TV Gets Its Due at Interactive Ad Conferences

Even at yesterday’s Web-centric Advertising Week events, traditional media — namely television — was not to be denied. However, even TV network execs recognize the impact the Web is having on content distribution and ad measurement.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s MIXX conference, which kicked off yesterday near Times Square, promised to combine “one part Internet, equal parts mobile, IPTV and interactive games” along with emerging media and practical applications, according to IAB CEO Greg Stuart. However, good ol’ fashioned TV was on the minds of marketing department heads, and, not surprising, TV executives.

During his MIXX keynote speech, NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker stressed the early creation of MSNBC, the broadband distribution of NBC’s fall season shows and the network’s acquisition of iVillage earlier this year. “There isn’t a show that doesn’t feature some rich, interactive feature that extends our relationship with our viewers,” he proclaimed.

Still, he admitted, sometimes after a long day at the office, “I don’t want to interact. I want to veg.” Zucker suspected that other people feel the same way sometimes; therefore, advertisers should not forget that TV continues to be an important part of the media mix.

Nearby at the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising Conference and Expo (OMMA), Fox Interactive Media President Ross Levinsohn seconded Zucker, commenting, “Let’s not put a nail in the coffin of TV, or radio or newspapers for that matter. In our lifetime, they’re not going anywhere.”

Speaking on a MIXX panel, Jerri Devard, SVP marketing and brand management at Verizon Communications, said she isn’t sure the 15 to 20 percent of various Verizon product marketing budgets the company spends online is enough to reflect where its customers are. Yet, she added, “As an advertiser, TV still plays a strong role in what we do. We do a lot of direct response TV [for] which we can measure the results. We do a lot of brand advertising where what we’re trying to do is drive preference for a suite of products…so television has a role.”

As consumers continue to increase their time spent online, recent reports from Nielsen Media Research show the number of TV sets has actually surpassed the number of people in the typical U.S. home. Tom Lynch, VP, head of marketing integration at financial services firm ING US, recognized that reality, contending during the MIXX panel, “We as an industry, both on the client side and the agency side, haven’t evolved with [consumers]…. They are very agnostic in their technology or delivery of content and we’re not. We’re very silo-ed all over the place, so it makes it harder for us to all come together around a singular idea.”

In addition to lamenting segmented agency and media structures, Lynch added, “It’s exceedingly difficult to compare the different activities across the different channels and get to some true means of evaluation.”

The Web’s intricate measurement capabilities are spurring television outlets to monitor advertisers’ ROI in new ways. For instance, Nielsen recently confirmed it will begin providing national TV ad ratings starting later this year.

Zucker explained NBC has guaranteed Toyota a certain level of consumer engagement as part of a deal signed with the carmaker this summer. The network will determine engagement rates using online polling. “I think that’s a glimpse of things to come in television advertising,” he said, cautioning that Web measurement metrics like click-through rates don’t necessarily account for human factors.

“These days it’s all about platform and quantity,” observed Zucker. “[There’s] no question the Internet is the most revolutionary platform of all time, and one that lends itself easily to metrics: unique visitors, page views, click-through rates, numbers of streams, and that’s great. But where in this calculus is a measure of the user’s experience? As in, did they enjoy the program, find it useful, truly engage with the brand or products advertised?”

Zucker suggested TV networks are poised to succeed in the online world, which “is beginning to shift its focus towards programming for [ad-supported] content while measures of quantity are giving way to measures of relevance and quality.” He continued, “Who knows more about ad-supported engaging content than NBC, CBS, ABC…and OK…Fox?”

Back at the OMMA event, Fox Interactive Media’s Levinsohn concluded, “Everybody’s been talking about the death of old media. It’s taken a beating in the last few years, but we’re still here, and we’re stronger. Old media has woken up.”

Kevin Newcomb contributed to this article.

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