Convergence finally arrived at scale in the TV marketplace during the summer of 2020 after many smaller test campaigns. Now, as consumer behavior made a decisive shift 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 the standard mode of operation.
But what really is convergence? Many have talked about it as if it was a halfway point, a meaningless stop on a journey to a TV future that yet again provides homogenous planning, activation and measurement strategies. But convergence isn’t just a detour: It is the beginning of an entirely new marketplace, one where traditional demo-based and next-generation audience strategies come together, where content is delivered over quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) and internet protocol (IP), and where the lines between local and national inventory continue to blur. Convergent TV promises to transform our industry by sparking innovation, driving customization and establishing new business models.
This year I expect there to be three (at least) emerging themes for this new marketplace that will challenge experts from across connected and traditional TV to learn new skills and adapt to the realities of this new marketplace.
1. There will be no singular currency for audience planning and measurement. Let’s be realistic: The debate about which metric will be the next currency for TV is over. The proliferation of cookieless data targeting and the increasing sophistication of advertisers’ use of data mean that high-value audiences can be defined however an advertiser wants.
It no longer is about “how did my brand do against this generic audience?” but instead, “what action did my most important targets, and only those targets, take after viewing my message?”
So, the important change and new norm for 2022 will be bringing your own audience and your own currency. Advertisers will use anonymized, first-party data to plan and measure across TV screens, and define measurement in the way that best suits their campaign objectives.
Advertisers will not suddenly move all activations from demo to audience-based buying. But the lens of measuring success through one’s own first-party data in 2022 will open new opportunities for publishers and technology companies to reimagine reporting and analytics for a converged world.
2. Fragmentation is the end and the beginning of TV as we know it. We know that audiences have fragmented, and consumers are now watching TV across more devices, apps and publishers than ever before. However, even with a dramatic shift 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, addressable set-top boxes (STB) and connected TV (CTV) formats means we all need to learn how to build a truly converged media plan. Fluidity—the seamless planning for viewing impressions across multiple TV media types—is the way we do this.
By implementing fluidity, TV becomes a much more flexible and dynamic channel for advertisers who want to create broad reach, sequence messages and drive sales using sight, sound and motion. In short, you’ll be able to find your audience no matter where they’re watching TV.
In 2022, fluidity will be critical as planning roles converge. Digital planners must evolve to execute traditional TV strategies for reach, frequency and indexing. Traditional planners must evolve to execute advanced data targeting, competitive conquesting and message sequencing strategies. Most important, fluidity will require greater cooperation across the ecosystem to allow for advertising dollars to flow efficiently across and within all TV platforms.
3. The Upfront needs a rebrand. Consider the metaverse, a hyped topic in recent news cycles. Simplified, it is the convergence of two ideas that have been around for many years: virtual reality and the creation of a digital second life.
In many circles, the annual Upfront has an old-fashioned connotation, complete with images of Don Draper. It’s time to take another look at the Upfront as an important and significant annual event where buyers and sellers, audiences and data, automation and programmatic technology, demo- and targeted buying and more all come together to transact at a grand scale.
The reality is that the 2022 Upfront can represent the convergence of important concepts worthy of hype: a futures marketplace, big data and cross-screen audience targeting.
We’re in advertising so why are we doing such a poor job of branding our own marketplace? The 2022 Upfront should place a stake in the ground as a showcase of the convergence of business and technology. Automation now underpins end-to-end transactions, as advertisers and publishers are empowered with streamlined and efficient platforms for buying, planning and reporting across TV media.
A greater share of the TV buy can be purchased programmatically through both demo and audience-based buying, from publishers utilizing sophisticated yield management strategies and forecasting tools.
With technology providing important efficiencies and enhanced data, buyers are assured that they can safely and fairly secure the impressions they want. For publishers, automation allows trust to be built with buyers while also supporting the necessary revenue to support their businesses 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 sign of slowing down. As the industry explores how to support a convergence marketplace, collaboration across the TV ecosystem and the unification of linear and CTV will help drive us into the new era of TV.