Here’s why TV is still the most powerful ad medium

As the media landscape has fragmented with the emergence of new advertising mediums, the television has had to radically evolve over the past two decades. Due to these changes, many have speculated on the relevance of TV ads in a digital world, and if advertising dollars ought to be reallocated elsewhere. While TV is unrivaled for its sheer, unadulterated reach, the problem has historically been that it’s difficult to measure and optimize its true effectiveness. But that’s all changing.

Today, TV is a true performance-marketing channel – one that can be highly targeted, quickly measured and optimized in-flight, just like its digital counterparts.

TV is changing, not dying

Despite the sensational headlines announcing TV’s death, television still dominates our media consumption. Yes, the amount of time we watch has declined each year, but if you look at the data, it’s really only by a few minutes.

What has shifted dramatically is the delivery and consumption of TV content. In the past, you had to tune in live to catch your program of choice or you’d miss it entirely. With VHS tapes, people started manually recording their favorite shows to watch later. Then came TiVo and DVRs, and with them a “set it and forget it” mentality. Enter Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video and the like, and you can get a sense for how viewing habits have kept advertisers on their toes in terms of strategy and ad spend.

Success requires real-time insights

TV advertising, once used primarily for brand awareness, is now driving people directly into the customer journey via digital devices. According to Accenture, 87% of U.S. TV viewers watch with second-screen devices in hand or nearby. These “active participation” viewers can respond to a TV spot in an instant, whether its via search, site visits, app activity or online purchases. Not only are viewers responding via digital, but they are doing so quickly after a spot airs. This, in turn, has provided advertisers with a treasure trove of real-time data to inform their TV campaign strategies.

With the right tools, advertisers can adjust campaigns in-flight and use real-time spot and response data to know the aspects of buys that are performing best, and those that aren’t. Having access to faster feedback on TV ad campaigns means knowing the buy elements that will lead to the best real-world response. This constant flow of information can then be used to continuously inform more targeted buys.

New metrics for measuring TV success

The old-school metrics of impressions and ratings can still be helpful in determining where to allocate funds, but to take full advantage of TV’s potential, advertisers need to tie TV initiatives directly to business outcomes. Success should be measured through brand-specific key performance indicators (KPIs), and the campaign must be optimized to benefit the most critical metric to your brand.

The question advertisers should ask is: “What is the real-world response I desire from my target audience?” If sales are the goal, then the campaign should be optimized accordingly as you look at accurate, same-day insights that tell you whether or not those online purchase journeys are happening in the minutes after your spot airs. And the immediate impact of TV isn’t the only thing that can be measured. Advertisers are increasingly quantifying the long-term impact of TV: how a spot drove interest in the days, weeks and even months after its airing.

If advertisers want a competitive edge in TV advertising, they need accurate, real-time data to understand if and how spots are resonating. Being able to attribute viewer actions, such as site visits, downloads, purchases, search activity, etc., directly to a TV spot is a powerful way to gain momentum as advertisers build the most effective campaigns possible.

Daniel Gulick is a head of customer success at TVSquared, a TV performance analytics and optimization company.

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