Traditional TV and Digital: Narrowing the Divide

The TV industry has been struggling to bridge the gap between traditional linear TV and digital channels. On one hand, traditional linear TV has grappled with cross-device viewership, loss of perceived value compared to digital slow-to-measure campaign reporting, and an ongoing battle against the immediacy of digital. There’s also the growing number of cord-cutters that threaten its very existence.

On the other hand, there is digital, a leading medium for content consumption, but not devoid of its own challenges — fraud, transparency and flawed last-click attribution among them. To say the industry is at a crossroads would be an understatement. Brands often react prematurely by de-prioritizing television, or they try to simply swap dollars and strategies between TV and digital, which underscores the massive convergence between the two.

That’s where advanced TV comes in.

The era of advanced TV means that TV and digital are no longer mutually exclusive. In theory, better data and technology will enable TV to not only regain its rightful position in the marketing ecosystem, but it should actually help the medium grow.

Solving for the Data Equation

In 2017, transparency became table stakes; that is, it was universally demanded by consumers. As a result, brand reputation emerged as a key concern for advertisers and marketers hoping to foster long-term trust and loyalty. Advertisers now need to be able to understand the sourcing and methodology of a target segment to ensure it is compliant with relevant laws and best practices. They also need to put up “guardrails” with regard to data quality, which is no easy feat, given the proliferation of third-party data flooding the marketplace. There is no single-source currency, and many data sets are anonymous or come from digital, which means they must be modeled prior to use for targeting or measurement in TV, which is subject to different governmental regulations and consumer expectations.

Today, data needs to be extremely specific and clean — vetted, collected and shared in a privacy-conscious and ethical manner. Access to clean, proven data is the first challenge that the industry is working to address as TV advertising evolves.

The second challenge is clearly outlining the similarities and differences that exist between the TV and digital ecosystems. By doing this, brands and marketers will be able to solve current growing pains related to tracking viewership and cross-screen strategies. Informed with these critical considerations, marketers can begin to quickly and effectively implement identity solutions to make smarter targeting decisions that deliver measurable impact. And although change can be uncomfortable, multichannel video programming distributors, programmers, agencies and brands can all agree on one thing: the fundamental need to follow viewers wherever they consume content. Industry stakeholders — even competitors — are also united by the desire to be “customer obsessed.”

Taking a step back, when advertising budgets are reallocated, TV is typically first on the chopping block. That is because marketers believe they can reinvest those dollars into digital for a greater return-on-ad-spend (ROAS), whether that’s reach, impressions, etc. By the end of last year, headlines screamed about digital finally surpassing TV for the first time. To put this in context: There are tens of thousands of digital advertisers, and a significant amount of impressions are still fraudulent. By point of contrast, the TV ecosystem is underwritten by a few hundred national advertisers, and while there are issues such as skipability and declining viewership, there is no fraud.

The true value of bringing data and technology to TV is better targeting and measurement. Thus, there will be growth within the TV ecosystem itself. It’s about using the best of digital to the benefit of the TV market.

The last hurdle to clear is fragmentation, which has proven particularly cumbersome following the rise of cable. It continues to be problematic today as connected/over-the-top solutions amplify the issue.

Inevitably, certain players want to create their own Customer Data Platforms, and in the process we risk a future with high walled gardens in addressable TV, akin to what we have in digital. Some of the discomfort in today’s TV ecosystem stems from the fact that key players have led measurement standardization to date. Many assume that a shift in measurement and the implementation of more identity solutions in addressable TV metrics needs to be all-encompassing.

Resolving the Identity “Crisis”

Layering identity resolution in advanced TV empowers marketers to target individuals or households, in much deeper, relevant and more nuanced ways for a holistic view across the ecosystem.

Connected TV is a cookie-less environment with no device ID, and linear TV is often only able to target at the household level. That’s where people-based measurement fits into the picture.

People-based marketing in the TV ecosystem gives marketers the power to track and tie consistent, anonymous IDs across an entire marketing campaign. For example, a target segment can be built for a digital campaign on desktop and mobile, and then analyzed to show the lift digital had on TV, and the loop that TV advertising closed for digital.

The reality is that change will be steady, and that the market will ultimately reach a state of equilibrium. In the meantime, we need to allow and account for market maturation, and give data-driven TV strategies time to gain adoption, while proactively seeking new technologies and solutions that allow TV to evolve on its own.

Allison Metcalfe is general manager of TV for LiveRamp, an identity resolution provider specializing in people-based marketing.