Not Dead Yet: Tech Promises to Breathe New Life into Linear TV

December 21, 2018

By Tripp Boyle

alashi/Getty Images

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of linear TV's death are greatly exaggerated. Yes, cord-cutting and OTT are changing the way viewers consume content, and raising challenges for advertisers and traditional broadcasters. But 90 million households still pay for cable subscriptions, and marketers spend some $70 billion a year to reach them. TV is still the biggest and most-watched screen in the home and likely will be for a long time to come.

Now, new technologies like dynamic ad insertion (DAI) and dynamic ad enhancement (DAE) promise to increase linear TV's value to advertisers, consumers and broadcasters and extend its relevance. A key enabler of that favorable outlook is the fact that virtually every TV device sold in the U.S. today is in some way smart or connectable. That is creating a huge window of opportunity for brands and advertisers to deliver a more connected, informed and personalized experience than was ever possible before.

DAI and DAE both leverage non-personally identifiable information (PII) data specific to individual households to deliver a more relevant ad experience to the TV devices in those households, but they go about it in slightly different ways. DAI involves delivering completely different spots to different households. A household with school-age children may get an ad for the latest model minivan, for example, while a single, 32-year-old male sees a spot for a sporty coupe.

Technology enabling DAI already exists, but there are some questions that will have to be resolved before its use becomes widespread. Typically, TV media buys are upfront placements, which raises the issue of how that buy gets altered and who benefits. Will it be the tech provider, or the network? Most likely, it will end up being some combination of both.

DAE is much easier right out of the gate. It uses a spot that the advertiser currently has in market and attaches a tech layer through the smart device to enhance the ad with interactivity, shoppability or personalization. For example, an ad for a laundry detergent could have an overlay attachment that allows a viewer to enter their phone number and get a coupon delivered instantaneously to their mobile device. DAI and DAE use the same datasets, but DAE uses them to enhance an ad unit rather than replace it in its entirety.

The big advantage DAI and DAE offer to marketers is obvious. Using data to deliver an ad that is more accurately targeted to a specific household increases the odds that it will be seen by a viewer who is more receptive to it and more likely to convert. The technology also opens up new opportunities for data collection and measurement, bringing real-time digital metrics like engagement and time spent with a spot to linear TV. Brands now have access to a completely transparent snapshot of how specific audiences are responding to their message on TV, cut by network, program, state, designated market area (DMA), even by day and hour. Being able to take actions against the best performing audiences across other screens in a timely manner, based on how they responded to a TV spot, is invaluable in driving more efficient attribution.

The technology will return benefits to broadcasters and consumers as well. It will enable networks to provide more value to their advertisers, so that even with shrinking inventory, they will be able to justify rate increases against higher-quality reach. The value ad for consumers is that they are getting messaging relevant to their needs in their everyday life delivered directly to them via their biggest and most-watched screen. They are being offered value from an advertiser in a moment of heightened awareness.

All the building blocks to deliver on these promises are already in place. What's needed now is a ramp-up to scale, and achieving that is going to require a robust effort to educate consumers about the kinds of experiences their smart TVs are capable of delivering. Advertisers are going to be on the front lines of providing that education. As they step up their efforts to introduce these experiences in their ad spots, that is going to drive consumer awareness of what's now possible in linear TV.


Tripp Boyle is SVP at Connekt, where he is responsible for driving strategic business deals and partnerships with advertisers, brands, and content companies.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

You must be logged in to submit a comment.