Will the demise of TV force advertisers to measure effectiveness?

by NIgel Hollis | March 16, 2020

For the vast majority of brands growing market share requires growing penetration which, in turn, requires reaching and influencing a wider audience. Until now, TV has been the primary reach medium, but with the advent of online video and ad-free streaming from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney the supremacy of TV is weakening.

That the reach of linear TV is eroding can no longer be in doubt. The latest report from Ebiquity, called ‘Mind The Gap’, follows up on their previous 2019 ‘TV at the Tipping Point’ and finds that while their estimates of the older viewers was correct they had underestimated the decline of the youngest viewers. So, while TV remains the pre-eminent channel to reach over 45s in the UK, its ability to reach younger viewers is waning faster than expected, particularly for the under 24s. It seems likely that a similar trend will take place in many other countries.

To reach younger audiences, advertisers ought to be able to replace TV with the digital channels that have undermined its dominance. And Ebiquity’s analysis finds that at an impression level YouTube builds reach faster than TV among the 16-24s and Facebook is as fast. Problem solved? Not so fast. Building impressions is by no means the same as making an impression. The analysis suggests that when completion rates are factored in, YouTube and Facebook still fall short of TV. Now that does not mean the ad fails to make an impression, but we know younger audiences are the ones who view digital advertising with the most antipathy and are likely more difficult to engage for any length of time.

This analysis inevitably leads to the conclusion that to be effective in a world where the pace of change is accelerating, good cross-media measurement has never been more important, particularly when it comes to understanding the incremental reach and impact that channels like YouTube, Facebook or TikTok add to linear TV. It is not enough to know the planned numbers, if you want to know whether your ad had real influence, then you need to measure whether the audience did anything different as a result or changed the way they think and feel about the advertised brand.

Advertising only pays its way when the feelings and ideas it is trying to convey stick to the brand and influence people’s current behaviour or brand predisposition. While frequency of exposure can potentially make up for less engaging and memorable content, as well as helping to strengthen memory structures, compelling content is the best way to ensure impact. Regardless of platform, be it YouTube, Facebook, print or TV, if your content does not engage attention your media spend and planning will be wasted.


The good news for the advertiser is that we have more tools than ever before to help figure out how to reach, engage and influence people in this rapidly fragmenting world. Advertisers need to understand how their current campaigns are performing across media channels and Kantar’s CrossMedia studies can help with that. Advertisers will have to adapt their content to whatever channel they are using, and Kantar’s Context Lab can help with that. Further, we can help advertisers understand not just the efficiency and effectiveness of their current campaigns, we can help them understand the optimal balance between driving short and long-term effects using TMROI or attribution models designed to study the influence on sales and brand.

While the last paragraph might read a little like a sales pitch, it really is a cry of frustration. I am fed up with marketers claiming that the metrics coming out of their ad tech stack reflect advertising effectiveness. They do not. At best they are a measure of efficiency, but they do not give you any idea of whether your content is likely to build your brand and drive sales now and in future, and that, after all, is the whole point of spending money on advertising. If you not changing people’s hearts, minds and behaviour, what’s the point? But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.

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  1. Guy Powell, March 16, 2020

    Hi Nigel,

    Couldn't agree with you more.  What's missing is the impact of media on equity that leads to some future value, as opposed to some short term conversion metric.  This is especially true for high consideration products where past engagement (upper funnel) delivers current lower funnel conversion.

    A shameful plug for a series of posts on the value of engagement: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marketers-afraid-popping-big-question-guy-r-powell/

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