Brands Discover Courage to Whip Ineffective TV Strategy

Photo Credit: Frank Okay

It’s addictive to be able to flood hearts and minds with your message. Hence, it’s no surprise that every brand loves reach. Hell, entire budgets and departments are organized around delivering the largest audiences in the shortest time possible.

For decades, TV has ruled supreme as the go-to, at-scale platform for branded messages. Despite the known difficulties measuring the effectiveness of any particular TV campaign, it has been the steady crutch of CPG and other mass-consumer brands. The Internet offered an advertising revolution, but didn’t initially bring the scale and today still lack the experience and cachet of their older sibling.

Consider some of these findings from an ABC/Accenture study:

  • Multiplatform TV advertising gives an 18% halo to search, display and short-form video (short-form usually wrongly gets credit)
  • Anything more than a 4 percent reallocation from multiplatform TV to digital spend risks eroding ROI and brand sales over time
  • Long-form digital video ROI outperforms short-form video by a factor of more than 1.5x.

Source: AdWeek, “ABC Study Makes the Best Case Yet That TV Advertising Is Still Superior to Digital


Considering the source, though, we shouldn’t be particularly surprised. On the opposite side of the river, we have a more daunting story to reconcile — people are watching less and less, especially as they get younger.

In sum, between 2011 and 2016, Q3 traditional TV viewing by 18–24-year-olds dropped by more than 9-and-a-half hours per week, or by roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes per day. In percentage terms, Q3 traditional TV viewing by 18–24-year-olds was down by 7.4% year-over-year and has now fallen by roughly 40% since 2011. In other words, in the space of 5 years, 40% of this age group’s traditional TV viewing time has migrated to other activities or streaming (more on that to come).
Source: Nielsen, “Total Audience Report

Today, brands are struggling with both sides of this coin. For most, it’s time to cede to the future, for others, there’s plenty of opportunity left to capture.

Adidas, for example, is making the transition to digital in a big way.

“Adidas is targeting €4 billion ($4.3 billion) in sales solely through online channels in 2020, nearly quadruple the €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in e-commerce sales in 2016. The shifting of Adidas’ ad budget to largely digital channels reflects their ambitions to attract younger users, who are watching less TV and are increasingly shifting attention to mobile devices.”
Source: Business Insider, “Adidas jogs on from television advertising

On the other hand, there are companies that are moving in the opposite direction. Digital darling Taco Bell, for example:

“Taco Bell will spend less on digital advertising in 2017 than it did last year, according to CMO Marisa Thalberg. Instead, the fast food chain plans to spend more on TV ads than it did in 2016.
The brand is using the shift as an opportunity to “figure out how to use digital a little bit more effectively to really get that business result,” Thalberg told Campaign US editor-in-chief Douglas Quenqua during a panel at the 4A’s Transformation conference in Los Angeles on Monday.
While “I do love and believe in digital,” she said, “we went down some garden paths with it last year.” Taco Bell is less sure than it wants to be that its digital efforts are reaching its target audiences.”
Source: Campaign Live, “Taco Bell is shifting its ad spend from digital to TV

Who’s right?

The future is inevitable. Our tools and methods for today likely won’t survive in their current form. Our learnings today, however, inform and, likely, give birth to our success tomorrow. Digital is shining a light on the future that is hard to ignore, even if it does not replace, yet.

The customer is evolving. We know that every generation poses new challenges for brands trying to keep an honest, holistic story threaded through time. For every push in one direction, a pull surfaces in the other. Though it may seem inevitable that one must win over the other, given the option, we should continue to meet them wherever they are, for as long as we can.

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