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‘Do the right thing’ give Google your TV budget

Google, as part of holding company Alphabet, recently reworked their ‘Don’t Be Evil’ tagline to the equally as snappy ‘Do the Right Thing’. You can’t beat a good mantra after all!

So when their latest report attacked the effectiveness of TV ads, calling on advertisers to massively increase spend on their YouTube product, we must surely all submit to Google’s (or Alphabet’s) digital will? After all, they are just trying to Do The Right Thing, aren’t they?

Very probably for the shareholders who own them. Ever-increasing profits will keep the share price ticking upwards. More aggressive selling of their products and services will deliver those profits. The ‘Right Thing’ is very much a state of perspective.

The claims of their latest extensive study are that YouTube drives higher ROI than TV at current spend levels. Increasing spendyoutube-spend1-300x163 on YouTube, by up to six times, can therefore better optimise the media mix. A wonderful headline story indeed.

Thinkbox, the UK’s TV industry body, reacted angrily. It suggested Google ‘misses the point’ of TV advertising and that the true value of TV is its ability to help achieve best return on investment at the highest levels of advertising spend.

Who should we believe in this battle of old vs. new?

Much like the current BREXIT manifestos, everyone has an agenda to peddle and stories are tailored accordingly. Beware if you ignore the small print! As the old saying goes, never let the facts ruin a good story.

Thinkbox certainly have a point in their reply. The big headline from the report could certainly be deemed a little misleading. Buried in the narrative from Google themselves are quotes from various client representatives involved with the study. The likes of Mars and Danone indicate that, rather than moving or cutting TV budget in favour of YouTube, it’s likely to become a wider or complimentary part of an overall media mix.

Elements of the report also argue a case for YouTube delivering better ROI compared to other online video. No surprises there given that Google commissioned the research! Remember those profits? Remember those shareholders? Yet it’s telling that the TV-bashing headline was the plump and juicy narrative upon which the report led.

All Response Media Viewpoint

The reality is both TV and YouTube (or other digital video platforms for that matter) can, do and will have a part to play in an advertiser’s media mix.

But like any media opportunity, it is vital to implement from a position of knowledge. One must effectively test and measure channels against one another in order to truly understand performance.

There are no hard and fast rules. No generalisations. What works for one, may not work for another. The levels of investment in each channel may not be equally scalable or efficient. Test and ye shall discover.

From a more ‘brand’ or business-uplift perspective, this is more challenging. Market Mix Modelling (MMM), as used in the Google report, can offer a solution. But statistical modelling is a minefield. It is only as good as the inputs and assumptions used to create it. In other words, you can fix a model to say what you want!

A TV and digital-video single audience measurement currency also doesn’t yet exist. When the two galaxies eventually collide, they may offer a more tangible solution for advertisers to quantify relative performance across channels.

For the here-and-now, there is an answer though! Simply understanding the value of actions delivered via TV or digital video, rather than audiences viewing ads, is a sure-fire way to measuring their effectiveness. More immediate engagements, web visits and sales can be measured in their own right via individual channels, including TV-attributed actions.

If we can quickly understand how many visits £1 of TV advertising delivers versus £1 of, say, YouTube activity, we have information on which to inform future media mixes. Even better is if we can also understand the granular performance and scalability of each channel.

Immediate actions also provide a strong proxy to longer term performance metrics on a macro and micro level. If we know Channel 4 provides cost effective immediate actions of any kind versus Channel 5, it’s likely the residual long tail from that station in terms of audience and engagement is also stronger. That could be in terms of sales uplift or brand building metrics.

In summary, sweeping statements from either Google, Thinkbox or any other industry party are exceedingly dangerous to take on face value. Keep an open mind. Remain impartial. Treat all channels with initial scepticism. Test at sensible budget levels until a channel is proven and only roll-out to the point at which diminishing returns set in. And keep on evaluating. These advertising rules haven’t changed. I doubt they ever will.

A final thought? It may surprise you to hear the mighty Google must believe in TV advertising too. Despite unlimited access to their own platforms (including YouTube), they spent the paltry sum of £15.6 million on TV advertising in the UK in 2015. That was a fact that didn’t crop up anywhere in their latest report. Still at least they’re doing the Right Thing? Right?