• TV Ad Execs Make Their Case for Relevance and Impact in a Changing World

    On two separate sessions at AdExchanger’s Industry Preview conference last week, NBCUniversal’s Chairman, Advertising and Client Partnerships, Linda Yaccarino and CBS’s President and Chief Advertising Revenue Officer Jo Ann Ross made forceful cases that TV is still highly relevant for advertisers and its impact is essential in the overall marketing mix.

    It’s no secret that TV networks are fighting a pervasive media narrative that traditional TV viewing is becoming anachronistic for younger audiences in particular, ad-free SVOD viewing is dominating and big digital platforms like Google and Facebook offer improved ROI to advertisers through targeting.

    Addressing the rise of digital platforms, Yaccarino asserted that “a lot of folks fell victim to the ‘shiny new toy’ and the press narrative” that reinforced it. But she said “money started coming back over a year ago” to TV, as advertisers realized that digital-only approaches didn’t drive desired results.

    In fact, Yaccarino, said the perceived battle between linear and digital is resulting in both “clients and ultimately consumers” as the victims. That’s because she believes clients are best served with a mix of top of funnel brand awareness that TV excels at, complemented by last click action that digital specializes in. The idea that TV and digital complement each other was a recurring theme.

    Nonetheless, Yaccarino called out ongoing brand safety issues that digital platforms have had, noting that TV provides “specific spots in a pod at a certain time, so brand safety is something you don’t have to think about in TV.”

    Still, Yaccarino acknowledged all is not perfect in TV land. As with all her public appearances, Yaccarino spent a lot of time discussing challenges of incomplete measurement. And she observed the well-known issue around ad loads, saying, ‘the consumer experience in live linear TV needs to improve.” While not offering specifics on timing, she said to expect a “material viewer improvement” with “ads that are smarter and more relevant.”

    For her part, Ross noted that there’s an upside to SVOD/binge-viewing, saying “where do marketers go when they want scale and immediacy - they come back to the broadcast networks.” But Ross also emphasized CBS’s strategy to “be where viewers are,” calling out the success of digital news network CBSN and on-demand service, CBS All Access. CBSN’s viewers have an average age of 41 vs. 59-61 for the broadcast network. Coming soon are two more streaming services, CBS Sports HQ and one based on Entertainment Tonight.

    Ross said that most All Access subscribers still opt for the ad-supported version, to save $4 per month, though the ad load is 20% lighter than on traditional linear. Noting all of the originals CBS is creating for All Access, Ross said that the company is investing aggressively and believes it is well ahead of the competition (note CBS’s relatively independent streaming path is rooted in its decision years ago not to participate in Hulu).

    Ross also echoed Yaccarino’s measurement concerns, saying “There’s no clear visibility on getting a single viewership metric because there are so many devices, so it’s incumbent on us to do as well as we can. We need to cobble together different data sets.”

    Ross also offered a contrarian prediction: ‘Eventually you’ll see Netflix have an ad model. If they’re spending that kind of money they’ll look for models beyond subscription.” Netflix has persistently denied any interest in offering a lower cost ad-supported version.

    Videos of both sessions are embedded below.