Television is changing. Or rather the way people consume content is changing. This requires the way marketers leverage the media to change. The big question is if television executives will follow the same denial path taken by print media executives and prolong the required change only to see business crumble. Will television execs put their head in the sand and expect TV ad revenues to stay where they are or will they start to look at alternative revenue generation.
The four major broadcasters have suffered a collective 7.2 percent drop in traditional TV viewers this season. According to The New York Times, all four major networks ad revenues slipped this last quarter. And it will continue to get worse as evident by the “Zero TV” group … that is the growing five million homes in the United States that don’t subscribe to traditional cable or satellite viewing and find alternate ways to stream content such as Netflix and Hulu.
Let’s face it. How many people watch live TV (besides sports events)? Are we all skipping the ads and fast forwarding on DVR? Even when watching live program TV people are finding ways to skip ads. It has gotten to the point where I start to watch some 60 minute programs 20 minutes late and just speed through the commercials and then finishing viewing at the top of the hour.
While I presented current data, the audience behaviors I described are not anything new. As more and more people shift to new viewing patterns, and streaming content and webisodes become more prolific, the TV advertisement methods need to change. Consumers never really liked push-in-your-face branding, and now they have ways to avoid it. This means that brands need to adopt softer marketing approaches leveraging TV as opposed to straight up ads.
And at the same time, we need brand sponsorship. Advertisements are what pay for the content. So what is the solution? Marketers must be more subtle and apply new ways of getting their product in front of an audience – otherwise, the audience will just ignore their presence.
To give you some examples, I will start with a guilty pleasure of mine – American Idol. (I don’t know why I am hooked. I am not part of the pop audience. I much prefer bands like The National, Wilco, Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen, etc, but I am sucked into the talent and competition.) As a start, look simply at product insertion on American Idol. It is by no mistake that those big red Coca-Cola cups sit smack in front of the judges and we can see them take sips every now and then. Coca-Cola also did an excellent crowd sourcing marketing program with their Perfect Harmony Contest. The contest provided an interactive experience where viewers had input on Carly Rae Jepsen’s new single “Take a Picture” including lyrics and what back up dancers would wear. All this was done on a Coca-Cola sponsored site. Was it a success? I would not “Call it Maybe”, but call it yes.
Another marketing example on American Idol comes from Ford. Ford was very active in a number of segments that went beyond standard TV ads. Sponsored segments included a fun soccer game by Idol contestants using Ford cars, nice footage of corporate social responsibility showing trips by the contestants to schools. Ford also ran a vote on which car the two finalists would receive.
In another move from Fox Broadcasting, a partnership with Twitter will allow them to sell sponsored tweets with short video clips from TV shows or featuring highlights from live events starting this summer.
Marketers and TV execs must acknowledge that audiences are turning a blind side to TV advertisements. Brands must find new innovative ways to integrate their product into program sponsorship. As digital and second screen technologies and audience usage evolve, there are even more innovative opportunities awaiting marketers.
Make It Happen,