Why TV May Never Die

Video killed the radio star. Digital killed television. Wait. Scratch that. Nothing seems to be able to kill television.

Since the early 1990s, the Internet has dramatically altered the way people consume media. In the time since then, marketers have struggled to keep pace with the ever-changing and increasingly complex media ecosystem. Many have hypothesized that digital media would displace TV, the perennial king of the media mix, as the most efficient way to reach our target audiences. In fact, advertisers often contact me for a POV on whether they can ditch TV from their media mix altogether.

With buzzwords like “cord-cutting” constantly trending on LinkedIn, this attitude is no surprise. However, my data continues to show otherwise. In today’s lightning- fast, disjointed, and competitive media market, TV remains a resilient mainstay.

Across all categories, we continue to see TV generating incremental advertising recall. See the example below from 3 different categories; among those who are able to recall a campaign, a significant proportion of that recall is coming from TV specifically.

Yes, it’s no secret – traditional TV viewership is declining year-over-year. In fact, there’s mountains of data available that explicitly shows this. Just look at these alarming figures from Nielsen:

Still TV doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. As a matter of fact, advertisers who choose to cut mass media from their communications plans are typically on the receiving end of a tough lesson on its resiliency.

Here are two recent case studies that showcase this:

Case Study #1:

After 3 years of investing in TV advertising, a client decided to refocus their efforts on digital media. Hoping smarter targeting and contextually relevant messages would unlock greater efficiencies. As you can imagine, the opposite occurred. Despite no change in media spend; their digital and social media advertising efforts were getting lost in the noise and campaign recall across all media declined by almost 50%. Highlighting the importance of TV’s halo effect when working in tandem with other media.

Case Study #2:

Though not specifically TV, this case study shows the importance of maintaining a balanced media mix that includes a broadcast medium. A client had been primarily using digital advertising with some light print media for 3 years. After adding radio to their media mix, the campaign’s recall in tracking doubled.

The impact of a balanced media mix (that hopefully includes TV if you can afford it) does not stop at ad recall.

In case study #1, brand awareness saw a 24% decline the year TV was dropped from the media mix. While in case study #2, as a direct result of moving away from their digital only efforts, not only did ad recall double, but so too did brand awareness.

So what, now what?

The steady decline of TV viewership coupled with shrinking marketing budgets, has definitely dethroned the perennial king of the media mix. TV is no longer a no-brainer for every communications plan – on the contrary, for many it’s a nice to have.  

If your media strategy calls for TV as part of your advertising efforts, consider it money well spent and continue for as long as your budget allows.

Broadcast media reaches the most eyeballs and does so in a non-personalized, “my neighbor probably saw this commercial too” kind of way. It extends beyond pushing contextual “buy this shirt you looked at 3 weeks ago” selling messages and has the ability to create water cooler talk and genuinely impact pop culture. Helping to drive campaign recall and brand metrics in ways digital advertising (so far) has not been able to.

TV may not be king anymore, but it’s still part of the royal family in the media mix; and until another channel can shape pop culture the way TV can, it’s not dying anytime soon.