Most “new” media vendors will tell you two things until they’re blue in the face. First, they’ll insist that TV can no longer deliver your voters. “Those days are over,” they say. “You need new, modern digital media.”
Another line we hear often: “The consumer is in control,” they insist. “Today’s marketer is at the mercy of the consumer’s customized and self-selected media experience.”
Both of these premises are being repeated endlessly by literally thousands of new media vendors and agencies, from the giants like Google, Facebook and Yahoo to the smallest specialty start up. They all want TV media budgets and they all seek to create a communications problem that they can then exploit with their own solution. You’ve read iterations of this in nearly every recent issue of C&E, and I’d like to push back on it by offering a real look at the broadcast television market.
The fact is that TV viewing is at an all-time high, both in number of viewers and in time spent viewing. And it’s growing. Consider this: reports following this past “Black Friday” found that the hottest home electronic items being sold were flat screen HDTVs—not Smart TVs, tablets or smartphones, but regular state-of-the-art television sets. That’s a pretty strong showing for “old” media.
Now, is there fragmentation of the audience? Yes. You need to use more spots to generate the same rating levels as in the past. As for whether you can reach the same size audience as you could in the past? The answer is yes. In fact, you can reach more viewers than ever with TV.
Sure, DVRs allow viewers to record shows and skip commercials with time delayed viewing. But fewer than half of all homes have DVRs. The latest Nielsen data shows that about 7 percent of viewing is time-shifted, and of that about half is commercial fast-forwarded. That works out to a commercial viewing loss due to DVR to just about 3.5 percent. Largely exempt are news and sports programming, which are generally viewed live.
Concerning? Yes. Debilitating? Absolutely not.
As representatives of the local broadcast TV industry, TVB spends so much time debunking the “TV is dying” rant that we never find enough time to address the premise that the consumer is in control. Here’s the truth: the consumer has always been in control. Each consumer or voter decides what to read, what to watch, how to use the Internet, and how to interact with an array of mobile choices. The difference now is that there are more options available than ever before. What is new is that most of the “new” media is “lean forward” in that it requires the user to initiate the engagement. Most “old” media is “lean back.” It allows the marketer to serve a passive consumer.
It’s no wonder that the new digital media vendors are telling you that you’re no longer in control. And it’s no secret we think they’re wrong. There is a difference between a consumer being in control of his media consumption and that consumer’s ability to control the marketing process. Here’s why you, the marketer, are in control of the marketing process and why local television keeps you in control like no other media platform:
• TV reaches almost everyone, but lets you target the voters that you want to reach via various program types, dayparts, and channels.
• With Local TV, the marketer controls the content of the message—when, where, and how often it’s delivered and to whom.
• It’s intrusive. There is no selection or opt in process with political spots on TV. Love them or hate them, they will be seen.
• TV ads are the most effective paid persuasion tools known to man. They impact emotionally and rationally, and because they resonate so deeply they are terrific motivators.
• Local TV ads are user-friendly for the advertiser. Schedules can be planned, negotiated, placed, changed, and managed on an established basis of buying and selling infrastructure and protocols.
• Local TV has been proven to move numbers. Despite claims otherwise, it is the irreplaceable political messaging tool.
So yes, campaign media manager, you are very much in control. And yes, TV is still the key driver of your message. Should your campaigns be active in “new” media as well? Of course, to varying degrees. But the new media platforms for voter persuasion are additive to the established media landscape and do not replace it.
“New” media platforms should succeed or fail on the basis of their own effectiveness, not as solutions to problems that do not exist.
Steve Lanzano is president of TVB, the trade association for America’s commercial broadcast television industry.