TV is the last frontier in digital advertising

Back at the start of this year, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at the world’s biggest advertiser, Procter & Gamble, sent shockwaves through the advertising industry by launching something of a revolt against internet ad giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook.

In his now (in)famous speech at the US IAB’s Annual Leadership meeting he said that, if concerns around transparency, fraud and brand safety were not addressed before the year was through, he’d withdraw his company’s advertising spend from these platforms.

This speech was something of a turning point. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in this real life story of David and Goliath, the industry has been eager to celebrate victories where it can: YouTube channels now need to collect at least 10,000 views before they can monetise their video clips, for instance.

But has the internet ad industry reacted sufficiently strongly to the criticisms he rightly levied at it?

Pritchard again reiterated this message at Dmexco, where he claimed that the changes he demanded in his January speech are about 60% there. Describing 2017 as the year “the bloom came off the rose for digital media”, he declared that “the fog has begun to clear”.

But there is still much work to be done to solve the key challenges around the lack of independent measurement, widespread fraud and continuing brand safety concerns that he - and many others since - have outlined.

Certainly, progress can’t be described as rapid.

Television: A new frontier for digital ads

More heartening, perhaps, is the fact that there is one area of relatively unchartered territory in the digital ad world: TV. Fighting battles here could lead to far faster, and greater, gains.

Incidentally, Warc’s latest Global Ad Trends report, released last month, focused on TV. Following analysis of more than 600 case studies, it finds that effective big budget campaigns of more than $10m have allocated almost two-thirds of their budget to this medium.

High-budget campaigns continue to focus on TV, then, despite the rise of digital. We tend to focus on shiny new toys, but there are far older media which still hold sway. According to Warc, media agencies expect TV costs to rise in 2018.

The reason for this? It works. And what’s more, many are claiming that today we are living through a ‘golden age’ for TV.

An addressable, brand-safe world of opportunity

Thankfully, walls and entrenched positions are not yet built around TV. Opportunities are abound thanks to the likes of programmatic TV advertising and Addressable TV, which mixes panel and census data by retrieving data from set-top boxes, and segments and targets in a trusted, brand-safe environment.

Indeed, Graeme Hutcheson, director of digital at Sky Media, has said that Addressable TV is allowing brands of all shapes and sizes to harness the power, effectiveness and brand-safe environment of TV. “Smaller and niche businesses are now able to compete with national brands on an even playing field,” he has said.

The combination of technology and data has certainly reinvented the role of television in the marketing mix. Throw out those textbooks, folks - television is not just an upper-funnel vehicle.

What’s more, there are no bots watching television in your living room. An addressable television impression is 100% guaranteed to be served in front of the audience. And we don’t need a textbook to tell us that ads that are relevant to a household will resonate more than those which aren’t.

A new ecosystem for TV

So, as consumers start to watch TV via digital streams, all of the targeting and granular attribution of digital is coming to brand-safe, viewable, highly engaging long-form content. Legacy advertisers like P&G already have a tremendous competitive advantage here. Their massive budgets can be used to shape the future of the industry. P&G alone devoted 74% of its 2016 marketing budget to TV. It’s Pritchard’s bread and butter when it comes to marketing—so why not use this to catapult a structurally more favorable Advanced TV market forward?

The promise of Advanced TV is here and is fundamentally changing what’s possible for marketers. Across traditional broadcast and cable network TV ads, the promise of audience-based buying has been partially realised, but there is still much work to be done.

So, let’s push the boundaries of what’s possible in order to gain the benefits of data-driven buying and measurement on TV, taking the lead in this burgeoning space.

People still watch prime time TV in their droves. Here are highly engaged, captive audiences. Yes, soon enough, the giants of the online ad ecosystem will begin exerting their influence here, too. (Take Apple’s appointment of Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, former presidents of Sony Pictures Television, and Facebook’s launch of Facebook Watch as just two precursors to this). But these tech titans need premium original content, and if brands collaborate with media companies now, they can get the world of Advanced TV right from the very beginning. And in so doing, the next stage of the battle can be fought on a more level playing field, providing a path to victory which is not limited to the Goliaths of this digital world.

Mike Baker is the chief executive of Dataxu.

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