Comcast: 'New TV' requires a rethink on ads

Comcast Spotlight (NASDAQ:CMCSA), the MSO's advertising sales division, has released a white paper exploring how fundamental shifts in ...

Comcast Spotlight (NASDAQ:CMCSA), the MSO's advertising sales division, has released a white paper exploring how fundamental shifts in the TV viewing experience have opened new opportunities for advertisers. New distribution points and technological advancements have enabled TV advertisers to reach consumers throughout the full marketing funnel. "New TV" comes with new rules, however, and demands refined advertising strategies to achieve the most effective results.

"Contrary to the accepted industry narrative, TV today is thriving, with time spent viewing video reaching new highs, and it remains the most powerful way to reach consumers. It's just a new TV, one that has evolved with more content and more consumer access," said Hank Oster, chief operating officer and senior vice president, Comcast Spotlight. "It's important we help advertisers understand the way the medium has evolved and how to harness the abundant time spent and its reach to grow their businesses."

"Our clients are asking us for new ways to use TV that drive greater addressability and more accountability. But change is hard," said Justin Evans, vice president of data strategy, Comcast Spotlight. "Big data has arrived in TV. It has expanded the way advertisers can use the medium, not just for awareness, but as a full funnel solution, to drive consideration and conversion as well."

The paper indicates that programming has been on a 20-year journey, moving from mainstream fare to increasingly more sophisticated storytelling. Quality content and access to that content has never been stronger, pushing viewers' time spent with video to new highs. Examples include:

  • Creators are spending $65 billion per year on new content creation (MoffettNathanson Research 2018 Forecast for Production/Program Spending).
  • 495 original scripted series were produced in 2018, up from 216 in 2010 (FX Networks, 2018).
  • New access has led to binge watching and the resurgence of evergreen content, pushing total TV/video consumption up to more than 5 hours a day (5:24) - 65% more time than adults spend with non-video digital (Nielsen Total Audience Report, Q2 2018, adults daily time spent with TV/video).
  • Households spend 43 minutes more with TV daily than in 1983; time is spread across more content and accessed in new ways (Nielsen, HH viewing, broadcast year 1982-83 compared to 2017-2018).
  • More advanced data is another factor shaping new TV, creating a new value proposition for the medium.

"While new viewing options have made TV advertising more complex, data helps to solve some of these complexities by making TV smarter," said Evans.

More robust data comes from a variety of sources, such as advertisers, TV manufacturers and MVPDs, including Comcast set-top box data. With the data now available, marketers can focus on specific customer segments beyond broad age and gender criteria, similar to targeting in digital media.

Campaign goals can shift from driving broad awareness to driving lower funnel metrics, including consideration, intent and sales. It shifts the focus from exclusively using content to reach audiences and requires broadening the scope of networks, dayparts and programs.

In order to optimize a campaign in the new TV landscape, Comcast says, advertisers must let go of long-held assumptions and understand the new viewing realities. For instance, according to insights gained from Comcast set-top data:

  • Reach is not limited to top networks: The average household watches an average of 17 different cable networks per month.
  • Primetime is not the only valuable daypart: Two-thirds of all viewing occurs outside of primetime.
  • Live viewing is not limited to sports and news: The vast majority of viewing, 87%, is still live.

Comcast Spotlight has been working with advertisers on deploying data-driven campaigns, reflective of the new TV marketplace, in more than 25 markets. The findings, as shared in the paper, reinforce the benefits of employing new TV tactics.

For instance, Comcast Spotlight's analysis of traditional TV campaigns in comparison to campaigns employing the rules of new TV suggested the following best practices, according to Comcast set-top data:

  • Run broad and deep: Among 85 campaigns analyzed, the five highest-reaching campaigns achieved 81% reach and ran on 37 networks; the five lowest-reaching campaigns achieved 30% reach and ran on only 16 networks.
  • Run long: Reach continues to build after week one; in week 10, on average, campaigns delivered 184% increase over week one, and in week 15 they delivered a 227% increase.
  • Add different formats: Linear TV campaigns that add video on demand (VOD) can deliver as much as 17% of their unique reach in the non-linear format.

To support TV's evolution as a full-funnel solution, Comcast Spotlight is also working to help advertisers prove attribution by measuring the success of a TV campaign in driving visitors to an advertiser's website. Again, research indicated that in one case study employing new TV tactics - including a balance of audience and content-focused targeting - website visits showed a 13% lift during the course of the campaign, compared to a 5% lift using a content-focused strategy alone.

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