The Convergence of TV and Digital Video Buying: We’re Missing a Piece

"A recent study by 4C highlighted the challenges and opportunities for TV buyers. In the study, 48% of marketers surveyed said that the inability to plan media buys seamlessly between platforms, publishers and networks was their biggest obstacle." -Aaron Goldman, 4C

The line between TV and digital video is blurring. Thanks to over-the-top viewing services and an ever-proliferating array of digital set-top boxes and smart TVs, audiences are increasingly fragmenting across platforms and flowing seamlessly between traditional linear and time-shifted or on-demand digital viewing experiences.

Ad buying across TV and digital video is undergoing a similar convergence. Advanced TV. Addressable TV. Connected TV. Programmatic TV. Whatever you want to call it (and, yes, there are differences and nuances), we’re seeing TV quickly evolve to a process more akin to digital.

If there is one area where the TV-digital convergence is moving slowly it’s among media-buying teams. For the most part, traditional linear TV buyers are still thinking like traditional linear TV buyers. Digital video buyers are still thinking like digital video buyers. And yet their worlds and their roles are colliding. With the exception of a few shops at the leading edge, there’s a dissonance between the converged future we’re all anticipating for video and the way media teams are being structured and prepared for this future. It’s a gap we need to address.

Shifting from a TV to a digital mindset

Without a doubt, traditional TV buying is experiencing significant disruption at the moment, but that doesn’t mean the jobs of its buyers are going away. Far from it. Despite any trepidation traditional linear TV buyers might have about transitioning to an increasingly digital buying process, their expertise and brand insights are going to be vital to a successful convergence of media teams and campaigns.

For traditional TV buyers, the mental shift to digital is a considerable yet potentially liberating opportunity. With traditional linear TV buys, one ad is delivered to many. Typically the ads are bought against broad demographic targets based on Nielsen GRPs. These ads are usually bought in advance, during upfronts, and are relatively inflexible once purchased.

Everything changes when you shift into a digital environment, both in terms of tools and in terms of mentality. What was once one-to-many marketing becomes one-to-one marketing. With the convergence of cross-channel data sets, marketers can get more granular in their audience targeting. The capabilities in these advanced TV buys are becoming aligned with broader digital capabilities, such as real-time synchronization and data-driven optimization. And as a result, an ad format (30 second TV spots) that was once thought of as a sheer branding vehicle is rapidly becoming more performance-driven.

All of this is good for TV buying in terms of helping marketers better target their messaging and start to hold their TV budgets more accountable. However, TV buying teams need to be equipped with tool-sets that can ease them from the one-to-many world to a dynamic buying realm built on audience modeling and data-driven decisioning. TV buyers must be empowered to go beyond basic demographics (e.g., age and gender) and metrics (e.g., reach and frequency) to embrace more nuanced, multi-platform measurements. That transition doesn’t have to be a rough one, if buyers prepare, and if the right tools are in place.

A recent study by 4C highlighted the challenges and opportunities for TV buyers. In the study, 48% of marketers surveyed said that the inability to plan media buys seamlessly between platforms, publishers and networks was their biggest obstacle. Despite this, 58% said that cross-channel advertising outperforms individual media in reaching KPIs, and 80% believed that cross-channel advertising budgets will increase. In other words, the organization isn’t ready for the future they see on the horizon. The disruption of video ad buying is already well underway, and it will require TV buyers to develop new skill sets.

Shifting from a digital to a TV mindset

To be sure, the same is true from the other side of the coin. Digital buyers are moving further into the TV world as they absorb a growing portion of those dollars and look to align their audiences across all channels. But there’s still a significant gap in understanding, processes and systems that needs to be bridged, and marketers know it: 85% say that the current fragmented media landscape requires a new marketing structure that enables advertisers to operate seamlessly between publishing platforms, including digital and TV. Similarly, 84% said that they would increase TV spend if TV offered the same level of accountability, transparency and precision delivery of digital advertising.

Just because digital TV buys have the capability to become more performance-driven than their traditional counterparts doesn’t negate the value of higher-level branding efforts. Digital buyers who pride themselves on their sophisticated, granular attribution methodologies need to be expanding their purviews as it relates to upper-funnel metrics around awareness. They need to attain a clear focus on their audience as human beings and invest in artful creative to communicate with them as individuals. The last ten years have focused on optimizing media distribution, often leaving creative as a second consideration. That won’t play out well on the big screen. And neither will silos among teams.

Effective cross-channel marketing requires audiences at the core and media buying teams built cross-functionally around them. Only when these internal lines come down will the blurring of TV and digital video become a really good thing for all stakeholders.

4C Insights is global marketing technology company that delivers a unified platform for audience discovery, media execution, and performance analysis.