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Today’s Top Advertising Challenges

For TV advertisers, these are the best of times and the worst of times.

With industry trades consistently reporting on the explosion of new original scripted series, TV rights for additional sports programming in flux, or how about that fact that we now have two debates for each Republican presidential debate, there seems to be an endless choice of programming for an advertiser to buy.

Not to mention the question that’s truly on marketers’ minds — What platform do I buy the programming on? Do I buy live, on demand, on digital and is it being streamed across multiple platforms and devices? It’s enough to make your head spin.

Media buyers are the ultimate stewards of television. Never before has the industry been faced with so many challenges that ultimately will decide the fate of clients. For those of us in this wonderful, exciting and fast paced business, change is happening at light speed.

Some executives are crying that there’s simply too many options. However, I believe there are other compelling issues in front of the media buying community.

Today we are faced with at least five major challenges that are affecting how we conduct ourselves and our everyday business.

1)   I’m awash with so much data - what can I do with it? Has Big Data become the new creative? And what about the old fashioned need for plain ‘ole good creative?
2)   Where do I put my ads? TV? Digital? Both? The perception is that digital is more efficient than TV, but is it really?
3)   How is it all measured? How can I handle ratings frustration? Linear TV, digital video, cross-media — all have issues.
4)   Where should I place my ad dollars – in local (geo-targeting) or national? Linear TV now can be used to not just build brands but drive consumers to go their local store to buy.
5)   Which way to go: TV programmatic or traditional buying? Programmatic is not an “RTB” - race to the bottom

Now, let’s start with the first challenge – data.

Imagine you’re the head of a technology start-up that merges terabytes of set-top box data with shopper card information – all within the same home. A passive, electronic and continuous stream of dynamic, single-source anonymized data!

Now imagine that — out of all this rich data — you can identify individual television networks (and programs) that attract viewers from, say, high income homes that are heavy purchasers within a category and swing purchasers of a particular brand (like “swing voters”). In other words, you have created actionable television targets.

And then, reality sets in. (And I am speaking from my direct, personal experience – at TiVo Research, aka TRA.)

Out of all these rich targets, which one is best for my brand? Is this targeting leverage against Category Users? Brand Users? Heavy Users? Light Users? Swing Purchasers? The list goes on and on.

I think you get the idea. Big Data challenges advertisers and their agencies to ask these most basic (and yet difficult) questions. Net-net, these solutions are great computer systems but not a brain. That comes from the smart buyers and planners that have adopted these newest forms of ad buying
And now, with digital advertising as the tail wagging the proverbial dog, one of the most challenging questions is, “How should I allocate my advertising dollars between linear and digital television (not to mention all of the other media outlets that exist)?”

Here, again, Big Data can provide very useful, practical guidance — such as time spent viewing across media. As I’ve already said, there’s a much larger question, in my opinion, that no advertiser can leave unanswered for long: What am I trying to do with my cross-platform video, advertising? Build lasting brand equity? Or stimulate immediate brand (or service) sales in an increasing transaction driven economy at the local level?

How one answers that question makes all the difference.

For the record, it should be noted that, according to Nielsen’s first quarter cross-platform usage study, 95% of video consumption is through television – with the remaining 5% from PCs, smartphones and tablets combined. However, that number is trending up.

For selfish reasons, I’d like nothing more than for all video advertising dollars to stay within the realm of linear television, but that’s like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

Digital impressions-based demographic, psychographic and behavioral targeting, and near-instantaneous feedback and ROI metrics, have captured the attention of marketers and TV executives alike. The faster the TV industry can adapt to digital-like targeting metrics using data and speedier measurement of viewer response, the better. Clearly, it’s not happening overnight.

In the meantime, any rational discussion of the allocation of linear vs digital video advertising must turn on data metrics that (at least) provide a consistent approach.

Programmatic companies like placemedia are using data like a new creative, giving marketers an outlet to target audiences in new ways – by combining both a traditional linear television, time-duration-weighted viewing from set top data with impressions-based metrics capturing a minimum time-duration threshold. These worlds are coming together – and fast.

The take away? Big Data is here to stay. And if you are not comfortable with it – it’s time to get on board.

Lieberman joined Viamedia, the country’s largest independent TV advertising management solutions company, as president and CEO in January 2014. Prior to Viamedia, he was co-founder, chairman and CEO of TRA, a leading media analytics, software and research technology firm sold to TiVo. Earlier, he was the co-founder of DIVA, the first commercial video on demand company, and the executive VP of Reed Elsevier U.S. Media division, where he oversaw Variety, Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and other publications.