Only through the holistic and integrated management of all forms of TV media can advertisers achieve better measurement and greater effectiveness, writes Paul Evans.

TV is not going anywhere, it’s going everywhere

TV has come a long way since the very first commercial was aired over 80 years ago. It has innovated dramatically to create some of the most attention-commanding audience viewing experiences available to advertisers – whether we consider the quality of programming content offered, the different screens, devices and platforms where that content is available for consumption, or the emerging forms of data-fuelled, technology enabled addressability.

TV – once considered by some as media in terminal decline – is in fact at a significant point of reinvention. Buoyed by a 2020 that we might refer to as ‘the year of TV’, viewing behaviour shifted to TV as a source of trusted content, with growth demonstrated across all forms of TV – whether linear or scheduled TV, or the various on-demand and user-initiated formats.

With market forces – both audience and distribution – aligning behind the wider definition of TV consumption, it has a chance to shape its own destiny of transformation.

Effectiveness is everything

TV is also one of the most evidentially supported advertising channels in terms of performance and value delivery, and is widely understood to be the most effective form of advertising on this basis – bar none.

It’s hard to ignore or dismiss the volume of high quality, exacting studies that have been undertaken by academic, industry and commercial parties to validate the efficacy of the $200bn TV advertising industry. For marketers, TV is known as the media channel that embodies the very rules and principles of how brands grow, whether measuring longer-term brand building or short-term brand activation and sales outcomes.

However, ‘digital’ expectations of planning, buying and measurement now set the operational benchmark for modern marketers and their agencies. Whether we refer to immediacy, accessibility, accuracy or transparency of measurement – and the data that underpins it – TV faces a significant delivery gap that manifests itself through a non-existent ‘user-experience’ of low-touch control, visibility and involvement.

When effectiveness is everything, TV’s problem isn’t its ability to provide value to advertisers. Its problem is its inability to measure and quantity the value of its effectiveness, and to democratise the understanding, optimisation and extension of that intelligence in real time.

The challenges from change

Amidst the positive ‘front end’ innovation that is changing the way audiences consume TV, an objective look at the operational layer underpinning this reveals significant challenges that – if left unchecked – will prevent the potential of TV’s future growth.

Indeed, the irony being exhibited right now is that with connected TV advertising, measurement actually seems to be getting harder and not better, leaving CTV as just another black box for brands. With doubts over the efficacy of CTV planning and buying, marketing investment will and should be slow to follow.

As an industry that is supercharging TVs capabilities through technology, we must now take ownership of the issues that are being natively built into the very fabric of its landscape, which we can summarise as:

The increasing and unnecessary complexity of infrastructure and language that is fuelling transformation, but holding back understanding for marketers. OTT, IPTV, ATV, MVPD, BVOD, AVOD, SVOD, TVOD, STB, HBBTV, ACR, DAI, SSAI. These are all probably familiar to us at a surface-level, but their proliferation is doing more harm than good through collective confusion.

An already congested TV ad tech ecosystem – ranging from demand and supply-side facilitators, content creators and distributors, and data aggregators – that has grown with incompatibility and interoperability. Compounded by the emergence of new ‘walled garden’ entities, we’re at risk of building siloes that create disharmony and limit effectiveness.

TV data – by any standard – is seemingly slow, dumb and disconnected. This is particularly true to the legacy systems and aggregation methods employed for linear TV, but a lack of transparency regarding provenance and quality of data is a reality across all of TV, fuelling bad measurement. And as the CTV industry relentlessly pursues a goal of audience addressability and personalisation, the perennial ‘digital’ issues of household vs individual targeting, online vs offline identity, and privacy/consent enablement are equally apparent.

Fuel the future of Total TV

At Adgile, we have always seen things differently. We were conceived and built to bring intelligent, real time visibility and control across linear and on demand TV. We create – not aggregate – unique TV data through our visual AI enabled technology, enabling users to understand, optimise and extend their TV planning and buying through our analytics, attribution and activation product capabilities.

We call this ‘Total TV Effectiveness’.

Total TV is not new language, but we want to bring new meaning to it. We believe it represents more than just the simplistic sum of TV’s linear, VOD and CTV parts.

Embracing Total TV as a category definition is much bigger. This instead looks towards the holistic and integrated management of all TV – uniting the different ways that TV can be consumed, with better ways of measuring and driving effectiveness. This is about improving the quality of data, planning and buying, talent capabilities, business and industry growth.

It reflects an ambition for the industry to come together and realise its true potential through safeguarding and promoting TV’s proven strengths (quality of content, viewing experience, effective advertising practice and business outcomes) whilst advancing into a data fuelled, technology powered future that strikes the right balance between mass targeting and addressability at scale.

We know that Total TV requires further change – change in behaviour, data and operations – and this manifesto aims to ignite that positive movement. As a means to provide direction to the debate and actions to the agenda, we wanted to highlight what we believe to be the necessary and actionable changes this industry can make right now.

Collaboration: Put simply, an industry working towards the common goal of Total TV Effectiveness. Working to avoid and dismantle ‘walled gardens’ that might prevent complete advertising outcome measurement, and instead building in interoperability and compatibility of data sharing across platforms. Linear and on-demand TV valued for their different strengths in addressing audiences need states, rather than a binary pursuit of CTV as a replacement for scheduled viewing.

Harmonisation: Achieving the necessary transparency and unification of data across all forms of TV to make it universally accountable. Elevating all forms of data to take a 3D view of identity – moving beyond the pursuit of an audience only definition, to one that includes advertising context and content data as the required constant to enable a single source of truth.

Simplification: Of definition, language and management. Simplicity drives understanding, adoption and advocacy. We reject what we don’t understand. We need to remove unnecessary complexity from the ecosystem and present Total TV as media that meets the needs of modern marketers and audiences – delivering value across the customer journey, building brands over the long term, demonstrating commercial accountability over the short term.

Total TV ultimately creates a better industry for everyone – audiences, brands, agencies and broadcasters – and it’s our obligation to collectively realise this opportunity. We have to move past the current focus on connected TV as the sole industry solution to effective TV advertising. It isn’t. The answer is about connecting TV. Collaboration, harmonisation, simplification. Let’s fuel the future of Total TV.