Advertisers shouldn’t fear tuning back in to linear television

Despite what some believe, television content is anything but dead. Earlier this year, Nielsen reported that even in today’s digitized world, the average American consumer watches more linear television per week than ever.

What is up for debate, however, is the future of linear television advertising. Four experts convened to discuss this matter during the TV 3.0 Power Panel at Ad:tech New York.

For most television executives, signs of consumer aversion to advertising are what keep them up at night.

At least one major metropolitan news­paper will go out of business. Several national magazines have gone out of business,” said Peter Price, President and CEO, National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. As for television, Price expects viewers to go “someplace where there is no advertising.”

That place is increasingly at home, where DVR and video-on-demand (VOD) innovations have become a double-edged sword for the industry: On one hand, they encourage more television program consumption; consumers are no longer bridled to air times, but on the other hand, they allow for commercial skipping. Nielsen reports that 25% of homes have a DVR, and 35% boast VOD.

In the absence of traditional com­mercial spots, advertisers must be more innovative in sponsorship, noted Stacey Lynn Schulman, SVP of Turner Enter­tainment Ad Sales Research at Turner Broadcasting. “Fans want to engage,” she said. “With Desperate Housewives, fans were connecting with the music. The advertiser could easily sponsor a CD release and have the message associated without disrupting.”

Other less disruptive forms of connect­ing with a customer include having the advertiser creating unique content, and not commercials. Schulman pointed out that Unilever has taken this approach. And, while many still look to the future of online video advertising, the current inability to achieve critical mass is holding the dollars back.

“Change takes a lot longer than you think,” said Michael Steib, director of TV Ads for Google. “And when it happens, it’s much more radical. This year people will watch 400 billion hours of TV and [spend] only 20 billion hours online.”

So, while Google’s online investment in YouTube addresses the latter, it is Steib’s mission to transform how linear television advertising is sold. His firm is leveraging the success of the AdWords platform to buy and manage offline tele­vision spots, and it is using set top boxes to measure results.

Early adopters of the platform have requested greater reach, resulting in the addition of Bloomberg and NBC Univer­sal inventory to create a long tail of inven­tory. Other recent enhancements include more granular targeting, such as seeking out shows by a keyword in the title.

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