It’s Not About TV Versus Online. That’s Missing The Point

Ogilvy experts respond to the recent Special Report from The Economist on Advertising and Technology.

Jeremy Katz | Global Editorial Director, Ogilvy & Mather

There is nothing out there that can replace the massive power that television can wield. It is, as The Economist points out, not going anywhere. Quite the contrary: TV ad spending continues to grow, even if it is declining as a percentage of total media spending. Its reach remains unparalleled, and nothing—yet—has supplanted it as a means for watching live events.

The influence of standalone television, however, is in decline.  Recent research from YouTube and TNS has shown that for recent purchasers—particularly in the 18-34 demographic—online video is the most influential media touchpoint. Of course, the line between online video and television gets more and more smudged every day. As The Economist suggests, we’ll soon just call it “video”—perhaps sooner than you might think.

Anyone with a teen can attest to the magnetic power of content viewed on a tablet or phone. They’re not just watching Bethany Mota or Rhett and Link. In between Smosh videos and Pewdiepie’s Twitch gameplay live casts, our teens are watching full episodes of their favorite TV shows. Suggesting that How I Met Your Mother may look better on the brand new OLED flatscreen earns an eyeroll and little else but scorn for the olds. Now what happens when this tribe of digital natives grows up and starts consuming for themselves? If, as it appears, the influence of standalone television has begun to decline, the erosion will soon accelerate.

What’s a marketer to do?  The obvious answer is to integrate online video into a brand’s campaign strategy in a way that’s carefully calibrated to the new world. Obvious, yes. Doable? Not so much. Online video (and digital media in general) gives us a trove of largely useless data. The millions of views a brand gets for its video cannot compete with the two-way exchange of influence and engagement that online video creators generate. Because it’s fluent in TV, our industry thinks that it speaks perfect online video. We don’t. We’re still assessing ourselves with crude measures like views and shares when real nature of engagement is the development of passionate community. We’re confusing the attention we get for causing a ruckus with the intimate engagement of a real exchange.

Online video creators are the leaders of this new world. We need to learn from them. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, many—even most—online creators don’t see crossing over into TV or film as the pot of gold at the end of their rainbows. Some have, and before long more will follow, particularly as their businesses extend into products. But it will be a choice rather than a mandate. There’s is the first generation of electronic media entertainers for whom traditional distribution is not required and in some cases, not even desirable.

And marketers need to unshackle their thinking as well. We should step away from the reflexive urge to monitor the relative rates of growth of online and TV adspend for clues to our future and should instead focus on teaching brands how to build creator-like levels of engagement with fans. Sure, it makes sense to learn how to optimize TrueView (link behind paywall), but the real victory will be when marketers get invited into the creator world based on nothing more than the strength of the content.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 11.52.19 PM

Reprinted from the Special Report with permission from The Economist  | Online Video : Cracking the Screen

Online video is following in the path of broadcast television and cable, radically changing how and what people watch. Around 195m Americans, or 77% of American internet users, already watch videos online.

In China, where people are suspicious of government-censored television, the figure is nearly 500m, or 70% of those who use the web. This year digital-video advertising in America is forecast to grow by 43%, against a mere 3% for TV advertising. Yet they start from such different bases that television will still rise by $2.2 billion, against $1.8 billion for online video.

The battle lines are somewhat blurred. Probably more than half of all premium online-video advertising minutes are screened on the websites of big television companies, such as CBS and ABC. Increasingly it will make more sense to talk about “video” as a single category rather than “television” and “online video” separately.

Online-video ads are good for internet advertising: they are richer and more engaging than banner ads, and advertisers like them. But online video is not about to unseat TV.

Advertisers want to reach young consumers, who watch lots of content on the internet, but they do not want to miss older ones, who still watch plenty of television. And it is a myth that younger consumers have more discretionary spending than older ones, says Claire Enders of Enders Analysis, a media consultancy. In Britain, people over the age of 45 control 70% of the nation’s disposable income.

Contrary to what you might expect, online video can be more expensive than television ads per thousand impressions, because so little high-quality ad space is available. Advertisers still fret about the risk of a digital debacle. Last year Nissan inadvertently ran an ad alongside a video of a woman being beheaded in Mexico.

Click here for The Economist’s Special Report on Advertising and Technology.

Follow commentary on the Economist Report here

Best Viewed in Chrome, IE8/9 and Firefox.