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Digital and TV playing really well together

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The AdNews Media Summit held at the Royal Randwick Racecourse on May 19 featured a host of great panels and interesting discussions, particularly the panel on titled “The Collision of TV and Digital.”

The general sentiment of the media industry, echoed by the panel, is that while linear TV has its weaknesses, it is still envied to an extent by the digital industry because of its reach and attraction of steady ad dollars.

It was the opening salvo of the TV executives on the panel, Network Ten Executive GM, Melbourne Russel Howcroft and Nine Entertainment Co. Chief Sales Officer Michael Stephenson. The digital luminaries on the panel didn’t disagree, but seemed more focused on the future in collaboration rather than the problems of collision. That’s always the way with disruptors and the disrupted, but the TV industry shouldn’t be as worried as they seem.

TV and digital are “not colliding, but collaborating,” said Mitch Waters, ANZ managing director at AOL. He was backed up by Ellie Rogers, ANZ head of agency sales at Facebook who said she thought the two mediums are “playing really well together.”

Below are some key bonuses of TV, some of which the panel touched on, and how digital plays into those.

Entertainment Factor

“Linear, prime TV advertising is now available on any screen at any time,” said Howcroft, noting that Tenplay is now available on 12 different platforms and has had over 2.5 million downloads. “But here is the most import innovation of all: On broadcast digital TV you cannot forward the ads, you cannot block them …”

This is very true, and TV can get away with that because it almost exclusively exists for entertainment. Other than news and current affairs, when we are watching TV it is to be entertained. It is a more relaxed experience. Online we are active, looking for information (at least part of the time) and doing things, and we are more easily annoyed when we have a specific purpose that is interrupted – and we would probably be more annoyed if our service provider hit us with compulsory ads every 10 minutes or so. But does a lesser level of engagement necessarily translate into greater attention?

As for linear TV being available on any screen, the same is becoming true for digital via connected TV, so that’s much of a muchness really.

Attention Competition

TV ads aren’t competing amongst themselves for your attention. They are consecutive, unlike digital ads where there might be a few on a page at any one time (unless you are talking pre-roll, which puts it all on an equal footing).

“There is a difference between a viewer and a view,” said Howcroft, highlighting the difference in media consumption versus advertising consumption. And just like digital advertising views don’t necessarily equate to advertising consumption, not all TV viewers are glued to the ads either. The simple truth is many people don’t. It’s time for a drink, a snack, the bathroom. But mostly, TV ads nowadays are just competing with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter on your phone (and the ads therein).

Personal Space

TV is in an environment shared with friends and family a lot of the time and thus the advertising is far less intrusive. But  laptops, phones and tablets are personal devices, personal space. TV has an upper hand there. There are plenty of well executed digital campaigns with great content, but plenty are the opposite to that also. A negative experience has a far greater impact on a device, but on TV the consumer doesn’t expect it to speak to them directly and doesn’t take it personally. Yet, done right and well received, the notion of personal space is an advantage for digital.


There is a consistency to TV advertising. It happens at regular intervals, for the same amount of time each time. It has been that way - in various incarnations - for around 80 years and that adds a certain acceptance to it. When TV is on, you know what to expect, whereas digital is still evolving (despite being around for quite a while at this point).

It’s a double-edged sword for TV, as many people have a lifetime of experience at tuning out ads. Whereas the variety of digital formats (including interactive and native ads) can actually hold your attention, drawing the consumer in. Digital can work that to its advantage by being new, unexpected, engaging and informative (when done right).


“You guys actually represent some of the best examples of how mobile video can be used in the market,” said Rogers, speaking directly to the broadcasters on the stage,

Indeed, scroll through Facebook and you will see clips and interviews from all your favourite TV shows. And this is broadcasters showing advertisers they have a broader reach than just TV alone.

Digital - especially mobile - is rarely ever off, whereas TV is an on/off option. And it is clear broadcasters see the importance of digital in bridging that shortcoming. Each has a hand in the success of the other, but apparently more so in the case of TV depending on digital for extended reach to promote the content that contains the paying ads. But it goes both ways: The TV side of the panel pointed out that in the UK, digital is now buying up TV advertising too. The digital industry spent over £500 million on TV advertising last year, helping the U.K. TV market grow 7.4% in 2015.

All of this has already registered with TV and digital executives all over the world, and has set off a rush to realize benefits of collaboration.

Vice recently announced a partnership with ESPN and has a massive investment from Disney of about $400 million. A recent AdWeek article reported that Turner has invested $15 million in Mashable. NBCU has plugged about $200 million into BuzzFeed, as well as $200 million into Vox Media. E.W. Scripps has purchased Cracked comedy site. Univision has acquired control of satirical news site The Onion. Verizon and Hearst are acquiring Complex Media in 50-50 joint venture.

All of this signals a growing understanding that platforms (and companies by default) are merging and becoming closer every day.

So while some companies are shifting money from their TV budgets into digital (such as the Magna Global announcement at the recent IAB NewFronts in New York City that it was shifting $250 million out of television), perhaps a better way to see this is that a lot of this money is going to support bigger, integrated campaigns across both. TV isn’t dying, it’s just experiencing disruption.

“We will see a realignment to some sort of reality,” said Stephenson, pointing out that he thinks the pendulum has swung way too far toward digital.

However, the eventual balance might not be the standard either camp would like. It will balance out with an optimal investment across all platforms, and TV will either be a bigger or smaller part of that, depending on the company, product, campaign and target market.

So it is really looking like more of a merger of the two and both camps seem to accept it. Consumers on the other hand don’t really care about any of that. They watch for the content, and advertising is acceptable to them (to an extent) because it pays for that content, be it TV or digital.

“At the end of the day, the consumer doesn’t really care if it’s TV or digital. They just want to activate it,” said Waters.


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Guest Friday, 28 October 2016