As a television professional who sees the value and results delivered by traditional television, it’s difficult to stand on the sidelines and watch brands turn away from TV as part of their go-to-market strategy. While competition for eyeballs is greater than ever, audience delivery for traditional television is still significant, low-risk, highly-targeted, and effective.
When the mass media screams of cord-cutting, distribution losses for networks like ESPN, millennial viewing habits, and delayed viewing, it doesn’t always trickle down to media in the outdoor industry. Yes, cord-cutting is real, but for enthusiast networks it’s been much less impactful. Millions of viewers are still willing to pay a premium to watch their favorite shows and personalities on traditional television. The market has changed since cord-cutting became a thing nearly five years ago. Some who cut the cord, found they didn’t like the reduced service and came back…these are Cord-Returners and they’re real. Distributers like Xfinity have created new services like X1 Voice Remote and have successfully convinced consumers to add on to their service, i.e. Cord-Increasers. Cord-Cobblers have options like Sling TV or DirecTV Now to buy skinny bundles to get on the content they desire. Cord-Nevers, who didn’t have traditional television and claimed they never would, got married, had kids, and bought traditional services for the first time. The point is, markets change, technology changes and TV networks and providers are investing billions of dollars a year in new products and services to address these changes. Television is evolving but it’s far from dead. Just as Television didn’t kill Radio, New Media is not going to kill Television.
As the market evolves companies are obligated to invest in social media, search-engine-optimization, pay-per-click platforms like Google AdWords and these initiatives are putting pressure on marketing and advertising budgets. Industry consolidators and financial owners of brands focused purely on short-term bottom line are applying metrics from other industries to make decisions on advertising in the outdoor industry. More companies are relying on outside agencies and key personnel with little or no industry experience to make decisions on marketing and advertising. Some are leaning on their own marketing staff to create content instead of investing in known, credible talent to market their products. It’s a low-risk proposition for a brand manager to tell their ownership they are reducing traditional advertising to focus on digital initiatives. In the broader markets, brands like Coca-Cola are returning dollars to traditional advertising as their social and digital initiatives were underperforming. Why is that? Not all impressions are created equally.
When our networks report audience data, we use reputable, independent services to provide ratings for our producers and advertisers. We generally provide ratings as Average Audience which provides an accurate picture of the number of viewers over an entire episode. It’s a number that is verifiable and universally trusted in the global-advertising community. YouTube, on the other hand, counts thirty seconds of viewing as a “view”; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram count a video view after three seconds. Content with 5 million views on YouTube is not nearly as valuable or impactful as 5 million household views on traditional outdoor television having a highly-targeted and engaged audience.
Brands frequently target advertising during specific seasons to support current product lines, but also demand content to be online and available in perpetuity. If a YouTube video gets 50,000 views in the first month, but over the course of a year gets 100K views, is that the same value proposition as an episode that will reach over 100k viewers in the first week it airs on Television – directly in the heart of the season or a key consumer buying period? Of course not, and there-in lies the problem for brands; social and digital advertising and campaigns enhance a brand’s effectiveness but are not nearly as effective without television and print support for the initiative. In fact, a recent study by Analytic Partners showed a 19% increase in return-on-investment when adding print to a campaign and 60% increase when combining digital and TV. Despite print advertising being declared dead over a decade ago it endures today as an effective medium that delivers great results for advertisers. Digital giants Facebook, Air-B-N-B and Uber all started print brands in 2018 and clearly understand the strategic importance of a multi-platform go-to market strategy.
In 2018 YouTube Red was the presenting sponsor of the Super Bowl; Facebook reportedly spent $1MM per day on television advertising to try and regain consumer confidence after a major data breach. Is it odd that two of the largest social and digital platforms in the universe turned to traditional television to get their message out to the masses? No, because television works, and these brands know it works as evidenced by their advertising investment in it. Television in the outdoor industry, as a tool for driving brand awareness and confidence, is still, by far, the best way to get a message out to a mass market of highly-targeted consumers.
Are their alternatives to traditional sponsorship and advertising? There are more personalities and social influencers willing to trade access to their social-media fans (organically true or simply purchased for resale) for product, sponsorship or the right to be a brand ambassador. But few of these ambassadors have credibility in outdoor industry to truly influence consumer purchasing decisions. Who do you want to represent your brand? Personalities with a strong, professional television presence in addition to a real, organically cultivated social-media following are better positioned to drive a brand message, including outdoor personalities like Jim Shockey and Michael Waddell. Advertisers are generating more social and digital content, but is there sales data to support the claim that social and digital is more effective? The “last mile” for most brands is the same for digital as it is for TV. If a consumer sees a TV ad for a $1,000 bow or content on social media for the same bow, the last-mile challenge for the advertiser is still the same…how do we get that consumer into an archery shop to buy the bow? Marketers know the “Rule of Seven”, which states a consumer needs to see an ad seven times before they’ll remember it, so in this case a TV and digital impression are both important. Using credible talent as a spokesperson for a brand can enhance the effectiveness of each impression and brands need to expand their commitment to credible talent, not reduce it.
I recently had a discussion with the head of a major marketing agency serving the outdoor industry. He joked that people think of him as a “TV guy” but clarified “I’m a marketing guy that recommends TV as part of a brand strategy because TV works”.
Television, even in the digital age, TV is still king.