Here’s What Marketers Need to Know About Converged TV

There’s no time like the present for marketers to prepare for converged TV. We’re witnessing a sea change, where television is transforming from a linear, device-centric medium to one defined by screen-agnostic addressable premium content. Here’s how marketers can navigate this disruption.

Understand the Pace of Change

Television is converging. On one hand, traditional TV remains the world’s most powerful advertising medium. One recent estimate puts the number of U.S. households that still view some form of traditional TV at 75 percent. On the other hand, a recent eMarketer report illustrates the steady shift in audience toward connected TV. Last year, 55 percent of U.S. consumers had access to connected TV, and that audience is expected to exceed 60 percent of the total population within the next three years. Put simply: there likely won’t be a mass tipping point moment when U.S. audiences are either on linear or connected TV.

So, how should marketers think about the present moment? Understandably, many are eager to embrace the future, but in doing so they risk overlooking still sizable linear audiences. A better way to think of this: in addition to embracing connected TV, marketers can level-up linear by bringing programmatic capabilities, including data, to those media buys.

Make Upfronts Smarter

Historically, upfront planning has been driven by demographic data, but that is changing. By defining strategic targets with first-party data, marketers and agencies will transform linear television buys into something closer to what they’ve spent the last decade-plus perfecting on the digital side.

Just as important, by making linear television data-enabled, marketers and agencies can align television with other channels—including digital and social—so they can work better together. Ultimately, the goal should be to make significant advances in upfront planning and management, but the story begins with converged analytics. By shifting toward data-enabled upfronts, marketers and agencies are simultaneously making intelligent buys as well as laying the groundwork for the future.

Use Digital to Amplify TV Planning

About 33 million U.S. consumers are cord-cutters, according to a recent eMarketer report. Regardless of your target audience, cord-cutters mean you’re going to have a hole in your planning, and that hole is sizable enough to impact growth and sales, if it’s not addressed.

Digital is the only way to reach cord-cutters, but with digital living in its own silo for now, cord-cutters aren’t part of television planning at all. A data-driven approach to television tells you who you are reaching, and just as important, who you aren’t reaching. By shifting to data-enabled planning, marketers and agencies put themselves in a position to have digital amplify their television planning, rather than operating the two as separate areas.

Optimize Frequency

While some consumers have cut the cord to live on the bleeding edge of innovation and others have remained loyal to traditional television consumption, most actually have a foot in both camps. Reaching those consumers isn’t the problem for marketers and agencies. The challenge is to make sure they’re not bombarding those consumers across multiple channels—which both wastes ad dollars and risks oversaturating audiences.

By optimizing frequency, marketers and agencies can suppress audiences where needed, in order to make sure that they’re not paying to reach the same consumers more than intended. Mastering suppression is the important flip side to the amplification capability, and it’s also the chief mechanism through which marketers and agencies will control costs and drive ROI.

Converging Means Playing the Long Game

It’ll take time to make upfronts smarter, understand how to use digital to amplify TV planning and master suppression. Marketers and agencies will need to address challenges in data, tools, organization structure and operations. We’re already seeing advertisers realigning, reallocating and rethinking their television business and that’ll only increase in the coming years. That’s why it’s important for marketers and agencies to have a clear dialogue about expectations for converged TV—what we say today will help determine our industry’s future.