Wasted TV Impressions Are A Bigger Problem Than You Think

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

Today’s column is written by Chris LaHaise, director of TV solutions at dataxu.

Advertisers have long known that their media plans waste valuable TV impressions. A recent study by CBS and Simulmedia put that number between 47-60%.

But that estimate is probably low because it only considers waste on the high end of the frequency spectrum. What can advertisers do about TV impression waste on the low end?

A limited definition

The CBS and Simulmedia study defined waste as viewers who were served irrelevant ads or failure to effectively cap frequency at a maximum of 10 exposures. But I would argue that another kind of waste is viewers who only see an ad once.

The advertising industry is loaded with opinions and studies about frequency, but if there’s a consensus, it’s this: There’s such a thing as too much, but there’s also such a thing as too little. Nielsen research, for example, suggests that optimal frequency is somewhere between five and nine exposures to an ad.

But consider your own consumer experience. Every day, a barrage of ads scream for your attention across digital, television, mobile and OOH. In that crowded environment, an advertiser needs to put its message in front of consumers multiple times to break through.

Arguably, good creative helps. But frequency is also a factor. There is a frequency “sweet spot” somewhere between two and 10 impressions, meaning that a single impression is essentially wasted because, without repetition, there’s little chance consumers will remember it, let alone take action.

Shifting TV viewership leads to underserved campaigns

As viewers shift to connected TV, it has become increasingly difficult to reach people with just linear TV.

When advertisers do find those linear viewers, they increasingly have a difficult time reaching them with the necessary frequency because their viewership is split with connected TV services. Based on my experience, about a third of households reached on linear alone only see an ad once. Those impressions delivered to underserved households are inefficient and underutilize the power of TV to draw a meaningful connection between the content and the consumer, and ultimately drive action.

What can advertisers do about waste?

While efficiency is an important element of media planning, advertisers need to think about combating waste within the larger context of the shift in consumer viewing habits. Rather than thinking about how to optimize linear apart from CTV, advertisers should mix CTV into their linear planning to find unreached and underserved audiences. While some consumers have cut the cord for good, many more move between linear and CTV, depending on what they want to watch.

By combining CTV and linear, advertisers expand their reach while simultaneously increasing their ability to optimize for a frequency sweet spot. As advertisers become fluent in this tactic, they can even test their media plans to identify the optimal frequency for their message.

More importantly, an audience-centric approach allows advertisers to use data to build their media plans around those they want to reach and then determine where to find those viewers, whether they’re on linear, CTV or moving between the two. Not only will advertisers reduce waste in their media plans, but they’ll also be able to leverage a better understanding of their audiences.

Follow dataxu (@dataxu) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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