As ISBA pushes ahead with its plans for a cross-media measurement system – despite the TV broadcasters' hesitancy – the head of its AV Steering Group encourages marketers to evolve how they see TV.

If you look at what has been grabbing the marketing headlines over the last few years you would be forgiven for thinking that what is keeping marketers awake at night is how we keep pace with the digital advertising supply chain and the challenges and opportunities, it offers.

However, for us at Direct Line Group, the role of television remains our biggest opportunity and our biggest threat. The recent successes we have seen with the launch of the “Fixer” for Direct Line in 2014 and the subsequent launch of “We’re on it” (with the superheroes) last year, as well as the launch of “Chill” for Churchill in 2019, boil down to a strong creative idea executed on a powerful medium – TV. 

While 2020 will be remembered as the year of the pandemic, it will also be looked back on as a significant year for TV. A year where parts of the industry stopped talking about advanced TV transformation and started doing it. A year where advertisers, agencies and media owners all stopped anchoring everything to the past and started reinventing the future.

Of course, we’ve known for some time that new technologies have been paving the way for emerging platforms, apps and content owners, but what has changed this year is that the sleeping giants have awoken and the big screen broadcasters themselves have started collaborating.

And it’s this shift that is making advanced TV mainstream. It’s no longer “emerging” and peripheral to your tried and tested linear plans but a real opportunity to make TV more efficient, more effective, more flexible – and for smaller brands, more accessible. 

To get there it’s taken a year of unprecedented levels of viewing with 2020 eclipsing 2019 with one-and-a-half hours more daily viewing on average, with average daily viewing of SVOD doubling year on year (Ofcom), and with challenging broadcaster revenues and increased advertiser agility leading to demands for more flexible trading.

All of which have forced us to pause and take stock. Take stock of how all TV should be planned, traded and implemented in a post-Covid-19 world. Take stock of how broadcasters, platforms and content owners can all work together to make TV the number one choice for any media investment, regardless of size of brand, target audience or budget. And take stock of how total TV can be measured in a unified way, with a unified currency, to increase the effectiveness of advertising budgets.

As a result, it is time for all of us advertisers to lean in and understand this new TV landscape. To welcome it, embrace it and leverage it. At DLG we have always had a curious, test, learn and adapt culture. It’s how we grow our brands.

And for us, the journey has already started. I guess with concerns over the long-term effectiveness of TV in a market of continued year-on-year inflation coupled with reductions in commercial audiences, our patience was starting to wear thin. Dovetail was taking too long, Sky’s confidence in C-Flight wasn’t yet shared by the other broadcasters and ISBA-led project Origin had barely been conceived. So, we set out to answer what everyone industry-wide has been asking… 

  • Can we understand the relationship and choices between TV and video in driving TV-like incremental reach? 
  • Can all of the audio-visual channels and platforms available to us be measured in a unified way to understand their relative efficiency and impact?” 
  • And, as a result, can we plan, buy and implement TV and video media plans in a truly agnostic way to maximise commercial outcomes?”

Of course, the answer is yes, yes and yes. It was inevitable really.

So, what does this all mean for DLG? Well, we no longer talk about linear; we no longer talk about VOD; we talk about reach, frequency, impact and outcomes. We have transformed the complex into the simple – to us it is all just “TV”. And I invite you all to do the same. The difference now is that we have more options open to us to make our TV spend even more effective tomorrow than it is today.

As chair of ISBA’s TV and Video Steering Group I am privileged to be part of a group of informed and forward-thinking marketers who are as passionate about TV as I am and who want to work with broadcasters, agencies and tech companies to take advantage of the many innovations that we are seeing during what is TV’s most exciting growth spurt to date. A future-shaping period that is happening on our watch.

Last year the group set out to bring more flexibility to TV buying – and the broadcasters listened. This year we have taken on the challenge of demystifying advanced TV for ISBA members. Working with Decipher to help us make the complex simple. Starting with a straightforward guide, we believe this is something that advertisers need to take the time to understand because, when you make the complex simple, it is after all just TV.

Project Origin is now also pushing ahead with a proof of concept trial involving many major brands (including Direct Line Group), the tech platforms and three agency groups.

It’s no secret that TV works. It’s just gone up a gear – that’s all. So why not jump in, fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.