In the media industry, procedures are often established to reduce the number of topics buyers and sellers need to consider in a negotiation – such as the length of a television commercial or the size of a banner ad – in order to focus on the points which generate the most impactful business results. Other conventions are established to manage workflows towards accomplishing goals – such as the procurement of gross ratings points with a certain reach and frequency – in an efficient manner. The convention of segmenting television advertising inventory by dayparts is another such example.
Why do dayparts exist?
Historically advertisers exhibited preferences for different kinds of programming – and the potential for impactful brand association in that programming – at different times of day. This led to each broadcast network to program light news in the morning, soap operas in the afternoon, harder news in the evening, general entertainment at night and late night comedy/talk shows. .
The notion of dayparts also existed because of significant differences in the potential reach of television during those different times of day and significant differences in the profiles of viewers watching throughout the day.
There was indisputable logic to the daypart convention in the three network-world that existed in the United States prior to the 1980s. And since most advertisers were seeking the broadest reach with the fewest number of buys on the highest quality (read: most expensively produced) programming, there was a disproportionate focus on the daypart which we now call prime time.
Of course, there is still tremendous value in associating brands with certain programming for contextual impact - considered strategic programming choices. But such activity can occur equally well at any time of day given the breadth of programming options available to advertisers in the modern era.
But more critically, fragmentation of viewership has impacted dayparts' presumed ability to most efficiently reach target audiences or specific viewer profiles. For example, while prime time is still the widest viewed daypart, this metric, reach, is no longer by itself sufficient to justify a prime time buy (instead, strategic activations are arguably the best justification for prime time purchases). Few advertisers choose to purchase the same kind of reach in a given day that they bought in the 1960s or 1970s, as it would require purchases across scores of networks today, compared to purchases across three networks forty years ago. Consequently, advertisers focus on accumulating reach over the course of a campaign that may play out in different dayparts.
As a result, it is no longer necessary to accumulate reach within only one daypart given the rise of better tools – especially through the use of set-top-based viewing data, but also through more sophisticated models of audience viewing using conventional panel-based data – for finding the audiences which contribute to extending reach beyond the core strategic programming an advertiser requires. Further, many sources of data and data modeling techniques allow advertisers to better understand the relationship between brand and audiences well beyond age and gender-based metrics.
Conventions are typically created for very good reasons. But conventions can only persist as long as a critical mass of market participants agrees to continue it. While it is unlikely that all advertisers will stop using the convention of the daypart in the near term, it is highly likely that increasing numbers of advertisers will look beyond this convention to reassess the ways in which they find the audiences which drive their business goals.
Brian Wieser is CMO of Simulmedia, an audience-targeted advertising network for linear television founded by veterans of companies including 24/7 Real Media and Tacoda. Brian can be reached at email@example.com.
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