Often so-called “revolutions” come with splashy press releases full of promises that are far from actually happening. We as media folks want to announce everything as revolutionary. It’s natural. Our job is to grow brands. Go big or go home, as they say. And, while it’s important to dream big, most revolutions are won in the trenches over the long haul, not overnight.
The way real revolution happens is actually in the following evolutionary steps:
1. Linear + addressable + streaming = success. Streaming has captured the imagination of our industry, as well it should. It is accessible through intuitive technological interfaces, and in theory it is more targetable. But as with all innovations, it often gets hyped beyond proportion.
When the pandemic hit and we were all locked indoors for long periods of time, connected TV (CTV) logically took off. And alongside the excitement came a lot of hype about how linear TV was on its way out. That’s what happens with revolutions—the fervor can fog our vision with an excitement that is detached from reality.
But linear TV viewing still makes up 75% of total household viewing hours, according to Comscore, and 71% according to Nielsen. So instead of jumping 10 steps ahead, our industry would be better served to think of the multiscreen TV paradigm as the holistic, unified investment of linear TV alongside addressable and streaming. They are all TV.
This clear-eyed evolutionary mindset will ensure the quickest path to revolution, a path that will take many years. Evolutionary revolutionaries succeed because they have the discipline to live in the moment but with an eye to the future. As we move into the post-cookie era, the TV ecosystem has the opportunity, even responsibility, to be a beacon for more accountable, privacy-first consumer engagement. All brands are interested in incremental reach and the combination of linear, addressable and streaming will turbo-charge their ability to engage with unexposed and underexposed members of their target audience(s).
2. The evolution of interoperability. The full potential of multiscreen TV can only be unlocked if the players and platforms with unique value propositions become more interoperable. This is going to require hard work that bears incremental progress. Currently, there is a patchwork of legacy tech systems sitting alongside more advanced digital ones. This makes modularity with interoperability a hugely important consideration. As an ecosystem, we need to balance the ability to be backward compatible with forward progress.
There are concrete steps that all players can take in the near term that, done at scale over time, will create transformation. If data and technology players prioritize interoperability with agency systems, our industry can come together to truly democratize audience creation by integrating and unifying the vast range of first-party and third-party audience platforms.
It’s important to realize that no one vendor or media company will control the entire ecosystem. By emphasizing modularity, platforms can join a community of technology in which plug-ins will create transactional velocity and efficiency. And this can be done securely through flexible insight generation and actionability within clean room environments.
3. Test and learn. Then test more. In the TV industry, the trend of embracing an audience-first, data-driven approach that goes beyond age/gender demographic targeting is an ongoing evolutionary revolution. Some agencies and brands are making fast, incremental progress. Others, however, are trying to boil the ocean in a quest of perfection before making a move, and as a result are making far less progress.
The truth is, when you are building new technologies and leveraging new data, not everything will be perfect the first time, and probably not the second time either. And that means being comfortable with testing a lot, failing fast and trying again. And if you find partners that will do it with you, you will go further and faster, together.