Convergence finally came to the TV market on a large scale in the summer of 2020 after many small test campaigns. Today, as consumer behavior has changed dramatically over the past 18 months, we find ourselves in a world where viewing TV content across multiple types of screens, subscriptions and delivery methods is standard operating mode.
But what is convergence? Many have spoken of it as if it were a halfway point, a meaningless step in a journey towards a television future that once again offers seamless strategies for planning, activating and measuring . But convergence isn’t just a detour: it’s the start of an entirely new market, a market where traditional demo-based and next-gen audience strategies come together, where content is delivered via quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) and internet protocol (IP), and where the lines between local and national inventory continue to blur. Convergent television promises to transform our industry by sparking innovation, driving personalization and establishing new business models.
This year, I expect there will be three (at least) emerging themes for this new market that will challenge both connected and traditional TV experts to learn new skills and adapt to the realities of this new market.
1. There will be no single motto for audience planning and measurement. Let’s face it: the debate over which metric will be the next currency for TV is over. The proliferation of cookieless data targeting and the growing sophistication of advertisers’ use of data means that high-value audiences can be defined any way the advertiser wants.
It’s no longer about “how did my brand fare against this generic audience?” but rather, “what action did my most important targets, and only these targets, take after seeing my message?”
So the big change and new normal for 2022 will bring your own audience and your own motto. Advertisers will use first-party anonymized data to plan and measure across TV screens, and define measurement in a way that best suits their campaign goals.
Advertisers will not suddenly move all activations from demo to audience-based purchase. But the goal of measuring success with its own first-party data in 2022 will open new opportunities for publishers and technology companies to reinvent reporting and analytics for a converged world.
2. Fragmentation is the end and the beginning of television as we know it. We know audiences have fragmented and consumers are now watching TV on more devices, apps and publishers than ever before. However, even with a dramatic change in viewing habits, the latest research shows that 65% of viewing hours are still on traditional cable networks and local broadcast channels.
This distribution of audiences across cable, broadcast, set-top box (STB), and connected television (CTV) formats means we all need to learn how to build a truly converged media plan. Fluidity, meaning the seamless scheduling of viewing impressions across multiple types of TV media, is our way of doing it.
By implementing fluidity, TV becomes a much more flexible and dynamic channel for advertisers who want to create wide reach, sequence messages and drive sales using sight, sound and motion. In short, you will be able to find your audience no matter where they watch TV.
In 2022, fluidity will be key as planning roles converge. Digital planners must evolve to execute traditional TV strategies in terms of reach, frequency and indexing. Traditional planners must evolve to execute advanced data targeting, competitive conquest, and message sequencing strategies. More importantly, fluidity will require greater cooperation across the ecosystem to allow ad dollars to flow efficiently across and within all TV platforms.
3. The Upfront needs a rebrand. Consider the metaverse, a hot topic in recent news cycles. Simplified is the convergence of two ideas that have been circulating for many years: virtual reality and the creation of a second digital life.
In many circles, the annual Upfront has an old-fashioned connotation, with images of Don Draper. It’s time to take another look at Upfront as an important and meaningful annual event where buyers and sellers, audiences and data, automation and programmatic technology, demo and target buying and more yet come together to conduct large-scale transactions.
The reality is that Upfront 2022 may represent the convergence of important newsworthy concepts: a futures market, big data, and multi-screen audience targeting.
We’re in advertising, so why are we doing such a bad job branding our own market? The Upfront 2022 should register on the ground as a showcase of the convergence of business and technology. Automation now underpins end-to-end transactions as advertisers and publishers have streamlined and efficient platforms for buying, planning and reporting in television media.
A larger share of TV buying can be purchased programmatically through demo and audience-based buying, from publishers using sophisticated yield management strategies and forecasting tools.
With technology delivering significant efficiencies and improved data, buyers can rest assured that they can securely and fairly secure the impressions they want. For publishers, automation helps build trust with buyers while sustaining the revenue needed to sustain their business throughout the year.
It’s clear that 2022 will be a transformative year for TV advertising. The Upfront is at an inflection point and the evolution of consumer behavior shows no signs of slowing down. As the industry explores how to support a converged market, collaboration across the television ecosystem and the unification of linear and CTV will help us usher in the new era of television.