Yes It’s True: Television Rules the Ad Waves

According to the latest Nielsen numbers on the topic of Internet ad-spend versus TV ad-spend, the Internet is like a small bird picking mites off the back of an elephant. I will admit these numbers are nine months old, but I do believe they still pertain, even as mobile ad-spend has pushed Internet spend higher in the last couple of years.

Nielsen gives less than 6 percent to “on line” while “television” (which includes cable) gets close to 60 percent of total global ad spend (including all advertising everywhere). If you think broadcast is still relevant, it might interest you to know that the Internet has already surpassed it. And while TV has grown much slower than the Internet, the Internet is still very small.

While Nielsen does not publish dollar amounts, ZenithOptimedia says the global total ad-spend surpassed half a trillion dollars in 2013. So both the little bird and the big elephant are billion-dollar babies. Zenith also gives the Internet a whopping 21 percent of spend, still dwarfed by TV. This may be because Nielsen gives no credit to search-engine ads, only display ads. Which is only a little bit silly, because last I read, Google has more ad-spend than all of print media in the U.S.

The elephant and the little bird are both “in the room,” if you will.

What’s the Hold-Up?

Why is TV still dominant? I read somewhere we had stopped watching TV; so I must have missed something.

In light of all the above, why is Internet the darling and TV too often portrayed as somehow the inevitable loser in this race?

If you want to hear answers from the tech community, it’s a mere statistical anomaly that the Internet has not yet completed its domination; and that advertisers just need to get with it. If you want to hear answers from advertisers, especially those that control the massive TV ad budgets, they may tell you it’s because when they go to buy ad space on the Internet, they don’t know what in the heck they are buying.

TV ad spend is pretty much ruled by Nielsen and that is because it always has been that way, and it is an article of faith that Nielsen knows best.

However silly that might be, the fact there is a single source of well-defined audience measurement for TV makes all the difference.

Digital analytics, which is supposed to be much more accurate than the extrapolated data from Nielsen, cannot begin to compete; not least because it is like a mirror shattered into a million pieces — each shard with its own reflection — while Nielsen is just a single mirror where you can see stuff.

So, is it really about slavish fealty to Nielsen? Or is there some other reason why Internet advertising continues to lag despite robust year-over-year growth?

Maybe It’s the Content

Is it possible the answer is that no one can stand Internet ads? And that they often refuse to click on them? I have one friend who says that whatever brand shows up in his free mail account is the brand he will not buy. He never said that about the ads that interrupted the ballgame.

I think there are natural limits to every market, and that Internet advertising may soon find that limit. It isn’t because people don’t love the Internet. It’s because when they watch TV, some commercials actually get their attention and make them laugh or listen. I have some doubt as to whether anyone anywhere has ever said to themselves, “Now that’s a cool Internet ad.”

I don’t have the answer — and I don’t click on ads either. But I do like that ad on TV with the hamsters driving a little Korean car.

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