Speaking after the event, Starcom CEO John Muszynski, one of the participants in a debate titled "Today's Media Marketplace," said digital platforms up till now have mainly been experiments. "The experience has been a great opportunity to get some learning of how people use it. But we now have to evaluate the cost of doing this and the premium involved. Is it worthwhile? Are we getting a more engaged viewer? Are we getting better targeting? If I'm just getting more eyeballs, then it's a real expensive venture. While the numbers are impressive, vs. traditional TV, if you're just running a 30 [second ad], then you get scale elsewhere cheaper."
Spending on digital ventures
Much of the IRTS event, hosted by media analyst Tom Wolzein, focused on how much advertisers are spending on digital ventures these days. Many suggest the appropriate amount is around 5%-10% of a marketer's total budget, but Mr. Muszynski said he couldn't give a definitive figure. "There is no way you can give a range. It depends on the category and the message and the brand. Concrete answers to questions can't be answered in generalities. There is no blueprint for all your clients."
Broadcast networks have begun to make their shows available online. ABC.com offers next-day streaming of hit shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives." The new platform attracted 16 million streams over a two-month test period that began last May. NBC, meanwhile, has been streaming select episodes and new-show premieres on its website, while CBS has launched Innertube, a site within its site where visitors can watch selected video of its shows.
The networks have eagerly embraced digital platforms as their core business faces a challenging ad marketplace. "The market has been tepid for two years in a row, and it's a concern for all of us," said Magna Global Chairman Bill Cella, another panelist.
A couple of the agency participants -- including PHD North America CEO Steve Grubbs -- touched on the commercial-ratings hot potato, agreeing that Nielsen Media Research needs to get the numbers right before commercial ratings become the new currency for setting ad rates (replacing program ratings).
"The key thing is we want more accurate ratings," said Mr. Muszynksi, whose agency has already done deals with the Weather Channel, AMC and WE based on minute-by-minute commercial-ratings data. "I believe it needs to be better than what's currently on the table. Does it need to be second-by-second? That's the ideal, but I don't know if we can get there that quickly. But the average of all pods -- what's the purpose? It's still not getting at who's watching."
Kathy Crawford, MindShare's president-local broadcast, said the political market was starting to heat up in New York and California, which could tighten the spot market. "You don't see [New York Senator] Hillary Clinton and [New York Attorney General] Eliot Spitzer, but in three weeks that will heat up; that's when the New York market will be sold out. You could have some markets where political is so hot it's a killer. The political story is quite fascinating."