Still buying TV ads? First max out digital advertising

Not everyone is accepting it but the state of traditional media is rapidly drifting away as we now live in a world where nearby, if not all, marketing actions can be quantified. Watching sports on television has declined by 10% and movies and other programs has dropped by an even steeper 13%. People are still consuming media and content, it’s just not by the same means – there are less eyeballs on TV, and more eyeballs on digital advertising channels now.


The longstanding argument for television ads is the merit that it helps with brand building – which is true. However, in an age where performance marketing via digital channels is ever increasingly quantifiable, why should (or would) boards fund advertising dollars for traditional, less quantifiable channels, compared to digital ones that can back up results with statistics? To date, and in the past (aside from a few specific examples, such as Google), publishers have worked hand in hand with ad agencies. This is because traditional ad agencies have consistently delivered business to the publishers for their clients.

Agencies are incentivized to get their clients to spend more money because that’s how they monetize and generate greater profits. Publishers on the other hand are not incentivized to quantify their audience (well, until now), because it’s difficult to find engineering talent who wants to work on ad tech (engineers want to build cool products; ad tech products aren’t so particularly wooing). Furthermore, these publishers have for many years been selling eyeball counts to media buyers because it’s easy to say we have X amount of eyes viewing our content, which sounds amazing. It’s why buyers have traditionally paid over $340K USD for a 30 second commercial on The Big Bang Theory, whom at one point in time boasted an average of 17.2 million viewers.

Digital acquisition enables better attribution

However, in the current state of performance marketing, digital reinvents this all because data can be tracked and for the first time – buyers can receive real data about if their advertising is working. The area of focus is not about eyeballs anymore, but rather about how these eyeballs perform, and what value does a buyer actually get out of it.

As a quick example, think of a retailer like Abercrombie – it can buy television ads to build brand awareness, but it can’t exactly nail down how many sales this derives. Comparatively, using a digital channel that has built the analytics infrastructure to provide clients with data on how their ads perform, such as Facebook, Abercrombie can now tell how much each dollar worth of advertising brings it. This is insanely useful in marketing, because a company using such channels can now easily measure their customer acquisition cost (CAC) against their customer lifetime value (CLV) and pump money into the channels that bring in the most valuable customers at the cheapest price point.

At this point in time, it now becomes important for publishers to push back against working with ad agencies and spend the time to figure out how to build tracking platforms for the ad spaces that they sell. This, in the long-term, will prove to be fruitful for the publisher (along with coming up with other monetization strategies, such as native advertising), as the buyer will spend more dollars with them, if they can prove it works for their audience. Technically, publishers are only in business because they can generate money off selling ads for products that people actually want to purchase. Therefore, they must pivot to meet the demands of what buyers want, rather than cutting corners by providing bare bone statistics that may not even be meaningful.

Channels need to work together

However, this still brings up the argument that I initially mentioned – traditional media, such as television is seen as a form of creative art that supports brand building. However, because there is so many channels that are now quantifiable, it makes very little sense to push money into television ads, unless they now become as quantifiable as the digital channels. Television ads, in turn, actually works hand in hand with digital channels. The common argument is that digital is less effective with brand building but more effective with generating purchases, especially with the rise of e-commerce. However, intuitively, television ads, despite garnering less people watching now (i.e. more people pause and skip ads, or just don’t watch shows on a television screen any longer), support with getting people to take the desired action through digital.

For example, previously, running only a television ad without any digital channel meant that this had to initiate awareness, build interest, create desire, and make users take action. TV was predominantly good at generating awareness and building interest (because of having so many eyeballs), but combining it with digital allows for the most important part of the process to take place – creating desire and getting customers to actually take action and make a purchase. Digital, however by itself, can handle the whole process, but it is sped up with television because it takes long to generate awareness and interest via digital. Therefore, it makes sense to max out digital spend and then use excess funds on traditional channels to speed up the process.


Ultimately, the media and performance marketing landscape is rapidly changing with the rise of digital, something that is now more quantifiable. This forces publishers and agencies both to stop working so closely together and rather focus on building tools that meets the ever changing desire of ad buyers.

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