Instead of choosing one or the other, make them work together to create a more complete picture of your audience at scale, and get campaign metrics that actually matter.
For many brands, TV is the gold standard of advertising; it's tried-and-true, and the most memorable campaigns are shown on the living room screen. For those brands that cling to TV as their best (and maybe only) option, the emerging world of social advertising can be somewhat daunting. Their perception is that social and TV are on different planets in terms of targeting, measuring, and metrics, and many TV advertisers simply don't know what to do with social.
As such, many advertisers are sitting on the fence, believing the smartest move is to wait until social matures. Others are throwing responsibility for social ads over the cubicle wall to the digital team. Ultimately, those who sit the game out don't win. Waiting until social hits a certain level of establishment or keeping it siloed as a "digital-only" initiative result in brands missing out on a variety of cross-channel opportunities.
TV advertising is highly effective when it comes to making an impact, but it suffers from a dearth of data and metrics. Social, on the other hand, not only boasts tons and tons of data, but that data can be gathered in real time and enables much more nuanced targeting. As such, smart advertisers have learned to leverage social as an extension of TV advertising, using it as means of improving the effectiveness of a TV spot.
TV and social, in practice, are actually not so different. In fact, advertisers can essentially buy audiences the same way on both channels, and target messages based on viewership of different shows. By harnessing the power of social data, advertisers can effectively segment their audiences to show different messages to subsets. For example, male fans of "Modern Family" may see different ads than female fans, but social data can help segment audiences even further, such as serving ads to males, aged 18 to 24, living in St. Louis, who are fans of both "Modern Family" and "The Big Bang Theory" and like Taco Bell. Because social data is explicitly stated rather than inferred, it can help improve accuracy and efficiency of targeting no matter the channel.
Another drawback of television is that while it may reach a large audience, there is no guarantee of engagement. In addition to the prevalence of DVR, which certainly has had an effect on TV ad engagement, there is simply no way of measuring the impact of an ad in real time. The TV might be on but is anyone watching? If anyone is watching, do they care? Are they the most receptive people in the house to that message? All of these factors make a huge difference in the actual return on the often enormous expense of TV ad time.
However, supplementing TV with social enables brands to track awareness and affinity, identify any changes in interaction, and then react appropriately. Because of social's real-time capabilities, advertisers can also monitor response to TV ads in real time, target audience segments based on their reactions, and then quickly deliver relevant messages to an already engaged audience via social media.
For instance, a brand can run an ad during a given period of time or a specific event such as the Super Bowl, and gauge response to the ad in real time via social channels. The brand can measure both positive and negative response, and with the right resources, delve into further detail to find out exactly why the ad elicited those reactions. Was it boring? Offensive? Too risqué? Not funny enough? Then, using that insight, the brand can target each audience with different messaging tailored to their initial response, also in real time. It may sound too detailed and too individually focused to apply on a larger scale, but the fact is, we as an industry are already equipped with the algorithms and the technologies to make it happen.
In today's world of converging advertising channels, the TV versus social dilemma is not really a dilemma at all. Instead of choosing one or the other, make them work together to create a more complete picture of your audience at scale, and get campaign metrics that actually matter.
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Dilip is CEO and co-founder of Compass Labs. He previously led Google's mobile ads business and ran PayPal's risk and fraud management, financial services, and compliance. Dilip has co-founded and led two successful start-up companies -CashEdge and CommerceSoft - after stints at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs. Dilip has an MBA from the Harvard Business School, M.S. in electrical engineering from Rice University, and a B.Tech in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
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