With DVRs and multiplatform viewing options, television industry leaders have been hard pressed to pin down the best ad strategy to drive sales -- and whether advertising is what's lifting sales at all.
This issue and other ad business-related topics were addressed at the "Hits, Misses and Looking Forward" panel at ThinkLA's National TV Summit Nov. 3 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. The panel featured Donna Speciale, president, investment & activation for Mediavest; Rick Rosen, board member and head of TV department for William Morris Endeavor Entertainment; Discovery Communications President, Advertising Sales Joe Abruzzese and Fox Broadcasting Company Entertainment President Kevin Reilly.
Speciale suggested the most successful advertising strategy is in the multimedia forest, not the trees. "We keep talking TV, but we need to start talking screens...it's not ‘or' anymore, it's ‘and,'" she said. "It's hard to test what has really lifted sales, and also because there's a lot of different media happening at the same time. It's going to be even more challenging just to decipher what is really driving it, but I don't think it's one thing. It's a multiple media plan that has to drive sales."
Coming off Discovery's quarterly earnings report Tuesday, Abruzzese echoed this sentiment. He admitted it was hard to pinpoint what specific platforms affected sales growth or decline, but that Discovery's success can be attributed to approaching media as a whole, rather than focusing on those individual platforms. He is also stressed the importance of a brand-oriented model.
"All of our shows go through the filter of Discovery," he said. "Sometimes you wander off, but I think our brand is about what we wouldn't put on the air. I'd condemn Jersey Shore, we'd never put it on Discovery. That's destroying your brand."
The panelists generally agreed that brand identity plays a defining role in the future of new business models for the television industry, including joint ventures.
Abruzzese noted Discovery's ventures with Oprah and Hasbro to launch the OWN and Hub networks, respectively.
"I think it comes out of a little bit of necessity," he said, explaining that while networks like Health and Discovery Kids were doing well, they were only breaking even. Abruzzese said Discovery instead opted to combine popular brands with the robust real estate held by those channels "[Now] we had this great brand with great distribution," he said.
"Hasbro...look at themselves not as a toymaker but as a company that controls intellectual property," Rosen added. "[The stoy] Stretch Armstrong is going to be a movie that could spin into a television series that's going to help their toy brand. It's about what you do [with your brand] and looking at intellectual property differently."
Reilly countered that while such a strategy is appealing, this shift would be difficult to navigate.
"It's really hard to reverse engineer these things. I think that is going to be a part of the future. You have [so many different products and kinds of intellectual property out there] that the problem is that most of these [products] things stink," Reilly said.
Rosen said that network shifts away from programming and towards a strong brand identity will soon be crucial to driving sales.
"The great unanswered question in the industry is ‘What is the value of the 30-second spot?' A few years down the road that value is going to be less and less. We should be creating shows based on brand values," he said.
GSD&M Idea City Co-founder & Chairman Roy Spence moderated the discussion.