CBS Research Chief's Theory: TV Still a Big Bang

After discrediting ANA survey on TV ad spend, David Poltrack adds context

CBS Corp. Chief Research
Officer David Poltrack
is on a mission to correct
misapprehensions that TV is any
less effective than it’s ever been,
or the assumption that marketers
are dropping it in favor of other
media. And while that is a predictable
stance from a company
so dependent on TV advertising,
Poltrack is adamant that he
has the numbers to prove it. And
CBS’ solid earnings report last
week didn’t hurt his cause, which
he is hardly shy about sharing.

He did just that rather strongly,
standing up at the Association of
National Advertisers TV Forum
on Feb. 11 to challenge a Forrester
Research survey that suggested
that TV budgets are “under siege.”
The controversial report said that
just 41% of media budgets were
spent on TV in 2009, compared
with 58% in the previous year.
(Forrester predicts that TV ad
budgets will be flat in 2010.) Poltrack
believes the ’09 dip is just
plain inaccurate, and responded
to the results by saying, “That is
such a bullshit number.”

He stated his case—minus
further expletives—to B&C
Business Editor Claire Atkinson
in an interview. Following is an
edited transcript.

The ANA/Forrester Research survey
said advertisers are spending less
on TV. You don’t think that’s true?

It’s relative. Forrester’s first survey
in 2006 said marketers were
moving away from TV, and predicted
that revenue would go
down 5%-10%. In 2007 it went
up 4%, even though it was a
non-Olympics year. Since 2006,
TV has gone up as a percentage
of the total budget. Yes, TV ad
spending is down, but that was
the recession. TV’s share of advertising
did not go down. In the
fourth quarter of 2009 [versus Q4 2008], advertising is going
up. There has been a turnaround;
these numbers are wrong.

Is the study faulty?
The study is asking the wrong
people the wrong questions.
[Marketers] may not have decided
yet or even be the people
who have the stats. If I give
you a survey about new media
and new ways of spending and
I ask you, “Are you spending
less in TV?” you’re going to
say yes.

Also, it’s not the same companies
[in the survey] from one
year to the next. To say there’s
been a movement from 58% of
the budget [spent on TV] to 41%
would mean there would have to
be a corresponding drop in the
TV market of 35%. What if there
were two automakers in the survey
one year and three the next?

You referenced the Advertising Research
Foundation’s findings on ad
effectiveness. Tell us more.

The ARF conducted a study published
in June 2009. They had
388 cases where the eight different
marketing mix modelers,
all of whom measure the return
on investment of advertising,
found that “TV is as effective as
ever and possibly increasing in
effect in terms of unit sales lift.”
TV builds awareness and interest
in a service or offer. In the
past, you’d see a TV ad and then
it might be three days or three
months to make a purchase decision.
Now if it’s of interest,
you immediately can react to
it. More modelers are recognizing
that. When search began to
build, modelers attributed all the
sales gains to search, but search
doesn’t work unless something
[TV] starts the process.