Television vs. the Internet: I Was Wrong


One of the things I love about online advertising is the rate at which things change and improve. If you’re right one day, you’ll probably be wrong the next. In my case, I was right one year, wrong the next.

The following ran in the June 27, 2001, issue of “The Silicon Alley Reporter” (RIP):

Ian Schafer, director of new media at Miramax, said that people need to realize that TV advertising can’t be replaced overnight. “Internet advertising in the short term isn’t going to compete with TV advertising,” he said. “It’s not a replacement, but it can be a complement.”

Color me wrong, at least partially.

These days, many of our clients are rethinking the efficiency of their TV media buying strategies. They’re scrutinizing their broadcast media buying, as it makes up the majority of their ad spending. It appears to be losing effectiveness. The beneficiaries? Cable, local TV, and — get this — online. Niche ad opportunities are being hailed as more efficient, effective, and creative.

Online video and rich media’s current state is changing the way marketers look at the Internet. Even though the average online video ad costs has about the same CPM (define) as a traditional :30 TV spot, the potential for increased efficiency makes it a more appealing place for media dollars to be spent. The key word is “potential.”

If you develop media plans that utilize video and want to increase campaign effectiveness and your (or your clients’) online budgets, you must start investigating some key ways to increase the potential for success, or risk missing out on a huge window of opportunity:

  • Manage the message. Ad-serving software has allowed marketers to target consumers for years. So why can’t video advertising take advantage of the same technology? If we target certain messaging to the right consumers, they’ll be more receptive to it. For years, advertisers have cut different TV spots for the same product for men and women, adults and teenagers. Online video needs to keep pace to exploit its advantages.
  • Context is king. A video message will be better received if it’s run within, in front of, behind, or adjacent to similarly themed content. It’s why during US Open coverage, you’ll see ads featuring mojo-less Andy Roddick. And why you don’t see ads for women’s antiperspirant during Monday Night Football.
  • Take advantage of the interactive medium. TV spots are historically passive. Direct response spots are major exceptions. Online video and rich media can take that one step further by increasing the amount of time audiences are engaged with a brand through various forms of interactivity. Whether the goal is branding, sales conversion, or lead generation, interactivity will increase the likelihood of achieving it.
  • Quality is job one. As connection speeds increase, deploying TV-quality video is essential. Subpar video quality will elicit subpar results. Audience expectations for good quality are growing as high-definition (HD) programming becomes more available (by the way, where are all the HD commercials on HDTV?).
  • Use reach, frequency, and measurement standards. When advertisers plan, buy, and measure TV advertising, they look at reach and frequency very closely. Online video has a distinct advantage here, because delivery can be micromanaged to the individual. Media planners working with online video must understand TV advertising or risk encountering troublesome communication barriers. If you use the same assets (at least to start), use the same terminology to justify the buy. Online video effectiveness measurement and research are still in their infancy, but the same standards must hold true. With all the problems cropping up with TV ad effectiveness measurement, online video is positioned to take the lead in defining new standards of effectiveness and efficiency. Push your video and rich media vendors, as well as your ad servers, to deliver reporting in formats that allow for easy comparisons.
  • Don’t plan in a vacuum. TV advertising isn’t going to stop. And odds are if an advertiser is using online video, he’s also running similar (or the same) TV spots. Online media planners should be aware of TV media plans and use the Internet to reinforce messaging, bolster frequency, and niche-target audiences that might otherwise be left unreached. Understand how to read valuable data from companies such as MRI and Nielsen, and use them to your advantage.

Agencies and marketers must take a holistic approach to media planning and the creative aspects of an online video ad campaign to bring the industry closer to maturation, or at least adolescence. That’s when online advertising will actually compete with TV, and my 2001 quote will be deemed a contextual example of an immature medium.


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