31 January 2015

The State of TV Advertising on the Eve of the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl has always symbolized the power of TV advertising.  Is that power waning?

Many business journalists seem to think the Super Bowl is the last bastion of TV advertising.  Just this morning as I was writing this post, The Economist daily news digest arrived, calling the Super Bowl "something increasingly rare in television: a programme that people watch live and in large numbers."

Surprise! Most TV Viewing is Still Done on a TV

Now let me explain
"Programmatic" to you
Actually, Live TV viewing is holding steady at about 4-1/2 hours per day.  Yes, 66.8% of Broadband Users Under 35 watch TV on a combination of these devices, but for all age groups most TV viewing is still done on a TV.  

This will shock Upper West Siders who binge-watch Orange Is The New Black on Netflix.  But regular people are watching live sports, NCIS, Dancing With The Stars, American Idol, Judge Judy and Big Bang Theory.  Bazinga!  

But Fragmentation Will Continue

TV was never dying; it was just following audiences to new platforms.  Cable supplanted Broadcast and new devices emerged like DVRs, OTT, Online and Mobile.  There will always be big audiences, but they will continue fragmenting.  In Ye Olde Marketing buying and selling TV was relatively straightforward and audience delivery was measured by Nielsen.  But now audiences are fragmented and sometimes not even measured.  Only Netflix knows how big the audience for Orange or House of Cards really is.  (A Los Angeles Times reporter tried thinking it through.)

The Super Bowl doesn't have this problem.  The marquee advertising will air during NBC's broadcast, and people will see it on TVs, tablets and other places.  The audiences will be big enough that few advertisers will worry about under-delivery against their $4.5 million (unless they're spending that money in the 4th quarter of a one-sided blowout).

The Revolution May Not Be Televised, but TV Will Be Personalized

But even in a big event that almost everyone watches or knows about, we see the future of TV:  Personalization.  For the Super Bowl it takes the form of second- and third-screen programming, i.e. game analysis, ad analysis and social media traffic.  Little of this is driven from broadcaster to audience; it's more of a conversation where both participate.  The famous Oreo dunk-in-the-dark tweet generated very small response:  15,000 Retweets and 20,000 Likes.  (In fact they probably generated more blog posts than that, but I digress.)  But it's OK because they learned how be part of people's conversations.  

In the same way, Oreo's latest stunt -- yes, it's a stunt -- using programmatic methods to buy a :15 in the Erie (Pennsylvania) DMA is a harbinger of things to come.  "Programmatic" is one of those words that's taken on too many meanings, but it's generally associated with media buying, just like the online ad world from which it came.  Its real value will be as a pathway to addressable TV, a way for audiences to customize the programs they see -- and advertisers to customize the messages that make them possible.

Enjoy the game -- and the ads -- and know that you'll always have plenty of company watching that first screen.  Keep one eye on those other screens, too, because they're a window to the future.