The transforming TV landscape seems to benefit consumers, offering them an array of choice and even possibilities of self-expression. But does it provide advertisers with any benefits?
Many forecasters sketch an apocalyptic view of the future of television, citing the explosion of channels, the diffusion of audiences across an increasing array of devices, the disruption of linear viewing by VOD, the predatory incursions of SVOD (e.g. Netflix), as well as in-feed and online video as lethal challenges.
The difficulty of measuring total audiences across all platforms, and inconsistencies in defining ‘viewing’, further compound the problem. This transforming landscape seems to benefit consumers, offering them an array of choice and even possibilities of self-expression. But it does not seem to provide advertisers with many benefits.
“Over and above the hundreds of channels offered by DStv, SABC and e.tv (the traditional players), there are OTT providers like Netflix and Showmax. Then there are the likes of Black from Cell C and similar content offerings from Telkom and MTN,” says Chris Botha, group managing director of The MediaShop. “The options available to consumers with a good data line (fibre) at home are endless” so it has become “much harder to really reach the top-end consumer with traditional advertising”.
Concurring with this, media consultant, Bridget Good, also points to the challenge of time shifted viewing, and a general “repositioning” of TV as a channel in the digital landscape, and identifies the younger market segment as yet another difficult-to-reach target.
These difficult to reach young and affluent viewers are revelling in an abundance of video material. “Consumers are watching more video now than ever before. We know this,” Botha affirmed. He continued, “So our approach has to be to look at video communication, and not just linear TV. In other words, a ‘video plan’ contains a mix of TV plus YouTube plus Facebook plus GDN, etc. – to build reach against the top-end consumer.”
‘TV is audio visual’
Group managing director of Vizeum, Kelvin Storie, believes “TV is no longer TV, it needs to be viewed as audio visual. With this mindset in place, the spectrum and wide variety of audio visual comes into play – linear viewership, cinema, digital OOH, online video, streaming…”.
This broader notion of video goes some way to assist in building reach against the connected consumer, but it also presents some challenges of its own in the digital sphere, where concerns over fraud, brand safety and loss of trust have been raised by major advertisers. While it might be tempting to view online video as a lower cost substitute for TV, it is clear that not all viewing is equal. A mobile screen provides a far inferior viewing experience than a 50” HD plasma TV, and that is without even considering whether the advert is viewed in part, or full.
Results of the most recent Establishment Survey (Jan-Jun 2017), suggested that South African viewers across the SEM spectrum continue to enjoy watching TV on a traditional screen and live.
Viewership on alternative devices remains below 10%, with cellphones being the most popular, suggesting that convenience trumps viewing quality.
But he posited that “reach is the bare basics of an objective”, and that it is crucial to define the type of reach required e.g. attentive or engaged reach. From his perspective, “the inputs need to be layered like a cake – what’s the foundation that is needed to attract the base? Then build up based on indices, genre focus, and geographical location”.
Understanding viewing habits
The starting point for this is, of course, a tight and concise brief from client that clearly outlines the objectives needed.
That a scrupulous process is required to develop an effective campaign was echoed by Good, who points out that “the more you understand the small details, the more effectively performance can be crafted and refined.” She explains the need to create a deeper understanding of viewing habits by station, because different channels behave in slightly different ways. She stresses that “even the channels that have small audiences can still contribute to increasing overall reach”, providing that one leverages their distinct viewing patterns e.g. BBC Lifestyle and Food Network draw useful weekend audiences. She also advises: “In the context of broadly defined audiences, a segmented approach that favours targeting the upper segment of the audience definition is most effective in building overall performance.”
Taking another perspective, Cindy Pienaar, channel strategy director at PHD Media, speaks of the challenge faced by brands that have reached brand awareness saturation, when it becomes “imperative to do something over and above a 30” campaign, such as partnering with local programmes to deliver more value to an engaged audience.” She points out that these should be “leveraged via social media, especially since the second mobile”. This could go some way to address her concern that “the 30” ad, although driving spontaneous brand awareness against the higher LSM market, does not deliver the same level of trust/believability among this market and we need to engage them more and it is harder to build their trust. The 30” ad is not enough”.
While most advertisers are focused on the problems posed by the upper end of the market, Botha cautions that “we have also seen flow down the funnel with top programmes such as Generations and Uzalo (traditional middle market winners) not achieving the numbers they did in the past because of the explosion of DStv Compact and Access”. This sort of shift inevitably has an inflationary impact on advertisers, who are not only being squeezed by free-to-air audience loss, but also by higher CPPs charged by subscription TV.
Traditional TV still does well
Nevertheless, Botha confirmed that traditional television continues to do well. “It is still a powerful platform. SABC is still the most dominant platform in South Africa… Their audiences are enormous. No one can really compete with them. e.tv continues to do well also, and is really making huge strides in the OVHD space. Some of their content is now also available on DStv and has shot to being some of the most watched programming on the platform! DStv is also growing; 40 odd percent over the past three years – with Compact and Access leading the charge. TV, as I said earlier, is still alive and well”.
Proof of the continued efficacy of TV lies in the numbers, Botha argues. “TV still attracts 50% of all advertising spend. Big retailers like Shoprite, Pick n Pay and Massmart are on TV every single week of the year. They would not do this if it weren’t working. It also has the lowest CPT of all traditional media platforms, and kicks butt for the majority of advertisers.”
In the UK, Thinkbox, commercial TV’s marketing body, actively promotes the efficacy of TV, with a barrage of research and information. One of the most recent studies, commissioned by Ebiquity & Gain Theory, was ‘Profit Ability: the business case for advertising’, 2017.
Crunching data from over 2 000 advertising campaigns across 11 categories, revealed that: “TV advertising is responsible for 71% of total ad-generated profit within three years, at the highest efficiency and for the least risk.”
The equivalent radio marketing body in the UK, Radiocentre, has just released a study it commissioned with Equity: ‘Re-evaluating Media: What the evidence reveals about the true worth of media for brand advertisers’. It identified the five most important media attributes for growing a brand in the long term as targeting the right people in the right place at the right time, increasing campaign ROI, triggering a positive emotional response, increasing brand salience, and maximising campaign reach.
The results confirmed TV as the best performing medium, followed by radio. Interestingly ‘Media in Focus: Marketing effectiveness in the digital era’, commissioned by Google, Thinkbox and IPA, suggested that the digital revolution has actually increased the potential effectiveness of most forms of marketing, including traditional media.
While TV is still the most effective medium, online video makes it work even harder. As Botha put it: “TV certainly isn’t going anywhere soon”.