Why It’s Time to Stop Thinking of Advertising as a Zero-Sum Game

By Tom Eaton, SVP, Programmatic & TV Solutions

For the last two decades, traditional and digital media have been locked in a battle over advertising dollars. Recent evidence suggests David is now Goliath. For the first time, advertisers will spend more on digital advertising than on traditional media such as TV, radio and newspapers.

This shift won’t surprise anyone in the industry. But advertising isn’t a zero-sum game, and there’s still quite a bit of room for TV. We need to talk more about the much bigger change happening underfoot that will deliver better advertising effectiveness and stronger brand growth across all media.

To understand where we’re heading, it helps to understand the seismic changes in the industry. When digital advertising emerged in the late 90’s, digital clients wanted a piece of the TV budgets. Just a couple of years ago, positions started to reverse, and it was the TV clients who asked for help in winning budgets earmarked for Facebook and YouTube.

At the same time, though, TV and digital began to acquire traits from each other.

Broadcast and cable TV networks know content. They live and die by it. In the past, brand marketers would fight over the shows in an upfront package. All discussion centered on the audience composition of a specific program.

But then digital came along and challenged that notion. It made finding the right audience based on specific criteria such as location, preferences and purchase intent possible.

Today – largely driven by the capabilities of digital – brand marketers care about finding and reaching their audience. But they also want to do so without giving up premium content. With addressable TV and OTT services, they’re now able to target specific consumers in TV content just as they do in digital.

Yet, however audiences are identified – by lifestyle, broad demographics or in-store purchase behavior – the conversation is shifting from content to audience. That’s why so many in the network world have created new platforms like Engage, Ignite, Audience Studio, Precision and Agility.

Both paradigms are right.

Viewers are still drawn to premium, long-form content or live sporting events. Just look at the continued loyalty to Netflix. In fact, TV shows remain the most viewed content. That’s why Netflix paid $100 million to keep the rights to stream episodes of Friends. And that was just for one year!

But audience is critically important. Brand marketers especially want the ability to reach specific consumers who are most likely to buy a product or service.

What this means is that the divide between the traditional linear TV ecosystem and the digital ecosystem is disappearing. Brand marketers still fight over the shows in an upfront package. But the difference today is that they also want to find and reach the right audience for their brand and – as consumers now have the ability to watch on any device, at any time and any place – anywhere their customers are.

It’s time to recognize that the real opportunity is in using both of these strategies together. That it’s no longer a zero-sum game.

When we approach brand objectives strategically using a combined lens – TV (content) and digital (audience) – we are better able to help clients target, optimize and measure the sales of their advertising and drive the growth of their brands. Even though the two seem at odds, better advertising results from using these strategies together.

The news today might be about David knocking Goliath, but the new frontier is a cross-platform approach to advertising that is seamless, consistent and personalized. This is the kind of experience consumers expect. It’s a new game, and it’s already underway.

Download our Advanced TV Infographic to learn more about the TV ecosystem