What TV Advertising’s Top Headlines Mean For Marketers In 2020

On TV and Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Brienna Pinnow, co-founder at Blinc Digital Group.

Looking back on 2019, any TV media professional will tell you the past year has been anything but “same ’ol, same ’ol.” Everything from acquisitions to tech advancements have been top of mind, forcing both media gurus and consumers alike to reimagine TV advertising.

To help make sense of all the news, drama and gossip, here are three trends inspired by AdExchanger’s top TV and video headlines of 2019, and a deeper dive into what they mean for marketers in the year ahead.

Trend No. 1: TV and digital are colliding

I’m convinced the “C” in “CTV” stands for converging (and, in fact, LUMA Partners and others refer to CTV as “convergent TV”). This year’s most notable headlines prove that theory, starting with the fact that the largest digital walled garden – Google – started selling linear TV inventory. And more recently, CTV leader Roku acquired leading digital platform dataxu.  

It should come as no surprise that advancements like these drove many advertisers and agencies to declare a full-on turf war, battling over new budgets, targeting and measurement capabilities. This tug-of-war became quite evident during this year’s upfronts, when digital-first brands made up the biggest advertiser category for media companies like NBCU. The theme of DTC brands jumping in on the benefits of one-to-one TV advertising actually rang true year-round, with the emergence of special events such as the IAB’s Direct Brand Summit underscoring this point.

What does this mean for 2020? Advanced TV is still anyone’s game.

There is no “normal” or “standard” way quite yet for defining which team should execute an advanced TV strategy. The one common thread, however, is that the brands that are succeeding are data-first, not just channel-first.

Trend No. 2: Measurement advancements are driving new ways of buying and selling TV 

For years, people have shouted, “This is the year of measurement!” In 2019, several events put real momentum and meaning behind that statement – finally.

The measurement conversation got rolling early in 2019 with media giant NBCU announcing that it had sold its first outcome-based deal. This meant that a TV campaign for an upcoming film release wouldn’t be sold based on GRPs and ratings. Instead, the advertiser would pay NBCU based on a real business outcome: ticket sales. That’s a pretty big milestone for TV media companies and advertisers alike.

The outcomes-based conversation only grew louder when LiveRamp, a company known for their identity and data linkage capabilities, planted its flag on the measurement moon with the acquisition of TV attribution company Data Plus Math.

Nielsen, the industry’s traditional measurement de facto, also joined the outcomes-based chorus. Its deal with Horizon Media focused on providing the agency with more granular audience-based measurement that went beyond age and gender, which it said would be a critical steppingstone to transact on business outcomes in the future.

Also in 2019, Samba TV gave a nod to the value of measurement through an acquisition focused on helping it slurp up more ACR data.

What does this mean for 2020? Add “outcome-based” to your vocabulary, if you haven’t already.

From the sounds of this year’s headlines, both buyers and sellers appear to be coming closer together to prove what the industry has instinctively known all along: TV works. For marketers, this is the year to assess the data and partners you have vs. the data and partners you need to connect TV back to business results.

Trend No. 3: With the streaming wars in full swing, ads are the first casualties

A reflection on the year wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about the battle for attention. Not only did Disney take full control over Hulu and complete its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, but it also opened up its checkbook and invested in the launch of its streaming platform, Disney Plus.

The other media giant in the room, Apple, also coughed up a pretty penny for the star-studded launch of its streaming service, Apple TV Plus. Unfortunately for advertisers, the “plus” in both of these services feels a lot more like a “minus,” as each offering provides zero ad time.

For brands, these headlines can feel disheartening, especially when other ad-free services such as Netflix are also gobbling up the one thing everyone is vying for: consumer attention. But these headlines don’t necessarily have to spell doom and gloom for advertisers.

What does this mean for 2020? Open your checkbook.

Don’t get spooked by headlines and assume that ad-free is the only way to be. In the wave of a flix-fatigue, many consumers are still willing to go the ad-supported route, which means there will continue to be premium ad inventory available across broadcast, cable and streaming services. Just like advertisers in 2019, marketers must simply be prepared to pay a premium for that brand-time. On the bright side, if you move into outcome-based measurement, you’ll at least be able to prove whether or not the prices you pay are driving a positive ROI.

They often say that looking to the past can be the best indication of what the future holds. Based on this year’s newsmakers, 2020 should shape up to be a year of cross-screen planning and buying, a focus on real-world results and media innovations that reshape our lives as marketers and viewers. Cheers to advanced TV in 2020!

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