Incredibly, some ad agencies are still using Excel spreadsheets

TV advertising needs to move away from silos and move toward a horizontal approach that takes everything into consideration. (screenshot of BIA panel)

It’s been about 17 years since Google unleashed its content-targeted digital advertising on the world. And the technology now garners the company the majority of its $160 billion in annual revenues. And yet, the television industry, including OTT, has yet to create its own elegant, holistic, digital advertising approach.

A group of advertising executives speaking on a virtual panel this week, hosted by BIA Advisory Services, discussed the television advertising ecosystem.

Jo Kinsella is president of TVSquared, a company that does cross-platform TV measurement and attribution. TVSquared works with a lot of advertising agencies. Speaking on the panel, Kinsella said: “We are seeing, finally, a real ask for help from a lot of the bigger guys, 'saying the cross-platform stuff is hard; we still try to do a lot of it in Excel. We have thousands of planners and buyers. Can you help us measure this, tie it to a business outcome, identify what audiences we should be leaning into, and then really close the loop and help us optimize the inventory?'”

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The panelists were asked who the appropriate folks would be to approach at ad agencies: traditional television people or digital advertising people.

Comscore’s Chief Commercial Officer Chris Wilson said, “It’s hard to answer the question because at the agency level, they’re re-thinking how they do business.”

They need to move away from silos and move toward a horizontal approach that takes everything into consideration. Agencies, and their clients, want to be able to plan with a single budget, manage touchpoints across inventory types, make everything work together to achieve the greatest outcome, and get analytics to improve the next buying plan.

“It’s about how everything works together," said Wilson. “Everything except for TV has been bought on impressions. Audience impressions is going to be that common denominator across platforms.” He said it’s complicated to sort out whether an impression came from an OTT ad, an addressable ad, a linear ad or a data-driven linear ad. But it’s critical to advertisers to understand how to build their plans across all these different advertising options and understand the impact across all these items.

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“You’re seeing a big groundswell for moving to impressions because that is the common denominator,” said Wilson. “Audiences are what advertisers want to target. It’s somewhat what they’ve done in digital for years.”

The problem in television is only going to get worse as more viewers stream video.

Justin Evans, who heads up Samsung Advertising’s Analytics and Insights, said, “We have started to see a trend, not only in the increase in time spent streaming in general, but also in the number of people who are only streaming and are no longer watching linear on their television.” He said in Q3 of 2020 the number of streaming-only viewers hit 25% on all of Samsung devices. That was an increase from 21% a year ago.

“That puts the incremental-reach conversation in a more urgent perspective,” said Evans. “In a way it becomes not incremental reach, it becomes primary reach. I think it’s really an overwhelming challenge to put on an advertiser or an agency to say you’re coming into this television game with 25% of the audience that’s just unreachable through your standard tools. OTT has become a really crucial means of reaching that quarter of the audience that is only streaming.”

Evans said that linear advertising does a great job of reaching heavy- and medium-linear viewers. “But for light-linear watchers, we’re seeing about 5% reach of that group,” he said. “Advertisers are leaving an enormous opportunity on the table, but the linear tools are so lopsided toward the heavier where we’re getting about 95%. I think the incremental reach theme is more urgent than ever.”

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