Reaching the Unreachables

I have three young children at home. As many of you will have discovered, as well as providing a healthy dose of laughter and tears, they provide a fascinating demonstration of the way that young people’s lives are shaped by technology. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to their media habits. My six- and eight-year olds have long since learnt the difference between live TV, pause-live, PVR recordings and STB on-demand content. They have a wealth of choice which was unimaginable when I was young!

For me, there were four broadcast channels. The remote control was the latest innovative new device to own. And every other weekend, if we had been good, we got to go to the video shop to rent a VHS! Now, the average home in the UK contains over 7 internet-connected devices, with many ways to access the same content. The chart below (from Mary Meeker) highlights this perfectly.


Times are definitely changing! But this raises some important questions… What does this mean for TV advertising? And is it still possible to reach the millennials with a good quality TV advertising experience?

In December I had the privilege of chairing a session entitled “Reaching The Unreachables” at the Future of TV Advertising conference in London (video available here: The topic of discussion was millennials and TV advertising and all the related challenges and opportunities. On the panel we had industry experts from Google, OMD, TV4 and Twitter as well as presentations from Facebook and Studio71, a multichannel network (MCN) owned by ProSiebenSat.1.

We agreed there was undoubtedly a shift away from live TV towards time-shifted content. But we also agreed that the shift is often over-exaggerated. Live TV is in rude health and will continue to be (in fact, there is even a small opposite shift in non-broadcast content with MCNs beginning to schedule live event television with their talent). Instead it is a time of great opportunity - with the astronomical, and generally incremental, growth of new forms of video content, there are more opportunities than ever before to reach audiences. 

We discussed how it is important not to ignore the context of these new forms of video advertising - some platforms lend themselves to a higher ad load, some platforms (e.g. mobile) work better with a lower ad load. And advertisers and publishers need to be mindful that they don’t serve long ads in front of short content. Ignoring this can be counter-productive as it is one of the things that is driving the awareness and usage of ad blocking software, more prevalent amongst the younger generations. But the panel all agreed that quality of creative is still by far the most important aspect with respect to advertising efficacy, whether served online or on TV, whether live or time-shifted. 

We also discussed the rise of the new online video stars. In my household, the biggest of these names is Joseph Garrett, or “Stampy Cat” as he is known to my kids. Most of the audience at the conference hadn’t heard of this 25 year old from Portsmouth. But amongst young children he is more well-known than Justin Bieber, with an incredible 4.2 billion YouTube video views. 

It is interesting that european broadcasters have begun to assimilate this new concept. ProSiebenSat.1, RTL, M6 and TV4 are all making moves within this space. And there are clear synergies between broadcasters and MCNs - the broadcasters can bring massive scale and financial backing to the MCN talent, whilst the MCN talent can help bring new audiences and opportunities to traditional broadcast. Through these means MCNs, such as M6’s Golden Moustache and ProSiebenSat.1’s Studio71, are even bridging the gap to feature-length films!

I ended the session by asking the panellists whether there were truly “unreachable” audiences. Jean-Paul Edwards, from OMD, said that he didn’t think there were really any unreachable audiences. He explained: “There is a chunk of society that you can very easily reach through broadcast TV, and that will remain the most efficient channel to reach that portion of the audience. There is another portion that watch hardly any [live TV] and you really need to use these new channels and techniques: the YouTubes, the Facebooks and Twitters of this world. And there is a large and growing chunk that sits between them, and that is where the nuance lies… around budget setting and the different tools we might utilise.”

Maria Wiss, from TV4, said that relatively we were such a young industry. She said this is really the first real storm that we’re experiencing collectively and that we should not worry. She closed the session with a very upbeat message: “The best is truly yet to come for marketers, for creators, for talent, for platforms, for technologies. There has never been a better time.”

And I very much agree with her. TV content is, and will continue to be, very strong. TV isn’t dying, it is just having children. And all these new means of accessing it and new variations of what constitutes TV, makes this area incredibly exciting and rich in potential. As Maria said, there has never been a better time to be in TV!

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