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Future of TV TV Advertising B2B Marketing

What next for the 30 second spot?

By Adam Lynch, director of broadcaster partnerships and Netflix strategy lead

February 6, 2023 | 9 min read

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The TV advertising landscape is in the midst of fundamental change. Xandr’s director of broadcaster partnerships and Netflix strategy lead Adam Lynch reflects on the last 15 years and what the old and new can learn from each other.

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The 30 second spot, what is next?

In 2008 I read a book that would prove pivotal to my dissertation and later, come to define my career. The book Life after the 30 second spot by Joseph Jaffe explored what would happen to advertising in a ’post-TV’ era. Fast forward 15 years and the TV advertising landscape as we know it is in the midst of fundamental change.

While Jaffe’s outlook for TV was somewhat bleak, my dissertation was much more positive. My predictions might not be surprising now, but in 2008 BBC iPlayer had only just launched (December 2007), Netflix was still predominantly a postal DVD service and Sky wouldn’t launch Sky Go for another four years (Feb 2012). These predictions were:

  • The 30 second spot will continue to exist far into the future
  • TV viewing habits will radically change from ’Prime-Time’ to ’My-Time’
  • Privacy would become a subject top of mind within the industry looking at the levels of targeting capability to come.

Looking back, some of those predictions came true. The proliferation of broadband and connection speeds accelerated targeting capabilities and trends. Consumers leaned into the ability to control their content, viewing it in their own time and via platforms that made consumption easy. However, the 30 second ’TV’ spot still exists today and is as creative as ever.

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Connection capabilities

Today, ’TV’ is more than simply a screen connectivity capability. The TV of today is omnipresent and has evolved from being a physical product in the living room, to become the de facto term for watching great content anywhere via any connected device.

What’s really changed is the delivery mechanism of TV and the language used to describe this. In 2008, both content and advertising were typically ’broadcast’ to the masses, the technology to insert ads just beginning to be developed. Now ’ad insertion’ - the ability to serve video ads into live linear programming and video-on-demand (VOD) content - is a widely adopted term used by broadcasters and streaming platforms alike.

As ever, when something becomes a commodity, standing out from the crowd becomes a necessity. With so many platforms through which we can access content, subscription fatigue is on the rise among consumers and with a cost of living crisis looming, some streaming giants, that previously only ran subscription models, are disrupting the norm and adopting advertising tiers to attract more users to their platform and generate more revenue for original content. With this new capability and new sources of supply, comes new commercial models, format capabilities and a fresh opportunity for brands to engage with their audience.

The new can learn and adapt from the old

The growth of streaming platforms has made content choice almost unlimited. As a consumer of TV-like content it’s almost impossible to watch everything and so, for a brand, the question is how do you reach your target audience now it’s so broadly distributed?

Technology is the answer. Broadcasters are already adapting to this, for example, Sky’s AdSmart product, C4’s BrandM4tch and ITV’s Planet V all leverage technology to power the planning and delivery of advertising campaigns. The streaming giants are doing the same. Netflix’s adoption of Xandr’s Monetize ad server enables both Direct IO and programmatic trading of Netflix inventory with upfront planning, forecasting and delivery reporting all baked into the process. As an industry we’re starting to move away from ‘Impacts’ into a newer digital way of buying (based on impressions).

While we’re still a long way from everything in the TV world being traded on an impression basis, the broadcasters’ rollout of CFlight is a step forward for the industry. As marketers face increasing pressure to justify ad spend, measurement is front of mind and this initiative is helping to define a new hybrid metric using both impact and impression-based buying across all broadcasters to fully understand the reach of a campaign.

The important consideration for both buy and sell sides here is to consider the most effective technology partnership, one that offers buyers the most direct route to supply and ensures higher publisher revenues while offering lower risks in fraud, viewability, brand safety and data leakage.

The old affords new revenue opportunities

We’re at a pivotal time in the industry which oddly echoes 2008. Back then a global financial crisis, today a cost of living crisis. Back then the launch of some ad funded video-on-demand (VOD) platforms, today the major subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms launching ad funded tiers.

While ’My Time’ viewing isn’t going anywhere, there is still a need for the ’Prime Time’ of old, specifically in sport which will continue to dominate the appointment to view slot. What we will see is more spin-off content such as F1’s Drive to Survive. Such series allow sports rights holders to tap into the ’My Time’ audiences themselves, becoming a marketing outpost to grow sports.

There is no doubt that programmatic technology will be baked into TV’s future. Those new to market like Netflix, are afforded the luxury of not being tied to more traditional models or insight difficulties that come with traditional broadcast. On demand has the added benefit of targeting capabilities built in.

Broadcasters, though, are beginning to adopt newer delivery mechanisms leveraging the same technology and speaking the same common language as the streaming platforms. They have the added benefit of being able to use their advanced targeting capabilities on many years of data and reach they’ve generated. This will open new revenue opportunities for them to sell the same inventory around the great content they house at increased pricing due to the data knowledge that they have on the consumers, affording brands the ability to reach even smaller, niche audience groups.

So, what’s next for the 30 second spot? My guess is that it will remain as the 30 second spot. Yes, it’ll be more targeted, more measurable, more creatively integrated with the content/context, but it’s not going anywhere soon and will continue to provide a mechanism for a brand to tell a story.

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