TV’s reach has maintained the medium’s primacy since it became the focal point of living rooms and advertising budgets, but the rise of digital platforms have complicated this view – new research from Ebiquity sheds crucial light on what’s really going on.

The media consultancy yesterday released a follow-up to last year’s TV at the tipping point report, a study that suggested TV’s superior marketing effectiveness may not last beyond the next five years.

A year later, and the picture is more complex. “In reality,” said Martin Radford, Ebiquity business director, media, at an event in London, “we underestimated the decline of the youngest viewers, while the growth of the elder [cohort] was correct.”

Young people are getting harder to reach through TV, and older people are watching more making it worthwhile among – let’s face it – the audiences with money. There remains, however, a gap. Using a combination of online data from the Audience Project and BARB, Ebiquity sought to understand how reach works across platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and even non-video players like Spotify.

It’s important to note that the report’s dataset deals with ad impressions served, not necessarily rendered, but in digital contexts, the report also looks at ads viewed to 50% and 100% completion.

Reach depends on age

YouTube’s coverage, key among 16-24 audiences, builds reach more quickly and with a narrower range of results than Facebook. By comparison, the social network’s reach curves are extremely varied, though this is an indication of the huge variation in the kind of Facebook ads that can be bought. Over 45s, meanwhile are far better reached by TV.

In short, TV, YouTube, and Facebook all have the potential to find similar levels of reach under 45s. TV is, however, “unrivalled” among over 45s.

The value of an impression

Simply, impressions are not created equal. Though it is harder to measure TV impressions, the medium is far more likely to grab a viewer’s attention for just under half of a 30” commercial. Look elsewhere and the attention per viewed impression, according to Lumen figures, don’t clear 5 seconds, while the majority of ad media garners less than 4 seconds.

The question, says Radford, is “will anyone even notice it? Here, coverage rates by completion are quite shocking (though with BARB figures, it’s impossible to measure TV ad completion):

Brands can achieve incremental reach using digital channels, especially for younger audiences, and especially at low weights of spend. Here, it is particularly useful, as digital video can build more quickly than TV for less.

However, as the chart above shows, once you remove the overwhelming majority of Facebook and YouTube video ads that are not completed, it throws online into doubt as the medium that can close the gap in declining TV viewership.

What to do?

Ebiquity recommends the following:

  1. Understand what your brand’s coverage gap is and work on how best to address it.
  2. Take a more granular approach to measurement.
  3. Brands must approach online video differently by a) looking at all ways these platforms can be traded, especially in terms of cost and delivery; b) it goes without saying, but use the right creative for channels and platforms – simply recycling won’t work.
  4. Use structured testing to understand and ultimately optimise the channels used to fill any coverage gaps.

Sourced from Ebiquity