Television has been a dominant advertising medium for decades. However, the advent of digital media and social platforms in the last 10-15 years has led many to question whether television marketing is still as effective in the modern age.
While the media landscape has become more fragmented with consumers spending more time on digital devices, television continues to command unparalleled scale and remains one of the most influential mediums for branding and driving awareness.
However, marketers today face major challenges when it comes to television marketing.
Rapidly changing viewer habits, audience fragmentation across platforms, rising advertising costs, and the difficulty of measuring return-on-investment (ROI) are some key issues brands grapple with for successful television campaigns today.
The Evolving TV Viewer
The television viewer today has access to myriad entertainment options across devices and platforms.
Be it video streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime or unlimited videos on YouTube, consumers are spending more time watching content online.
According to eMarketer, US adults spent 38 minutes every day watching digital video in 2019, a number that grew to 1 hour 13 minutes per day by 2021.
In contrast, live TV viewership has declined from 4 hours 41 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes during the same period.
While linear TV viewership is dropping, viewers today are still watching plenty of TV shows and videos, but increasingly on digital devices and online platforms instead of cable. Media multitasking, or cross-device behavior, has also accelerated, with viewers increasingly checking their mobile phones and laptops while watching TV.
This means that in our modern digital age, marketers need fresh approaches to engage with consumers across devices and platforms.
Gone are the days when marketers created television campaigns based largely on intuition and assumptions regarding their target demographics and viewership habits.
Today, data and technology allow brands to plan television campaigns backed by consumer insights to achieve better targeting and results.
With Connected TVs (CTVs) and over-the-top (OTT) platforms gaining popularity, marketers have opportunities to precisely target relevant audience subsets who exhibit intent to purchase.
Advanced advertising platforms allow advertisers to buy CTV/OTT inventory programmatically for hyper-targeted ads similar to digital campaigns.
Data management platforms (DMPs) give marketers the ability to create custom audience segments based on first-party data like CRM data and purchase history as well as third-party data on viewership behavior across devices.
These targeted campaigns achieve significantly higher engagement and ROI compared to broad TV campaigns of the past.
Innovations like automated content recognition (ACR) have also enabled brands to measure real-world impact on store visits and product sales generated by TV ads based on data points like TV ad exposures on households and foot traffic.
While digital channels allow seamless attribution tracking, ACR bridges the offline attribution gap for television. Marketers are increasingly factoring hard sales ROI data for planning television budgets rather than purely age-old viewership metrics.
Rise of Ctv/OTT Platforms
Cord-cutting has accelerated with one-third of US households entirely relying on over-the-top (OTT) and streaming television instead of traditional pay TV according to eMarketer.
As consumers switch from cable to streaming television, ad dollars are also following suit with US CTV ad spend expected to surpass $20 billion by 2025.
With viewers fragmented across platforms like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV+, and more, marketers need an omnichannel strategy with a presence across CTV/OTT channels instead of just cable TV channels. The addressable nature of these streaming ads also allows refined targeting of niche audiences.
Production houses too are evolving to meet the explosion of video content demand from OTT platforms.
While streaming opens up new targeting possibilities, marketers need to contend with rising content costs for premium CTV/OTT inventory with platforms like Hulu, Amazon, and Roku commanding high ad rates owing to strong demand.
Measurement challenges also remain with a lack of standardized metrics across CTV platforms. But early adopters are witnessing promising results – a consumer electronics brand reported a 2X lift in ad recall from CTV campaigns compared to linear TV.
Rise of Streaming Video and YouTube
Video streaming across platforms like YouTube has become a cultural phenomenon with over a billion users worldwide. YouTube’s unmatched scale and popularity with younger demographics offer a marketing playground for brands to engage massive audiences.
Advertising on streaming video is native, interactive, and measurable in ways not possible with traditional mediums.
Brands are thus earmarking sizable YouTube budgets for both brand video campaigns as well as performance marketing via YouTube search and discovery features.
However, expectations and norms vary widely between traditional television and streaming video. Creative content that works well on television may fall flat on YouTube.
Marketers thus need content crafted exclusively for streaming video platforms to generate engagement. Shorter content optimized for mobile, leveraging influencer marketing, and organically integrating calls-to-action are imperative.
Measurement remains a key challenge with marketers often evaluating streaming video campaigns on softer metrics like views and watch time rather than sales impact.
The Social TV Experience
The convergence of TV and social media has opened up a crucial branding channel for savvy marketers.
65% of US viewers now regularly use a second device while watching TV. Social chatter and engagement with TV content are mainstream today.
This “second screen” experience allows brands to engage viewers through social contests, voting campaigns, and other styles of content tied to specific programs. By creating “shareable” TV moments that organically spark conversations on social media, brands can amplify campaign reach.
For example, Oreo leveraged an unexpected blackout during the 2013 Super Bowl to tweet “You can still dunk in the dark” with an accompanying visual.
This real-time content resonated widely, generating over 15,000 retweets and making it one of the most shared social media brand posts ever. Still, designing effective TV campaigns primed to go viral remains more art than science.
Identifying the right programming, seeding conversations via influencers, and constantly monitoring analytics is vital for success. However, the amplification effect when campaigns gain cultural traction makes leveraging social and TV together a rewarding investment.
The Road Ahead
While television marketing today faces myriad challenges from changing viewer habits to rising costs, TV remains a crucial medium for awareness, branding, and direct-response campaigns.
Marketers who take an audience-first approach with data-driven and integrated cross-platform campaigns are best equipped to thrive.
Combining the brand-building power of TV with the precision and measurability of digital while engaging viewers across devices is key to unlocking success in the modern age.
Taking an omnichannel approach spanning CTV, linear TV, social media and YouTube, backed by robust measurement frameworks, offer the most prudent way for brands to stay ahead of the curve.