Flexibility Is the New Media Optimizer

July 14, 2020

By Steve Lanzano

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These are tough times for marketers, no doubt. Consumer behavior is unpredictable due to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses large and small are in varying phases of reopening, and media consumption is experiencing drastic shifts. All this uncertainty calls for advertisers to be nimble with their tactics and to seek out flexible and trusted media opportunities. I’d go so far as to say flexibility will go down as this year’s marketing word of the year.

Throughout all the turmoil, one medium is healthier than ever, and even growing its audience: local broadcast TV. Nowhere else will you find a combination of reach, stability, trust, influence and today’s key ingredient, flexibility. Besides acting as a vital source of news and information at a time when people need to know the latest updates on the pandemic, possible business openings, and renewed restrictions, it’s also where marketers will find their most important audiences in significant numbers.

Local TV’s ubiquity across every market in the country provides marketers with extensive message reach and local execution — an important one-two punch when some parts of the country are reopening and others are girding for a wave of COVID-related infections. This flexibility allows brands with national reach and local distribution the chance to “think national, act local,” to borrow from the phrase.

But don’t take it from me. Here’s trusted media agency leader Kathy Doyle on the topic: “Local broadcast TV is a vital medium during recovery advertising because trust will be a necessity between brands and consumers, especially as we rebuild the economy,” explains Doyle, EVP of Local Investment at MAGNA Global, the centralized IPG Mediabrands resource for agency intelligence, investment, and innovation strategies. “As the nation takes a needed local-first approach in reopening, advertisers and marketers who shift national dollars to spot TV will capitalize on market-specific business opportunities, not to mention build deeper, stronger relationships with consumers.”

As advertisers come back to the marketplace where flexibility in timing and geographic targeting are paramount there is no more effective, locally-targeted medium than broadcast TV. With the upfront marketplace up in the air, media agencies are seeking scheduling flexibility so brands can adjust their campaigns according to demand. Local TV offers today’s needed flexible lead times to place ad schedules along with the ability to customize messages by DMA.

Trust happens to be just as important to the American consumer as to brand managers. People of all ages and ethnicities living through the pandemic are eager for as much relevant information and news they can find. So, it’s no surprise they are turning to reliable local broadcast TV stations and websites. It’s been proven time and again that local broadcast TV is the most trusted source of news. In a recent Dynata study, 83 percent of respondents said local broadcast TV station news was their most trusted media source; trust in government sites was 76 percent, cable news was 71 percent, and social media was at the very bottom of the list at 45 percent. When asked which source they feel gives them the best information and updates, twice as many respondents cited broadcast TV news as cable news.

To savvy marketers, reach and audience size are essential when considering where to spend brand dollars. Here again, local TV has shined over the course of the pandemic —‑with younger audiences growing especially fast. A recent analysis of advertising on news examined the performance of a single ad running during the average weekday 6 p.m. local news across the seven network affiliates in 71 metered markets. That ad delivered 29 million impressions for adults 18 and older, three times more than the combined viewership for cable news on major networks in the same time slot.

Specifically, in Washington, one of the first states to be hit with COVID-19, Seattle’s local TV reach among adults 18 and older is undeniable. According to an analysis of Nielsen viewership data for April, local broadcast TV weekday evening news viewing garnered 1,098,802 Live+1 impressions, six times that of cable news viewing which had 178,073 Live+1 impressions. Both broadcast and cable tallied news viewers between four and eight p.m. Monday through Friday.

Finally, it’s worth noting that as consumers adapt their shopping patterns to include more online purchasing, TV messaging has the power to drive website traffic and influence their purchase decisions. A GfK Purchase Funnel study showed that 91 percent of respondents 18 to 34 and 85 percent of respondents 18 and older said TV ads influenced their online searches. Another GfK Media Comparisons study reveals that broadcast TV has the highest online shopper reach (79 percent of adults 18 and older) of all ad supported platforms, beating out social media at 61 percent, cable TV at 53 percent, and streaming TV at 40 percent.

There is very little marketers can be sure of in this turbulent environment; what they need more than ever when planning and buying media is to be nimble and adaptable. In the words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” In this stormy time, flexibility is indeed the new media optimizer and local broadcast tv is marketers’ safe harbor.

Steve Lanzano is the president and CEO of the Television Bureau of Advertising.


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.


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