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A House Divided: TV or Digital Media Buys?

In the ad industry, if television is a Ford pickup, digital is a Tesla. Or, TV is a yo-yo and digital is an Xbox. Or, oatmeal and avocado toast, a landline and an iPhone, The Beatles and Taylor Swift. You get the point. TV has been around for a long time, an oldie but goodie, whereas digital is the shiny new toy that advertisers and marketers are still taking apart and putting back together to figure out how it ticks.

TV offers familiarity and peace of mind. We’ve had decades to master this channel in our media campaigns, but we’ve all heard the rumors: people watch less TV these days. Digital, on the other hand, offers convenience and innovation. We are always finding new ways to incorporate digital media buys into our campaigns, and the extensive analytics and instantaneous feedback from your audience allow us to interact with and manage campaigns like we never have before. Digital can be tough to get right though, especially in a cross-platform campaign where money is going to seemingly more surefire advertising channels.

So, should you move your linear TV ad spend to the digital arena? Is that where the real action is?

TV and Digital, Like Black and White

What you need to keep in mind when determining where to dedicate your ad dollars is that TV viewers and digital voyagers have a lot of overlap. Approximately 62% of US internet users also watch TV with a cable or satellite subscription, according to eMarketer. TV is still a stronger driver for reach in any media campaign, but what digital lacks in numbers it makes up for in enhanced targeting capabilities.

According to a study by Nielsen, the average number of impressions from TV ad buys is nearly eight times greater than a digital campaign targeting the same 18-49 demographic. Digital media buys helped campaigns aimed at people between 18 and 49 extend their reach by an incremental 16%. These numbers may suggest to you that you shouldn’t bother moving ad spend to digital channels, but you’d be letting a huge opportunity go to waste by ignoring internet users.

Due to the more targeted strategies employed, digital appears to have a smaller reach to television. However, a lot of people are online - heck, you’re online right now. Digital platforms potentially have a much wider reach than television. For example, Google found that YouTube alone reaches more adults each day than any single television network. Unless your target audience is anyone with ears or eyes, a digital campaign is typically much more targeted, though. This raises an important point concerning television: when you think about its reach, you need to think about the viewership of the networks and programs you target, not just TV viewers in general.

You also need to think about how the reach of your campaigns converts into action on the part of your audience. TV advertising tends to focus on raising awareness and educating your audience about the benefits of choosing your brand. Digital ads are able to be more action-oriented. Regardless of the online channel you are using, your digital ads can include supplemental links to your website, landing pages, products or services, contact information and more, all just a click away.

The Gray Area

There are a lot more ways to watch TV now than there used to be, and they all require the internet. You have Connected TV (TVs that connect to the internet or devices that allow you to connect a TV to the internet) and video-on-demand (VOD) (services such as Hulu or Amazon Prime Video). There are also streaming options such as Facebook Watch where viewers can watch videos and shows. When it comes to your TV and digital media buys, things aren’t so black and white anymore.

In this somewhat nebulous area where TV and the online world overlap, it can be hard to decipher between terms such as VOD, Connected TV and OTT (over-the-top) TV, but what we do know is that this “Advanced TV” space is growing every year. While still being the dominant channel for viewing video content, traditional TV via a cable or satellite subscription has been trending down little by little in the last decade or so. In its place, digital video options have grown incrementally in popularity. Nielsen reports that Connected TV brings a reach of 3% on top of linear TV and digital ads among audiences 18-49. That may not seem like much, but in an ad space where much is still in flux, this is a sign that things will only get more fragmented and complicated.

Make Your TV and Digital Media Buys Work Together

TV and digital may seem like competing media channels, but thinking of this as an either/or situation can cost you. When managed well together, these two can be very synergistic and have significant impact toward extending the reach of your cross-platform campaigns, allowing you to reach the greatest share of your audience possible.

Generally speaking, cross-platform campaigns - with ads running across both TV and digital devices - are able to reach as much as 59% of your adult 18-34 audience, according to research conducted by Nielsen. Of the 59% mentioned in the Nielsen study, 12% were reached by digital ads alone. One thing to note is that digital media buys are less successful with older demographics while TV advertising tends to be more successful on its own. For adults 35-49, only 5% were reached solely by digital, and the percentage drops to just 2% for adults older than 50.

One reason that TV and digital ads may work so well when paired together is that many people split their attention when watching TV with another device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer. A 2016 study from Google found that two-thirds of adults are likely to pick up their phones during a commercial break on TV. With the attention of your audience split between devices, why shouldn’t your media campaign be, too?

TV and digital both have a strong presence in people’s lives. The goal should not be to switch your attention from a TV-based audience to a digital-based audience; they are parts of the same audience. You’re just reaching them in different ways based on how they consume the content they choose. By taking a blended approach in your campaigns, you’re able to reach the greatest number of interested consumers possible.

Take Uncharted Paths with The Ward Group

We’ve been immersed in the media industry for over three decades, long enough to see the tides shift and many new ad opportunities appear on the scene. We are experts in our field, not just in the ways of TV and digital, but in print, audio, out-of-home and an array of other unique media options as well. As media stewards, our goal is to pilot your media planning and buying in a way that gets your message in front of the right audience at the right time regardless of the media channel.

To learn more about how to make your TV and digital media buys work together for ultimate ROI, reach out to The Ward Group now!

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