What if I told you there is a marketing channel that’s revolutionizing advertising as we know it? And what if I told you that channel was TV?
TV is still incredibly relevant in our age of accountable, data-driven advertising. After all, in my opinion, video is successfully bridging traditional and digital channels, unlike any other marketing medium. So I’m repeatedly surprised when article headlines announce television’s death. I believe such proclamations are short-sighted for three reasons. First, they rely on a very limited—and outdated—understanding of TV. They also completely discount the way linear TV still dominates when it comes to sheer reach and brand-building power. And finally, they ignore the growing opportunities that video’s evolution presents.
Video now plays a part in defining TV
Articles claiming TV’s death usually refer to linear or traditional cable television viewership declining. But video today includes much more than that. Sure, we all used to gather around the family television to flip through the same four channels every evening. But we haven’t lived in that world for a long time, and restricting video content to that definition alone doesn’t line up with how the industry has changed.
People watch more video content than ever—the average American dedicates nearly six hours of their day to the activity according to Marketing Charts’ 2020 data. The shift is simply how audiences are consuming that content. Viewers watch TV on flatscreens and on their phones. They watch live broadcast and on-demand streamed content that is entertaining, informative and promotional. But it is all still video, a broad category for marketers that includes linear TV, digital and streaming.
This expanded way of thinking about TV also fits when we consider the media marketplace. You can buy traditional TV inventory and view it on platforms like Hulu or YouTube TV. The industry is more integrated than we often acknowledge.
When we reframe our conversations on TV around video, the channel’s not dying at all. It’s simply evolving, adapting to changing technologies, consumer behavior and advertiser expectations to become something different but perfectly suited for the times we’re facing.
Linear TV continues to be very much alive
Even when we do look at linear TV alone, the channel maintains tremendous value. Despite misconceptions, linear TV still commands impressive audiences. In 2020, time spent watching linear TV actually increased for the average American, jumping a stunning 9.2 percent to approximately 4.5 hours daily, according to eMarketer. This jump means that in 2020, linear TV accounted for around 60 percent of total video consumption.
It’s true that cord-cutters are growing as more people adopt streaming services. In theory, this means TV’s vast reach is shrinking as audiences become more fragmented. But “cord-cutters” seems to be a misnomer, as many households are simply adding Netflix or Disney+ to their preexisting cable subscriptions. And cable companies are fighting to compete by offering more flexible packages. This means a surprising number of people are still flipping through channels. In 2019, even Millennials, the age group most likely to subscribe to a streaming service, watched more linear TV than streamed content.
Plus, linear TV neatly avoids streaming’s greatest pitfalls. Ad frequency capping, measurement and brand safety are all challenges for advertisers on digital video platforms. And while there’s been significant progress to reduce these shortcomings, the industry still has much to perfect. So, if you’re trying to build a brand, gain visibility or attract new customers, linear TV remains a smart bet.
How do you know if this medium is right for your company?
Of course, linear TV is not for everyone. But in a world that can be biased to short-term, digital results, I encourage businesses to carefully evaluate TV before coming to that conclusion. I’ve more than once seen leaders surprised at the impact it can have on both short- and long-term goals. I recommend asking the following questions when considering linear TV:
- Does my brand have an aspect of mass appeal? In my experience, most brands do—even those that consider themselves to be fairly specialized. But there are certainly instances when an offering is so niche, TV’s broad reach may not be the best way to reach your audience.
- What sort of results do I expect from a TV campaign? Is TV more of a brand-building project, or do I want to see an immediate sales response? The answers to these questions can inform how you structure and measure your campaign’s success.
- What growth stage best describes my business? Businesses still in the startup phase are typically not ready for TV and would be better served by investing solely in digital advertising. Those that feel maxed out on digital and have established operations to deal with the influx of traffic from a channel like TV tend to perform best.
- Are you willing to invest in a bold move? This doesn’t only mean a financial commitment. The most successful brands on TV have teams that are excited about and dedicated to the campaign. They’re willing to take the time and resources necessary to do TV right.
The evolution of video isn’t over
As technology improves, the industry is developing better ways to track and measure a TV campaign’s performance, achieving the accountability sought by modern marketers. And the pandemic resulted in brands challenging traditional industry practices in favor of more flexible alternatives. Meanwhile, more advertisers are buying media through automation and artificial intelligence, getting better results for every dollar they spend.
In these ways, video is adopting the best aspects of both traditional and digital channels. And it is still constantly changing. But that’s the beauty of it. There are so many ways to continue optimizing video for dramatic business growth. If you continue to overlook all this potential, who knows the opportunities your business may miss?