As TV’s Ecosystem Complexity Increases, It’s OK to Demand Simplicity

By Beth Miller

It's 2022, and everything about media and advertising has changed. Or — has it?

Without a doubt, the media marketplace has fragmented, platform choice has skyrocketed, viewing hours have soared, and the capabilities that underpin today's TV advertising ecosystem have never been more robust. And yet, advertisers' goals and needs remain fundamentally the same. They want to build awareness among the right audiences for their brands, and they want that awareness to translate into sales.

In other words, the desired outcome remains simple, but the path to that end feels more complicated than ever. But for advertisers and their agencies, it doesn't always have to be. There's power to be found in getting back to basics when it comes to media planning conversations.

Partnership Leads the Way

The evolution of traditional linear TV into the multichannel opportunity that we know today has been exciting to watch over the past two decades. Behind the scenes, the race to unify consumer experiences across services, platforms and devices has been rigorous — but it's been nothing compared to the backbends that media owners, platforms and partners have been doing to try to connect the many dots on the advertising experience.

For those in the media-planning trenches, the rapid evolution of TV opportunities, capabilities, buying protocols and measurement standards has been daunting, to say the least. Even the language of TV — linear, digital, streaming, addressable, advanced, OTT, CTV, MVPD, AVOD, TVOD, SVOD and so on — has become more complicated, and not everyone is on the same page when it comes to terminology.

Ultimately, this rise in complexity underscores a fundamental truth of advertising in 2022: Partnership is everything. In a world of complexity, the relationships among brands, their agencies and their media partners have never been more vital to cutting through the noise and helping advertisers plot a clear path to their goals.

It's unrealistic to ask brand marketers to absorb and dissect the ever-changing intricacies of multichannel TV advertising, targeting, measurement and attribution. The most valuable partners are the ones that absorb those intricacies for their clients in order to free them up to do what they do best: to be strong stewards and ambassadors of their brands. This is true of agencies as it relates to the brands they serve, but it's also true of media partners with regard to their agency clients.

In other words, every step up the advertising chain you go, the simpler the decisioning and orchestration should become. This is a fundamental premise that our industry needs to keep sight of even in its eagerness to impress advertisers with the nuance of what's now possible in today's modern TV landscape. But as these intricacies could become more prone to overtaking what should be a highly strategic decision-making process, it's more important than ever that we get back to basics.

Start at the End

Forget for a second about the magnitude of what's possible in TV advertising today. Not every client needs an extensive or overly elaborate media execution. And not every client requires a national buy, particularly given that many brands don't even sell into every market.

In other words, just because we can doesn't mean we always should. Getting back to basics means getting laser-focused on one simple question: What is the advertiser trying to accomplish? All planning should start there, with the goal of finding the simplest, most affordable solution.

That's not to say that advertisers shouldn't be tapping into the advanced capabilities of TV advertising. In some cases, a sophisticated, highly targeted addressable buy might be the simplest and most cost-effective path to achieving a brand's goals, regardless of how much back-end work is required to enable the proper targeting and measurement.

That complexity shouldn't be a deterrent to such buys — but it also shouldn't be the attraction. The deciding factor on how media is bought shouldn't be how it's going to be executed, but rather what it's going to achieve. The right partners will be the ones that help their clients get to the latter, without worrying about the former.

To be clear: Agencies and media partners shouldn't be reducing complexity for their clients at the expense of transparency. Educating brand marketers on exactly where and how their given audiences are being identified, reached and measured remains an essential part of the agency and media partner role in the advertising ecosystem. But at the same time, these partners mustn't muddy the waters with overly complicated executions and confusing jargon.

Closing the loop on campaign outcomes should always come back to the beginning: Did the campaign accomplish its goals in the simplest, most affordable way possible? When the answer is "yes," you know your partnerships are working the way they should.

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

Beth Miller is the VP of national sales at New York Interconnect.