The Transformation of Local TV

Media planning and buying, driven by audience-based targeting strategies, has proven to be an unprecedented driver of effectiveness and efficiency in today’s marketing universe, starting with digital/programmatic sources of inventory, and now expanding to traditional media channels.  

Andrew Ward, president

Andrew Ward, president, Ampersand (Image credit: Ampersand)

The TV industry has made tremendous strides in recent years in utilizing consumer and brand data to optimize advertiser campaign performance. Much of this focus in the TV industry has centered on the national/network marketplace, and the scaling of addressable solutions--less attention has been paid to the local TV ecosystem.  Despite the desire of advertisers to bring audience-based planning and buying strategies and more robust campaign measurement/optimization into the local television marketplace, the reality is that local TV buyers and sellers have not had access to the platforms necessary to organize complex consumer data and set-top-box viewership insights at a DMA level. 

Here’s the good news though--these solutions are now available. Brands and agencies can now plan, buy and measure local TV buys using deterministic data to drive improved campaign creation, access rich optimization insights, and deliver improved efficiency.

The unique combination of viewership insights and brand/consumer data now available at a market-level will offer local advertisers a variety of benefits—at the top of the list is the ability to optimize reach and frequency. No longer will brands waste dollars by blindly blowing through frequency caps in their attempts to drive reach.  Access to DMA-level STB TV viewership and campaign exposure data, across both broadcast and cable inventory, is now available to support local TV buyers in their pursuit of optimal schedule design and more accountable campaign measurement.   With these new capabilities, buyers can use measurement and optimization insights as a feedback loop to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of future campaigns.  In this new construct, local advertisers will be able to achieve optimal spend efficiencies between broadcast and cable--don’t be surprised if “Cost of Incremental Reach” gains traction as a new transactional currency in the local TV marketplace alongside CPMs and GRPs.     

The timing of these developments coincides with a renewed appreciation for the importance of local TV. Although COVID-19 is a global pandemic, its impact has decidedly local implications. When economic operability varies wildly on a regional, statewide and even county-by-county basis, the critical value represented by the flexibility of local TV, enhanced by rich data and robust measurement, couldn’t be any more obvious. 

This new audience-based approach should resonate across the full range of advertiser verticals, including automotive, healthcare and financial services. And for categories like QSR/dining and general retail, which have been distinctly affected by the coronavirus outbreak, the urgency for new models couldn’t arguably be greater.  

One early adopter in this evolution to local audience-based TV planning and buying is the political advertising cohort. With the 2020 election season in full swing, campaigns of all stripes and sizes are already availing themselves of custom-built voter segments to better target their investments and achieve not only greater spend efficiency, but optimal audience reach. The 2008 Obama campaign marked the advent of data-informed political campaigning. Typically, Presidential elections can be swung by the candidate that targets and motivates a narrow swath of undecided voters. With so much at stake, political campaigns see the significant value in building campaigns by matching voter data with viewership insights aggregated anonymously across tens of millions of set-top boxes. These insights allow campaigns to manage frequency and drive incremental reach against their key target audiences—which can be the difference between winning and losing.  

A current Senate candidate recently extended reach against its key voter segment (A18-34 Democrats) by adding a local cable component to supplement its preexisting local broadcast buy in a given DMA. In so doing, the campaign added an incremental 5.5% reach of its voter audience that it otherwise would have missed entirely, and it did so with a 32% lower cost per reach point against the target audience. This audience-based approach revealed that 50% of the candidate’s broadcast impressions were generating massive frequency/wear out (exposure of 15x+ per week), and enabled the intelligent redeployment of investments leveraging cable inventory to deliver un/underexposed households.

As for general market implications, these capabilities can be the difference for brands between winning and losing market share.

As we turn the corner into 2021, brands will be charged with “doing more with less”, and it will be incumbent upon media providers to deliver the greatest level of accountability, transparency and efficiency. What is truly exciting is that the tools now exist for these brand expectations to be fulfilled in the local TV marketplace.   Local TV planners/buyers can now complement the brand-building power of television with richer and more robust planning, buying and measurement capabilities on a market-by-market basis.   

Ampersand is the insights-based TV sales and platform company, providing audience-based buying and advanced measurement across linear and streaming TV. 

Andrew Ward