Today I had the honor of presenting the following talk at CASBAA 2017 in Macau, China. Here is the video and prepared transcript.
TV is Not Dying — It’s Lies, Damn Lies, and Bad Media Statistics
But is it accurate? Don’t worry. What we have actually been seeing for 15 years is nothing but hysteria and bullshit. And that’s what I’ll be addressing today.
It’s the first rule in propaganda: if you want people to believe a lie, then just repeat it over and over again.
For some 15 years, marketers have been subjected to constant reports that commercial TV will soon ‘die’. They started by blaming TiVo and commercial skipping
before moving to cord-cutting millennials
who prefer Netflix and then citing the
reported swing today of advertising dollars from offline to online.
Most recently, we’ve seen reports that the alleged last bastion of traditional TV — sports — is going to surrender as Amazon starts to stream American football.
Call me crazy, but ad-supported television still seems to be around. Something does not add up.
Please excuse the hard-boiled exterior that I still have as a journalist who later went into marketing. For people who are always selling something and also supposed to be cynics, many marketers are surprisingly susceptible to believing bad data and people with conflicts of interest. In other words, many of us are too susceptible to bullshit.
Please excuse my eye-rolling when the CEOs of competing mediums and tactics write columns insisting that TV and advertising are dead. Please excuse my facepalming when the company that owns YouTube says that YouTube is preferred over TV. I mean, really, what do you expect them to say?
Writing an opinion column without supporting evidence is as credible as Kendall Jenner giving a Pepsi to police officers in riot gear. If a company that sells widgets argues that not-widgets are bad, I am always skeptical.
One of the biggest falsehoods in the marketing echo chamber is that television is ‘dead’ – and that lie is usually spread by companies with something to gain or by people who do not bother to research what the good data actually says. People keep repeating the propaganda over and over again.
I write and speak about the marketing industry from the mindset of a neutral journalist. I have no interest in whether TV is alive or dead. So, let’s forget the half-baked opinions and biased analyses on the state of television and see what the true, impartial statistics from neutral sources truly report.
According to comScore’s latest comprehensive report on the use of various TV platforms in the United States:
● Live TV consists of 84% of total TV viewing time.
● Only 15% of households are “streaming only.” Most who use streaming services do so as a supplement to traditional TV and not as a replacement.
● For every hour that is viewed on streaming services, people watch more than five hours of live television.
● Live TV still dominates, even among the heaviest users of streaming television
Here is the Nielsen data specifically from its most recent Total Audience Report in the United States. The light purple on the left is live TV. The light blue in the center is live AM/FM radio.
● On average, people spend the majority of media time each day watching live television and listening to AM/FM radio.
Here is some Thinkbox 2016 UK data that is compiled from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), comScore, the IPA’s Touchpoints 2016 study, Ofcom’s 2016 Digital Day study, and Rentrak box office data.
● 40% of video viewed each day, the part in red, is live TV. 57% of video is live TV, playback TV, or broadcaster VOD.
● 79% of video advertising is view on live TV.
● Thinkbox also found that TV viewing has remained level despite the rise of social media, mobile and streaming over the past decade. There has been a decline of only four minutes of television watching per day since 2006.
● When Amazon broadcasted its first American football game, the total average audience was 15 million people. 97% watched on live TV. Only 2% watched on Amazon.
Earlier this year, ShareThis chief executive Kurt Abrahamson wrote a column in Adweek claiming that “Social Media is the New Television.” Now, can you really read that with a straight face?
TV is not “dying.” Anyone who says differently is selling something.
The marketing industry has its own ‘fake news’ problem. Too many marketers – especially in digital marketing – accept what is said in our industry’s echo chamber without thinking critically or asking for evidence. That’s where I come in.
Why do so many marketers think that television is dying despite all of the easily accessible information that says otherwise? It comes down to the false consensus effect that is created by the biases of the most popular information sources specifically in digital marketing as well as the mistaken assumption among many marketers that customers are just like marketers.
Imagine that you work for eight hours every day on, say, social media for your company. Everything you read is about social media. Every conference you attend discusses social media. You would have tunnel vision and subconsciously think that social media is the only medium that matters. (Substitute any digital marketing activity of choice or even online channels as a whole.)
TV and other traditional channels would be the furthest things from your mind – and you will start to assume that everyone else thinks and acts the same way.
Well, I have some bad news: you are not normal. Too many digital marketers live in a self-reinforcing bubble and work in an echo chamber that consists of a small percentage of the marketing world.
Marketers are not normal people. We love social media, but most people do not. 93% of marketers are on LinkedIn. Among everyone else, it’s 14%. 81% of marketers use Twitter. Everyone else, 22%. 43% of marketers read Buzzfeed — and I have no idea why — but only 13% of everyone else does.
We are on social media all the time, so we assume that everyone else is too. We assume that social media is a great medium for marketing. But 49% in Germany use the Internet but not social media. 40% in Greece use neither.
Marketers believe such idiotic statements as “people want to have relationships with brands on social media” but here’s one piece of advice: Go into a supermarket and ask a random stranger if he wants to have a relationship with any of the items in his shopping cart, He’ll probably punch you in the face for pervert. Second, go through your own social media feeds and see how many times you interact with people compared to brands.
Another reason for the bias against television is the assumption that some current trend will always continue in a straight line. But past media performance does not guarantee future results. It would not be a marketing presentation without discussing millennials, so let’s talk about them.
Everyone still discusses millennials as if they are young college students, but the oldest of them are now in their early and mid-thirties. We have assumed that just because millennials supposedly watched less TV while they were younger that they must still watch less TV now. But that’s not the case. People change media consumption habits as their lives change.
Here’s an example from the world of radio. According to Nielsen, teenagers used to watch less radio than prior generations did. So, I’m sure many marketers just threw up their arms and said, “Radio is dead!” But here’s what Nielsen found: They watched more radio as they grew up and got jobs! They started to listen to radio while commuting in their cars and in working in their offices. Radio became more alive.
Here’s something similar that ThinkBox found. Millennials are watching more TV as they get older and have children.
I’ve got a theory. Based on what I have seen in the online marketing industry, I will make an informed guess that the average digital marketer is under the age of 35, does not have children, works and probably lives in a city, has a university or graduate degree, goes out with friends multiple nights every week, has an easy commute and does not own a car, spends hours on Twitter, brags about not having a television, and binges Orange is the New Black on Netflix.
But many of the people who purchase our products are in their forties and fifties and have several children. They never went to university. They spend an hour each way commuting to and from suburbia to a menial, low-tech job at which they are overworked and underpaid. They come home to a dinner of leftovers because the spouse wanted to save money and pay some overdue bills. They have disagreeable teenagers who just want to go out and do who-knows-what with who-knows-who. They have tweeted maybe once or twice at most.
And you know what? They are tired. After they return from work and eat the reheated casserole from yesterday, they just want to relax, sit on the couch, and drink some beer or wine. They don’t want to search for something to watch. They want to turn off their brains, click a remote control, and be entertained by that large box in the living room until they fall asleep. Same as it ever was. And as millennials are getting older, they are doing the same.
People have always assumed that the alleged move to streaming is a function of age and that it’s the new, cool thing to do. But according to a report by Mintel, the move to streaming is a function of income and not age. Across demographic segments, those who use Netflix and other options do so largely because it is cheaper than cable TV. Most who can afford pay TV have it. The move to OTT is not a demographic issue but an economic one.
So, we can see that the move towards non-traditional TV is not as widespread as we think and that the reasons for those who change are different than what we think.
But one fact still stands. TV is still the best advertising medium. Just because a medium is popular does not mean that it is a good advertising medium. Just because a medium is less popular does not mean that it is a bad advertising medium. The two issues are completely different questions.
As Jakob Nielsen wrote about online ads in 1997, TV is warm and the internet is cold. The internet is dry and informative but television is magical and entertaining. Guess which one is better at planting seeds and building brands over mass audiences? A Thinkbox report found the answer in that TV is a medium that taps into the emotional part of our brains much more easily than online channels.
And human beings typically make decisions with the emotional part of our brains and then justify the choices later with the rational part in our frontal lobes. Guess where TV fits in.
The data proves the point. Karen Nelson-Field, a professor at the University of Adelaide and the founder of Media Intelligence Company, gave this presentation at a recent ReThinkTV event in Australia.
More people actively view an advertisement on television compared to the same ad on YouTube or Facebook. Facebook is the king of passive viewing. Many people on YouTube are not viewing at all because they listen only to the audio while doing something else.
Advertisements on television take up the entire screen on television but not on YouTube or Facebook. Ads on YouTube or Facebook take up 30% or 10% of the screen respectively.
These two factors — attention and coverage — make TV a much better advertising medium than YouTube or Facebook.
And that means TV is best for brand advertising.
So, TV advertising results in the most long-term profit.
And TV is overall the most efficient medium.
Now, as I said, I have no skin in this game. I’m not an advocate. But since I’m presenting at a TV conference, I wanted to offer some final advice. If I worked in TV, this is what I would do.
First, go on the offense. There are so many people who work in digital marketing — and those who are in university who want to go in online marketing — who know nothing about the benefits of TV. They don’t know that it’s a medium that allows you to be a lot more creative because, let’s be honest, a lot of digital marketing is boring and entirely forgettable.
Don’t let those who are biased towards digital mediums and tactics frame the debate.
As Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman has noted, we need to counter the falsehood that TV is dying by pointing out that it’s having babies.
TV is larger than ever before.
There is a lot more TV being produced today than there was in the days of every country having only a few networks.
As I’ve pointed out, total TV viewing time is unchanged. But that time is fragmented among numerous channels and programs. A media buy for any given program will reach fewer people, yes, but it will also cost less. That means that your TV ad budget can be more flexible and dynamic and spread across numerous channels and programs.
But overall, live TV and related mediums will still be important because the nature of the medium itself is best for advertising and it still dominates video viewing for one simple reason.
People will always want mass-produced entertainment. That will never change. What will change is the pipe over which it is delivered and transmitted. But that can be managed.
If the TV industry collectively does any major PR campaign within the marketing community, I would recommend that it address these main points. (I would go into detail, but this slide could be its own presentation.)
Within the online advertising world, there is a crisis around viewability issues, bots, and outright fraud that does not exist in TV. Unlike the digital ad world, TV and radio’s numbers as well as print circulations are reported and then audited by independent third parties. Unlike the online ad world, TV, print, and radio average numbers represent actual human beings. TV does not use any tracking or online surveillance marketing, which is causing many people to block Internet advertising.
This is what you should be telling anyone who advocates turning away from TV and towards digital ads.
We are all doing marketing – and we are all simply doing it over various online and digital mediums in the process. We can do tactics such as brand advertising, public relations and direct marketing over traditional or online channels. We should not be ‘digital-first’ or ‘offline-first’. We should be channel neutral and use the best media mix as the customer-facing research determines.
In terms of advertising, TV is still clearly the best way to go. And TV is certainly not dead. Thank you.