, not least because television still provides the best storytelling but with increasingly sophisticated measurement and targeting.

There are a couple of myths she wants to put to rest, too. First, despite the efforts of the CE industry and new entrant media companies online, it is the TV industry that has done most to enable the ‘view what you want, when you want, where you want’ experiences we enjoy today. “The cable industry has trained consumers [to expect more] by bringing DVR, VOD, broadband and then TV Everywhere into the marketplace,” she argues. “We were the first to bring the most popular television into the app world and consumers are taking advantage by consuming video on multiple platforms, in multiple rooms and on different sized screens. This ecosystem that we are living in is what we created as an industry.”

Gillman is challenging the perception that the television industry has been some kind of passive victim of competitive forces and consumer behaviour trends beyond its control. She wants to bust another myth, that consumers are migrating away from premium quality television shows. “Consumers are spending more time watching TV shows,” she declares. “They still spend perhaps 95% of their time with premium content.” All that has changed is how and where we watch these shows, and she points out that binge-viewing on Netflix or authenticated ad-supported television apps is replacing DVD viewing and not just scheduled linear TV.

“The consumer has more choice than ever about how they spend their time and the competition for how we spend that time could not be more fierce,” Gillman points out before explaining that in a world filled with apps, it is the big content brands with the great programming that are standing out from the crowd. “It is harder to find new things and if you are not in the Top Ten apps in the iTunes store it is hard for people to know you exist. New entrants in our space need a major following with a groundswell on social, otherwise they are hidden in the YouTube user interface. The largest media companies, who already have a large share of consumer time, can cross-promote and leverage their existing relationships.”

As Gillman points out, brand marketers go where their audiences go and consumers are not only being offered greater convenience but better quality content, giving us a Golden Age for television viewing. In addition, TV is becoming more ‘digital’, making it easier to measure and target audiences. The result, she believes, will be that brands continue to spend big on television to create the awareness that underpins other marketing investments, using unequalled storytelling in the right context to create emotional connections. Then marketers can encourage us to engage through traditional ‘digital’ media, from second screen apps to websites, and support the ‘consideration’ part of the consumer decision making process with more information and resources. Television will continue to play a key role in generating loyalty alongside other communication strategies.

When it comes to addressability, Gillman argues that television compares favourably to traditional ‘digital’ advertising media, partly because it takes into account reach and frequency and not just impressions. Time Warner Cable has long recognized the importance of quality first-party data (including set-top box return path data) and third-party data. By anonymising these data sources and using them together, including for linear TV, the company “helps marketers to be smarter and more effective when targeting audiences,” Gillman says. The company is also better informed when acting as a consultant to its marketing clients.

“The linear TV environment has become a digital environment,” she reminds us, referring to the use of anonymous set-top box data for more precise measurement, audience tracking and targeting.

This year’s U.S. Senate elections provided another chance to demonstrate the impact that more addressable linear TV advertising has. “Our industry has been very successful working with both major political parties and an independent. Linear TV is a strategic resource for the political campaigns, who know the audiences they are trying to reach, whether it is swing voters, who might be women with young children, or people who are considered ‘likely to vote’. We can take that audience and understand at what times they consume media and what shows they watch,” Gillman explains.

Geo-targeting is another example of how campaigns can be made more effective. If you are selling a brand that will only appeal to homes earning $100,000 then you can find those affluent consumers by targeting the right neighbourhoods. If you are selling something everyone can afford, like soda, then television can now help you to differentiate through context and not just creative, Gillman says.  “And there may be thought leaders or ‘connectors’ who, if they are the first to try your new brand of soda, are more likely to help your product take off.” These might include the people who are ‘big’ on social media and more likely to talk about your product.

“Sometimes airing your message to a very small, niche geographic audience gives you an advantage because your competitor does not see you doing it, and you speak to the audience without them next to you,” she adds.

What Gillman would like next is a way to accurately attribute sales to the advertising dollars spent, so that the media that did most to drive a sale can be duly credited with reaching the consumer and influencing them in their decision to purchase. Just looking at where the ‘last click’ came from, leading to an online purchase, does not tell the whole story; far from it. Gillman wants television to be recognized for the emotional connection that leads to a last click, for example, but that requires a new data process and the industry is still in the early days of figuring out how that will work.

“If you want credit for that ‘moment’, it is really hard to solve today but we are determined that on behalf of our clients, with the help of third-party and first-party data, we are going to figure it out.”

She also believes data will help the television and advertising industry to fine-tune multiscreen marketing by revealing new insights into context, like what creative works according to devices and time of day, and when we are more likely to absorb brand names and messages.  A simple example is the kind of ads that should be delivered to someone watching  late night TV on their iPad in bed at 11 o’clock.

The bottom line for Joan Gillman is that a mastery of data and targeting will make television an even more attractive proposition for brand advertisers. But she wants us to remember that amidst all this ‘digital’ sophistication, there is something simple at play here, as well. Despite increased competition for our attention, big brand television is still pulling in the audiences, even if they are spread across more platforms, and that means big brand advertisers still see TV as the bedrock of their campaigns.

Joan Gillman will expand on this theme at Future TV Advertising Forum in London, December 2-3, when she will provide more detail on how TV can make better use of data to increase campaign efficiency and effectiveness, and outline the challenges for television in the age of real-time, data-driven advertising. She will also expand on her thoughts about sales attribution. You can download the conference agenda here.


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