For decades now, the advertising industry has been asking for greater accountability, knowing that there's a lot of 'wasted' ads being served. Sure, we all know advertising works; it's the 'how well/under what circumstances?' part that's vexing.
Accountability is a major reason that advertisers are becoming comfortable with increasing budgets for advertising on the web. They can count every click, and provide detailed metrics for various ways to measure ROI better than most.
Well, what if we had these types of measures for the billions of dollars spent on TV? We all know that the promise of second-by-second STB data is enormous. Add to that the growing impact of DVRs and commercial avoidance, and the desire for these types of measures is easily apparent. With DVR penetration already over 60% in homes with HHI 100k+ (a rather attractive target group, no?), we can no longer ignore the opportunity for taking the next steps towards accountability.
So... why aren't more people clamoring for change, and the accountability that can come with it?
One reason is that many networks and media agencies do not feel a compelling need for these new measures, or are so strapped with their current margins that they cannot afford any new tools, especially in this economy. Another reason is just a natural resistance to change - and the belief that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Then, there are the knee-jerk reactions and brush-offs to anything that threatens the status quo. 'Oh, but there's only sporadic STB/SBS/DVR information we're comfortable with. If I'm buying a gazillion GRPs over a season, doesn't it all come out in the wash? Aren't I 'pinging' my target audience over and over?' Well, the honest answer is Yes - if you throw enough money at the target, the system works as well as can be expected given the performance metrics that have been at hand. (But, there's clearly a lot of waste.)
It's amazing how there's such a natural resistance to change. It all makes sense when we consider that change may bring more work, unknown benefits and greater expense... but what if it brings clear benefits and increased ROI? Isn't this possibility worth a hard look? This is where the opinions tend to split - the advertiser clients are increasingly frustrated with the status quo and are starting to take more interest in the real possibilities for greater accountability.
But the main idea of accountability is to drive efficiency and increased ROI, isn't it? In a world where a majority of highly-attractive/targeted viewers are using their DVRs to heighten their TV experience, why wouldn't we want to understand the behavioral details of DVR usage? The industry now has new metrics for commercial ratings by positioning, the impact of pod-busters and promos, interactive advertising click-through rates and so much more. The industry is now at the threshold of having far greater insight for knowing when and where TV ads are working well (being seen by the targeted viewers who do or do not buy their brand or category). And then there's the more future-oriented iTV possibilities that work so well on a DVR platform. One of the best ways to counter-balance the commercial avoidance of fast-forwarding with DVRs is to also investigate the far more attractive opted-in viewer, who chooses to interact with your 2-3 minute content.
How much more valuable is the opted-in viewer who spends 3-4X more time paying attention to your message, compared to the possibility of a viewer paying attention to your 30-second spot?
But what is the reaction from the companies who spend the billions on TV advertising? Traditionally, they have left decisions for which buying and planning metrics should be used to their agencies. Agencies cannot be faulted for trying to be very careful with their expenditures for new tools, and often cannot fund anything 'new' without explicit client support. At a time when agencies are being squeezed for every nickel, they cannot be expected to lead the charge for greater accountability unless things change a bit.
The networks also have shown natural resistance to the transparency that these new accountability measures provide - and why wouldn't they? Having full transparency fundamentally changes the way of doing business that so many have enjoyed for decades.
So, the agencies cannot easily afford these new tools, and the networks are not incentivized to use them. But, the if the advertisers (and the industry at large) truly wants greater accountability, perhaps they can lead the charge by helping to fund the amazing new tools that are increasingly available, and work with the fascinating new advertising opportunities that TV will continue to provide like no other medium can.
So, here at TiVo we are vilified as the creators of the 'change' that has unsettled so many. We are also leading the charge for enhancing the overall iTV advertising platform and generating amazing new insights with our second-by-second set-top-box data. Change can be empowering, especially when the potential for efficiency is so apparent.
Bob Pares is Vice President, Advertising Sales/Audience Research & Measurement - TiVo, Inc.