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Sarah Lawson Johnston: Lessons Digital Video Advertising Must Learn as it Converges with TV

Sarah Lawson Johnston: Lessons Digital Video Advertising Must Learn as it Converges with TV

Linear TV has long reigned supreme over other forms of media consumption, but there is a new pretender to the media throne. Last year, eMarketer reported that digital video viewing rose by 5.7%, equating to two million additional people watching video over the internet monthly. According to Gartner, this shift in viewing habits is only the beginning; it is predicted that 85% of our TVs will be smart devices by the end of 2016. However, we are a long way from saying goodbye to linear TV. 

At the recent Financial Times’ Digital Media event, enthusiasm for video was palpable, but the clear consensus was that TV is just as relevant today because it is constantly evolving and converging. Brands like Sky are offering more varied services, such as NOW TV, which incorporates linear TV into the multi-channel viewing experience. Technology brands like Twitter are pushing cross-device boundaries with their availability of data, turning the device into a complimentary live second screen. 

My testament to the power of traditional TV goes beyond a personal fondness for sitting in front of the box — it still generates impressive results. Thinkbox figures show that TV delivers the highest sales return of any medium; £4.5 million per £1 million spent. Innovative brands such as Green & Black’s and Facebook have only recently made their first forays into the world of television advertising; proving that traditional is still relevant. 

Digital video may be the rising star, but it still has a great deal to learn before it can match the levels of ad spend and viewing figures that TV enjoys. To achieve parity with this established member of the technological ecosystem, there are several lessons that digital video advertising needs to learn. 

Focus on impact, not just volume 

TV advertising has the ability to make brands so instantly recognisable that many marketers see the channel as a must-have. While the reach of digital video extends to a greater audience, overwhelming levels of content are causing saturation. Last year, eMarketer reported that three-quarters of the internet population watched videos online at least monthly. What’s interesting is that this number is barely set to change until 2018. 

The emphasis, therefore, needs to be on impact rather than volume. Video must use more creative and personal storytelling to interact with its audience. Honda’s Civic advert is a great example, empowering the viewer to choose which story they want to see using their keyboard. 

Understand your audience 

Digital may be the next frontier, but TV is growing in sophistication when it comes to real-time measurement. Automated content recognition (ACR) is a significant innovation and can detect the precise moment that a TV ad is broadcast, enabling advertisers to gain an accurate view of exactly who is watching. This data can be used for monitoring associated uplift and ROI, as well as delivering related online advertising to support the TV ad.

To understand their audience, video advertisers need to know who is watching, where they are, and when they are at their most receptive. Attribution is a form of measurement that enables advertisers to see the impact of every stage of their campaign, across every channel. By tracking the success of their online activities, advertisers can pinpoint the perfect moment to display videos to achieve the maximum impact and improve performance. 

Improve viewability 

As linear TV viewers, we are not given the option to skip ads in real-time and therefore viewability remains high. Video is making progress in this area with the increasing use of autoplay, yet this approach still offers no guarantee that ads are in view. 

Last year, the Media Ratings Council changed the way video ads are measured –impressions are now counted only when the video occupies at least half the device’s screen and the content is viewed for at least two seconds. In short, minimal-visibility ads do not count. Though new standards are making a difference, the issue is still prevalent. Conforming to a new set of criteria is no guarantee that the audience will be interested enough to watch; brands must focus on creative storytelling that targets and holds the viewer's attention. 

The convergence of video and TV

The increase in multi-screen viewing has paved the way for a unified cross-screen experience, making convergence inevitable. For example, Video on Demand (VOD) already offers an imperceptible transition from linear TV to broadcast content online. For viewers, the experience is already seen as cohesive, and when the value to TV companies is considerable, there is no sense in remaining separate. 

Though the practical application of buying and optimising converged media campaigns may take time to become a reality, my opinion is that the potential benefits should be embraced. Existing collaborations have proven that video can be used to support TV and vice versa. Working together is the most logical option for the channels to capitalise on the omni-channel audience. 

The road to convergence may be full-steam-ahead, but digital video is not yet running at the same pace as linear TV. With the advantage of time and experience on its side, TV still has a few lessons to teach its younger counterpart. With more targeted engagement, accurate measurement, and enhanced viewability, video will be ready to join forces with TV in an unstoppable alliance.

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Sarah Lawson Johnston

Sarah Lawson Johnston

Managing director Europe at Mediaocean, Sarah oversees all facets of the relationship between the company and its European clients – from guiding the strategic partnership to account management to the delivery of Mediaocean products. She has been instrumental in shaping Mediaocean’s client relations, particularly in the UK & Ireland, since the mid-1990s. 

She joined the Donovan Data Systems (DDS) account management team in 1994, and rose to become DDS’ Director of Agency Relations UK & Ireland. From that time forward, she and her teams have been intimately tied with the major holding companies and large agencies in Europe, and across the world. Sarah graduated from Newcastle University in 1994 with a degree in Economics.

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