The future of TV advertising in an unpredictable streaming landscape

Josh Peachey's picture
by Josh Peachey

Natalia Togher, Bugler Smith’s Client Services Director, takes a look at the future of advertising in the broadcasting world. 

Bugler Smith is a Lymm-based agency whose services include Advertising, Branding, Digital Design, Events, Video, and PR.



With many of us turning our attention to ad-free streaming platforms in favour of linear TV, the question that we're hearing more and more is: What’s the future for TV and TV advertising?

At present, TV (in the short term) doesn’t really have a worthy competitor to steal its crown. A recent survey by Ebiquity showed that linear TV still has a 40% advantage over other media, so is still holding its own. But for how long?

If you speak to many marketers, their response is; ‘TV advertising is dead’ and, if we take this at face value, it’s certainly hard to argue with. Marketers know that their TV budgets have to work much harder to achieve the same reach as they did five years ago and, depending on their audience demographic, for some it will be virtually impossible to rely on a standalone TV campaign to reach their audience at all.

But, TV is growing up and is advancing itself to match its market with on-demand, streaming, ad-smart, addressable ads – not all are industry standard just yet, but will soon become the norm. All formats brought to you through your TV set and not all ad-free.

So, what does this mean for advertising?

Well, there is no doubt that the 30-second ad, once the staple product for TV advertisers, has been knocked from its top spot. And, as the use of a second device gained its popularity (most of us have our phones glued to our hands), TV advertising has to work twice as hard, just to keep our attention. However, using multiple screens is helping brands continue the conversation elsewhere and brands which see a second screen as an extension of TV will be more likely to succeed against their competitors. 

As TV advertising becomes even more data-driven, and we have more successful means of profiling where and when our audiences are watching TV, it means that the old approach of age and broad demographic for targeting will become a thing of the past, and marketers can determine exactly when and where their audiences are watching TV.

In addition, ads no longer need to have the mass appeal that they once did, so we can be really targeted and precise with our messaging, but not in a perfunctory way. We still need to win hearts and minds, but we can be much more targeted in who we are actually creating the ad for, down to quite a granular level.

This gives us a chance to create ads that are more personalised, more relevant and more in line with the audience’s likes and interests. Couple this with how brands are engaging with consumers online and it makes for quite a powerful mix.

In addition, really strong data means that we might see new, emerging brands adding TV to the mix, as they can almost guarantee that their ad will be seen by their customers, making it less of a luxury and more as part of their ‘always on’ strategy.

What we don’t know at the moment is what is the long-term outlook for TV advertising, based on how the younger audiences consume media.

Take Gen Z for example. They are the demographic that have almost no viewing habits formed around TV – linear or streamed. Their generation watches most of their content via YouTube, with over five billion videos watched daily. Now there is the argument that as they age their viewing habits could change, as most humans do, so as they get older we don’t know if they will migrate in droves to TV, or not.

This, coupled with the notion that most of us now are suffering from some form of digital fatigue (we work and live on our devices), means that TV might have some form of a renaissance. But it’s all based on assumptions – the TV landscape and demographics have never been as diverse as they are now, and we just can’t predict what the future looks like.

For now, however, there are some certainties.

Agencies and clients alike need to up their game.

If brands still want to invest in 30-second campaigns, then they need to be really creative with their advertising. If you want someone to have an eye/ear on your commercial whilst on a second device, make sure it’s interesting and relevant enough for them to care. And also think about how modern audiences actually consume media. We are becoming more and more accustomed to much shorter form content (six-second ads), so don’t be afraid to say something more succinctly in a much shorter amount of time.

Let’s not be lazy. Don’t simply think that you can carve production budgets up the way you did before and re-purpose your TV commercial for other channels. The same ad on TV just won’t cut it online. Create content that is right for your audience and the media. Clients – if you want ‘disruption’ (buzz word of 2018), then be disruptive in your thinking too, before you even get to brief stage with your agency.

But, overall, let’s keep monitoring the changes that are happening and not make any rash decisions. For now, if a brand doesn’t have an overwhelming rationale to take their brand completely off TV then, with nothing else rivaling ROI, it’s still very much relevant to brands and audiences alike. We just need to watch this space really closely and maybe adapt our thinking more frequently than we have before.

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