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Is TV advertising still relevant?

“TV is declining”. The same story we regularly hear, but often not backed up by the full picture. Ebiquity’s Michael Karg is next to suggest this, conducting a study which shows that the channel would lose its ROI advantage between now and 2022.

It is evident from the numbers that TV audiences are in decline and costs are increasing. With the rise of on-demand and subscription platforms, the TV marketplace is very different from what it was 20 years ago. The conclusions that Ebiquity’s study drew were that 16-34 TV audiences have fallen dramatically and older viewers are shifting away from linear TV also. With the 16-34 demographic being the future older audience, viewing habits will, in turn, continue to develop in a declining direction and as a result, TV will become more expensive and the ROI advantage that the channel currently carries will be lost over the next 3 years.

This study has a point – yes, viewing figures are declining, and advertisers certainly need to be prepared for a shifting market, but the study was challenged by Thinkbox who makes a point that this “worst case scenario” study misses out the vital combination of broadcast and on-demand services. Thinkbox reports on Touchpoints data which focuses on the 16-34 demographic and shows that by planning across both linear TV and broadcast video on demand (BVOD), advertisers can achieve the same cost-effective reach as 10 years ago with just linear TV.

But who is correct?

All Response Media viewpoint

We at All Response Media are big believers in TV driving cost efficiency. TV can still deliver +90% reach across all individuals. Of course, TV viewing is in decline and this is much more prominent in a younger demographic as they shift towards online video and subscription services, which is who Ebiquity’s study has focused on to draw this conclusion on declining ROIs. They also suggest that TV’s ROI will decline in just 3 years, as the 16-34 demographic are the future.

The below chart shows how TV consumption has changed over time, looking at all adults, men and 16-34s. There has been a sharp decline in 16-34s even just within the past 2 years, and this trend is expected to continue as it becomes easier and easier to watch what you want, when you want and where you want. However, if we look at the all adult viewing, this decline is much slower and is unlikely to drop off significantly between now and 2022. The question of whether viewing behaviours of young people will change as time goes on and in fact move back towards linear TV also comes into play. Younger people may be savvier with the latest technology, but will this interest dwindle as they age?

BVOD, as called out by Thinkbox, can be a solution for delivering reduced TV reach if big programmes are bought on the platform (which isn’t always the case due to varying big hitting shows being out at different times across the year). Additionally, the channel is not necessarily something we at All Response Media always recommend for our clients from a pure performance perspective. With many clients focused on cost efficiency and being able to back up all media investment with KPIs, BVOD often doesn’t fall under this bracket with the channel being expensive and difficult to measure. Of course, there is a place for BVOD for those who are more focused on driving reach and building a brand, so it depends entirely on a client’s strategy.

Ebiquity’s study appears to focus more on reach and scale and that relationship with ROI. For our performance-based clients, our approach wouldn’t be about driving reach or pushing scale first and foremost with TV. Instead, using our bespoke TV measurement tool, ARMalytics®, we would look at optimising our plans and finding those niches where our audience are most likely to respond to drive growth alongside cost efficiency. For our more brand focussed clients, we would investigate various avenues for building reach but remain on the hunt for the best possible deals.

Finally, driving incremental reach doesn’t always have to come from VOD. We are always thinking of low risk ways to drive response and reach, with radio increasingly coming into the mix. The cost-effective nature of the channel and possible scale makes it a very appealing channel to consider either in addition to TV or on its own.

There is life in TV yet, of that there is no doubt. It is imperative to continuously think of ways in which we can make the most of TV despite a shifting market. But this certainly does not take away from the fact that the market is changing and advertisers, as well as us as a media agency need to be cognisant of this and always be one step ahead of the game. Drawing conclusions on TV’s ROI declining in only 3 years is a big statement – the viewing decline is clear which will undoubtedly affect cost, but we must remember that various audiences are consuming linear TV in different ways. With our offline and online teams at ARM being integrated, we are always in conversations with one another about shifting budgets across all channels and are expertly placed to recognise and react to market changes.