Television viewing around the world is undergoing a dramatic change. That was one of the dominant themes discussed during The Trade Desk’s Groundswell Festival in September. In a series of panels on the future of television, marketing executives from television networks, agencies, and brands worldwide came together to assess what these changes mean for the future of advertising. Here are three takeaways from those conversations.
1. Cord cutting goes global
In recent years, TV viewing habits were already changing as more people shifted to streaming and Connected TV, but then along came the Covid-19 pandemic, and things have accelerated. To hear Tim Sims, the CRO of The Trade Desk tell it, “we’ve taken a 40-year timeline and compressed it into about nine months as far as what’s been happening from a consumption pattern perspective.” There’s been an acceleration of people saying, “they’re going to cut the cord by the end of year,” says Sims, joining the 45 million TV households in the US that have already done so.
This shift is happening in all markets, from London to New York to Sydney. In Australia, over 50 percent of broadcast-on-demand viewing is now via CTV, says Patrick Darcy, Chief Data and Technology Officer at Dentu Aegis Network. “Consumption through a connected TV at home is by far the biggest growth curve,” he says. Likewise, in the United Kingdom, there’s been a huge growth of CTV usage, which represents 65 to 75 percent of video-on-demand viewing, says Jonathan Lewis, Head of Digital and Partnership Innovation, Channel 4. And in the United States, things have moved quickly in that direction, says Laura Nelson, SVP of Cross Portfolio Solutions at Disney. In Nelson’s estimation, CTV usage is up 30 percent this year. She notes that this uptick is being driven mostly by the under-35 demographic.
2. It’s an enormous opportunity for brands
The shift to CTV is being led by consumers, and where consumers go advertisers must follow. In Britain, Channel 4’s on-demand platform, All 4, has allowed the broadcaster to engage in “more meaningful conversations with clients and have deeper relationships with clients who are existing advertisers” on the broadcast network, says Jonathan Lewis. He adds that it is also bringing new brands to television as a result.
And brands seeking to identify a target audience are embracing this trend. “Every time we look at a new media plan, there’s more CTV on it and it continues to go in that direction,” says Tom Wallis, the CMO of Gousto, an award-winning meal kit retailer based in London. “The measurement is really helpful, the sooner we can put the insights back into what’s working, the sooner we can optimize,” he adds.
This concurs with what The Trade Desk’s Sims is observing. “From a brand’s perspective, they are spending an enormous amount of time and effort and money trying to understand their audience in a much deeper way now — they’re often hiring data scientists, they’re licensing data management platforms, and other ways they can really understand their audience. And now for one of the first times in the history of marketing, they can take all that hard work and they can point it at the television screen.”
3. Changing the marketing mindset to accommodate the new media landscape
Of course, this doesn’t mean traditional broadcast television is going away. News broadcasts and the return of live events such as sports to networks like ESPN, means linear TV is still an important destination, says Disney’s Laura Nelson. However, she notes, that such events drive digital use with surrounding content “as it relates to short form or social activity during the games.” But she insists, for agencies and brands, flexibility is key. Whether creative gets delivered over linear or digital platforms, agencies need to have “fluidity of inventory” that works across all platforms.
Broadcasters want to facilitate that ability for a brand or agency to reach their target audience, says Michael Stephenson, the CSO of Nine, one of Australia’s leading television networks. “There are no barriers,” he says. “We have 100 percent flexibility in terms of our agencies and brands asking us to sell holistically across screens.” At Disney, the marketing team says it doesn’t separate digital from linear. “The way we interface with each holding company is as one selling team and we don’t fragment out how we sell different types of content,” says Nelson.
For agencies and brands, adjusting to the new media landscape is a work in progress. Dentu’s Patrick Darcy talks about the important of changing the way people think about TV, changing the “mindset” at an agency level, such as not obsessing over a network’s linear share of market. In Britain, a brand like Gousto is trying to balance the possibilities for more personalized ads over streaming platforms with the concept of a shared ad experience, perhaps over linear television. “I think we’re still trying to explore and balance between these two things — when to go out with an event-type creative that everyone can share versus, further down the purchase journey, coming in with something a little bit more specific,” says Gousto’s Tom Wallis.
Watch the full session here.