Top Planners Seek TV-Digital Balance

As video evolves, different media present unique strengths

Why This Matters

Decisions written into media plans drive demand for networks, websites and other marketing options.

While the upfront gets a ton of attention for a few weeks in the spring, decisions are being made every day about which media best fit advertiser needs.

Those decisions are shaped and made by media planners and strategists, who are increasingly using data to optimize marketing mixes of traditional media, including TV, with digital outlets, to help reach targeted customers, and get consumers into stores and product off the shelves.

In ad-supported media, planners often work behind the scenes to unravel an increasingly complicated landscape with greater demands for effectiveness and accountability.

To them, weighing TV vs. digital isn’t an academic question; it’s a judgment made daily. They’re on the front lines of programmatic buying by defining target markets, and looking for ways to incorporate branded content into media plans to reach young consumers who are skilled at evading messages from sponsors.

B&C has identified some of the top planners and strategists at the biggest media agencies and has asked them about the key issues.

Unlike buyers and sellers, the planners don’t see a historic swing of ad dollars from TV to digital and back again. Instead, they see individual decisions about client needs and look at video in a way that goes beyond linear TV.

Likewise, while the networks tout their data-driven ad products, planners reserve the right to use data to figure out what’s best for clients themselves. They also seem to like the new opportunities to create branded content for their clients.

Here’s what B&C’s 2016 top media buyers and planners had to say about the industry as it stands now. An edited transcript follows.

There’s a lot of talk about ad dollars swinging back to TV from digital. Have we learned anything new about how effective different media options are?

Ilana Casser, MediaCom: We aren’t seeing general swings to or from any media channel; decisions are made that fit each client’s specific business objectives. With that said, addressability, programmatic and other technologies that make TV more measurable are certainly helping brands get more comfortable with the idea of allocating more dollars to TV. And, of course, it’s not an either/or proposition: TV works well with social and search, and we make sure that the communications systems we build for our clients are fully aligned across all channels.

Niki DeCou, Horizon Media: In my experience, I am not seeing dollars swing one way or the other. I’m seeing more of a coming together of the investment strategy and execution for video. In order to reach consumers effectively, you need to be nimble and serve them messaging in a variety of environments and platforms, often against the same content. Consumption of TV content and various forms of premium content is increasing on non-traditional platforms such as [over-the-top] and YouTube, and seller monetization strategies are starting to shift to account for that. That means media advertising budgeting also needs to account for that viewership and ad opportunity.

When it comes to effectiveness, as an industry, we are getting smarter about understanding the strengths and expectations of the various mediums. But the growing complexity of the landscape makes it very difficult for both planning and measurement tools to keep up—and they aren’t. The key is to have clarity on business and media objectives and how success will be measured. We need to balance a variety of metrics and inputs to try to get a comprehensive—if not perfectly clear—understanding of effectiveness.

Deborah Gaudette, UM: With the variety of video offerings that exist in today’s media landscape, we’ve tested many different measures of success and effectiveness. In total, what we have learned is that media is most effective when it works together. In the TV and video space, this is especially true. For example, primetime TV can drive massive scale in a short amount of time, while OTT and digital video can drive price-specific efficiency. The real value of these unique offerings can be seen when they are utilized together to work toward one overarching objective.

Ji Kim, PHD Specialty Retail: For us, it’s not necessarily about specific allocation across channels, but it’s finding environments that are either on point or best at capturing and delivering the content our Foot Locker guy is going to first, such as the NBA Finals on ABC. For example, our guy’s plugged into Twitter, watching a big sports story unfold. During NBA draft week, we launched our Foot Locker video starring No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons on Twitter. By launching on the right platform at the epicenter of a sports moment, we ended up trending on Twitter, getting huge buzz online and a sports network doing a feature on the video.

Anand Pandya, Zenith: We’re dealing with this issue right now with a few clients and it’s amplified during slowing and uncertain economic times, as we are in now, when clients see soft sales and they revert back to ‘comfort media.’ We’ve come a long way in the past five years by getting smarter about the impact of specific media tactics by connecting disparate data sets to define attribution, which is helping validate the role and worth of each tactic. But I think these swings in investment across tactics is less so driven by “effectiveness”—a notoriously amorphous term in media—and more so by the current financial climate. Many clients got burned in the scatter market this year; that financial risk is a bigger driver of investment shift than anything else.

Jenna Vaccariello, OMD: Digital and TV have very distinct roles in media mixes, neither more or less important than the other. The level each channel supports is dependent on myriad factors including but not limited to goals of the campaign, seasonality and consumption patterns of the target audience. The evolution of multimedia upfront planning and buying allows for broadcast and digital dollars to be more fluid between channels, and while securing digital deals tied to broadcast (i.e. convergent, flex, unified, fluidity, parity) decreases cancellation flexibility we receive more efficient pricing on a demo-guaranteed digital video buy in exchange.

Alexandra Vinci, Mindshare: Yes, absolutely. Any media seller that wants to stay relevant probably has an ambitious research agenda, because brands, now more than ever, need to prove the effectiveness per dollar spent. The tug of war between TV and digital continues to exist, but we can get more precise with how we make the allocations in each medium. Not only can we assess how each channel performs on its own, we can measure their combined effectiveness across numerous metrics and plan accordingly to achieve optimal impact. We’re doing it through video neutral planning, developing plans that address all video vs. planning TV and [online video/connected TV].