"TV still works; it sells products," said Richard Guest, president, Tribal Worldwide's U.S. operations.
While there are some ad dollars shifting from TV to digital, the importance of TV isn't expected to change, the agency executives said. "People are still watching more than four hours of live TV a day on average," said Stuart Sproule, president, TBWA's Digital Arts Network.
Even millennials, which have been an elusive demographic for marketers to target, are watching TV, albeit on a more time-shifted basis, said Jeff Minsky, director-emerging media, OMD.
College kids have always been a somewhat absent TV viewer, but once they graduate and get a job, they still typically subscribe to cable or satellite, Mr. Minsky noted. "I don't expect that behavior to change dramatically," he said. There has been a dip in pay-TV households, he admitted, but that could stem partly from from economics or changes in viewer behavior that don't necessarily weigh on demand for TV programming in the long term, he said.
What will change is what is considered TV, an evolution that could become more evident in the next 24 months, Mr. Minsky said. TV content providers like the National Football League and HBO will increasingly offer content to the consumer directly through places like AOL, he said.
"The broadcast model will fundamentally change and tech companies will be the winners," Mr. Guest said.
AOL Networks CEO Bob Lord, who moderated the panel, said that while content providers have more options, big events will still provide an anchor. "Video reach still isn't there yet for curated content," he said."
"We have a long way to go to get the [eyeballs] of TV distribution," he added.
Marketers will be looking for ways to weave technology and TV together, and agencies will need to evolve the way they tell stories, said Jonathan Nelson, CEO, Omnicom Digital.
The video sharing app Vine will present significant opportunities for marketers, Mr. Sproule said. Snapchat is also a new frontier. But there's a need to balance cutting-edge technology with agencies' responsibility to the client, he added. How technology will be used will necessarily vary by client.
Real-time marketing is also another area of focus, particularly following Oreo's success with its "you can still dunk in the dark" tweet during last year's Super Bowl -- an often-cited example that marketers have both heard enough about and still dream of matching. Since then, other brands have attempted to create a similar buzz during major TV events, but Mr. Guest said "everyone is missing the point with Oreo."
"It's not about real time, it's about right now and what's contextually relevant to the brand," he said. Not everyone can align themselves with the birth of the royal baby, he added, referring to another moment of global interest that marketers tried to use.
"Oreo has become something of mythical proportions," Mr. Sproule said. But the brand had an extensive team in place during the Super Bowl, something he said is not typically sustainable.
Instead, Mr. Guest said brands need to find ways to be "always on," even without big TV events and big resources allocated to taking advantage.
"It needs to be authentic to the brand," Mr. Lord added.