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Quality Still Wins in TV’s New Advertising Landscape

Sona Pehlivanian of NY Interconnect
Sona Pehlivanian (Image credit: NY Interconnect)

Success in TV advertising has always been built on quality and premium experiences. The complexity of the rapidly digitizing marketplace might have drowned out certain quality-centric conversations in recent years, but it never changed that fundamental ground truth. Now those conversations are more important than ever. 

After years of divergence and fragmentation in the TV space — across streaming, over-the-top, connected TV, you name it — we’ve reached an important inflection point as it relates to the kinds of conversations happening on the media-buying front. While TV buys remain multifaceted and nuanced, many of the familiar dichotomies within the space — between linear and digital, between branding and addressability — are falling away. In their place, we’re seeing conversations converge around one factor: quality.

It's a welcome shift within the industry, one that’s long in coming and essential to the continued advancement of the TV space. Let’s take a deeper look at how we got here and why quality and premium experiences will lead us where we need to go now. 

 A Shift in Tone and Focus

When it comes to buying eyeballs, there are a lot of ways for advertisers to get tonnage these days, and on the cheap. But what’s become particularly apparent in the TV space is that not all impressions are created equal. As the TV and video landscape has fragmented, so has the value associated with reaching viewers across the many varied platforms, channels and devices on which they consume content. 

Simply put: People participating in a premium TV experience tend to be more engaged and vested in their programming than those who are giving fleeting attention to the latest cat video. Advertisers understand this, and they are increasingly looking to ensure their media spends prioritize the former over the latter. 

What’s become particularly apparent in the TV space is that not all impressions are created equal.

More specifically, what we’re seeing more these days is a number of savvy advertisers looking for extensions of their standard TV buys into streaming and OTT inventory — but not just any streaming or OTT inventory. They want to ensure their linear extensions are geared toward network inventory where the value and experience are just as premium as they’ve come to expect from their linear placements. They want exclusive, quality inventory, and they want white-glove service. But at the same time, they want to create a cross-platform experience and to wrap sophisticated conversion data and analytics around it. 

The conversations surrounding these cross-platform buys are a far cry from the volume-based transactions happening in the programmatic TV space today. And that’s because control of fragmented TV budgets is yet again shifting. 

Talking to Empowered TV Buyers 

When streaming and OTT advertising opportunities came into being, the media-buying landscape split. For years, linear and streaming advertising were handled by separate teams, the latter of which tended to fall in the camp of the digital buying teams. Now, a lot of that is changing. Traditional TV buyers are now increasingly bringing linear extensions under their purview, and they’re being empowered to extend their relentless insistence on quality inventory and premium experiences into new areas. 

This shift makes sense. After all, if content is appearing on that big screen in the living room, does it really matter which kind of pipes it is flowing through? Also, by bringing these buys together under the same buyer’s purview, we’re seeing a much more unified approach to measurement when it comes to campaign impact. 

Part of the reason TV inventory fragmented across buying teams in the first place was because of the vastly different measurement mechanisms that emerged in the early days of streaming and OTT. The new inventory was digital, with a digital language surrounding it, and so it made sense that responsibility for these buys slid toward the teams most familiar with the language. But here again, we’re seeing a shift.

As the TV industry pivots toward a more unifying language inclusive of impressions — versus less extensible concepts like gross ratings points (GRPs) — TV buyers are becoming sophisticated in their understanding of audience addressability and how best to target both their linear and streaming spending for maximum effect. They’re asking more nuanced questions than ever, and it’s paying off when it comes to a renewed emphasis on quality and premium experiences.

Today’s empowered TV buyers are leveraging their deep expertise from decades of linear buys and up-leveling their results through the transparency, measurability and added reach of streaming and OTT — and it’s really just the beginning. As the systems and partnerships that support the vast TV landscape continue to unify and connect more dots on the back end, advertisers will continue to extend the power of their creative and messaging across new audiences and platforms alike.

In this reimagined TV landscape, quality and premium experiences will reign supreme. Just as they always have. ▪️

Sona Pehlivanian is VP of addressable campaign management and operations at the New York Interconnect.