Delivering Precision and Scale on TV Requires More Than Demo Targeting and Dayparts

If you want to grow your brand, then you must attract new customers. It’s a simple yet neglected concept that has gained traction in part due to research by Byron Sharp, a marketing professor from Australia and author of, “How Brands Grow.”

TV remains the most powerful and easiest way for brands to find new prospects, but doing it successfully today in a highly fragmented landscape of broadcasters and programs requires moving well beyond targeting demos in dayparts. It requires leveraging billions of high quality data points about your target audience and using that data to predict what they’ll watch when your ad runs.

Recently, Procter & Gamble and others have signaled their intent to maximize targeted reach, which only TV can deliver. They also want to assess TV’s impact based on sales, not on impressions delivered.

Unfortunately, others haven’t changed the way they target, plan and buy TV. Consequently, many of these companies have seen their growth stall if not reverse.

This is how it often happens:

Brands establish goals based on reach and frequency.

Brands and their agencies translate these goals into GRPs, which they then buy and run at the lowest possible cost.

Brands post that buy against their initial GRP goals. If those GRPs get delivered, everyone thinks they did their jobs.

The problem is, very few investigate if they achieved their desired reach and frequency goals. If they did check, they’d typically see that actual reach and frequency are unacceptably out of balance, a phenomenon that can happen when a hyper-fragmented TV audience collides with a context-heavy media buying methodology that hasn’t changed in decades.

The average home receives 180 ad-supported channels. The typical consumer watches about 20 of them a month, and those 20, like the smartphone apps you use the most, will be very different, depending on who you are.

Imagine a typical 60 Reach / 6 Frequency campaign that used 25 networks. Sound familiar? The challenge is, you almost never can reach 60% of your audience when you buy only 25 networks. In fact, optimizing your campaign toward the simplicity of buying only a limited number of networks can result in reaching less than half of what you planned. Meanwhile the half you did reach may be exposed to your spots tens or even scores of times, a frequency so high that it may annoy your customers and make them less likely to buy from you.

Overall TV ratings are declining, but niche networks keep growing as more of your target audience tunes in every day. In fact, the most newsworthy trend in TV viewing isn’t the decline in ratings. It’s the fragmentation of audiences. Not accounting for this shift and adjusting your plan to reach farther and wider than ever before means you risk communicating to fewer potential customers.

Some say that digital video helps solve this problem. Digital can help extend your reach, but check your media mix model effectiveness scores and see which performs better: TV or digital video. The answer is almost universally the former.

Unquestionably, digital can deliver results, yet 33% of U.S. households still don't have a broadband connection. Digital video consumption is highly concentrated, with 7% of consumers driving 90% of streaming. Even if digital video out-punched TV on media mix modeling, it still couldn’t reach enough of your consumers.

Despite audience fragmentation, TV remains healthy. Adults 18+ watch over four hours of TV a day, more than all other screens combined. On average, TV is among the top three of all media channels to drive marketing KPIs. Search is the highest because it’s so strong capturing customer intent, but search isn’t as effective at educating an audience about new products or services. It’s no surprise, then, that TV drives a lot of search volume.

For TV to work, advertisers can’t ignore customer fragmentation, and the days of considering the long tail of cable to be the domain of inferior brands are over. With the right TV platform, you can ingest your own customer data, as well as third-party data sources, to target more precisely while maximizing reach.

It is time to activate that approach in television.

Matt Collins is senior VP of marketing for Simulmedia, a television advertising company that provides data-optimized advertising on national linear TV.

(Photo via FamZoo Staff's Flickr. Image taken on May 25, 2016 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio.)