Changing Channels: Audience Targeting in a Fragmented TV Landscape

November 19, 2019 Ginna Hall

You have a new client who wants to reach a coveted audience: Women aged 18 to 34. You need to find out what these women watch and listen to before you can build a media plan.

You pull TV ratings from Nielsen, then head to other trusted sources for digital and connected device data and check out a few publishers’ sites before taking a deep dive online to see what other content resonates with this audience.

Hours later, you’ve built a monster of an excel spreadsheet, with numbers across platforms and channels. It’s a thing of beauty, and you’ve come up with some pretty great recommendations. But is it accurate? Are you comparing apples to apples when looking across channels?

You keep your doubts to yourself and your fingers crossed that your media plan will return the kind of results your client needs. You wish you had a single, consistent source for all this information.

Why Agencies Need Digital and TV Ratings to Thrive

These are challenging times for agencies. Digital transformation has changed the way consumers interact with brands and many are struggling to keep up. C-level executives in all industries need help driving business. But many firms have not been able to realign in the digital era to deliver value to their clients.

Until recently, agencies managed a handful of channels: print, radio and television. Now they are expected to be experts in traditional marketing and all things digital: programmatic, search engine marketing, video, social media, and email marketing, with more new channels emerging every day.

As every media planner and buyer is well aware, TV uses very different measures than the digital world, making it difficult if not impossible to add up total viewing for a show across TV, online, mobile, social media and other digital platforms. 

Agencies also face financial pressures and are doing more with less. Fees have been cut and workloads have increased as profit margins shrink. There is more competition than ever as publishers, technology firms and development shops slice off pieces of the pie that agencies traditionally owned.

There’s never been a bigger need for a single source of truth that gives media planners and buyers consistent, deduplicated ratings in a streamlined, accessible format.

Beyond Traditional TV

The media landscape has reshaped how consumers discover content. More than two-thirds of U.S. homes now have devices that can stream video, according to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report. While traditional TV continues to expand with new channels and features, emerging technology and connected devices are making their mark.

Agency brand strategists and media planners can no longer focus solely on traditional TV. These days, fewer viewers watch TV live. Increasing numbers watch on connected TV or on their phones or tablets, days, weeks or months later.

Consumers can choose to watch programming anytime, anywhere. This flexibility is enhancing the viewing experience. In fact, Americans collectively spend nearly 8 billion hours per month on devices such as Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.

Today’s living room is a true multi-platform environment, bringing together both live and digital content. With over-the-top (OTT) video content, advertisers and their agencies can hone their media plans to engage their best audiences, wherever they are.

Connecting With New Audiences

Networks and digital platforms are connecting with new audiences across multiple devices with original content and programming.  As content distribution has evolved, consumers’ viewing habits vary by age and platform. Connected devices allow brands and publishers to connect with harder-to-reach demographics, especially Millennials and Gen Zers.

The use of Internet-connected devices and smartphones is gradually replacing time spent watching programming on other sources. According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, viewers ages 18-34 spent only 22% of their media time watching live and time-shifted TV, while they spent 62% on devices (34% on smartphones, 15% on TV-connected devices, 7% on tablets, 6% on computers); up from 55% a year ago.

Consumers 13 and older who watch on connected devices spend an average of more than an hour daily, compared to 36 minutes on the computer and 24 minutes on smartphones and tablets.

While traditional linear TV still accounts for the majority of viewers’ time, OTT consumption has become a significant part of the living room experience. Savvy programmers now premiere a show on live TV and maximize their reach by extending their content on connected devices.

This presents advertisers and their agencies with a growing opportunity to reach new and  valuable audiences. With the increasing number of U.S. households using connected devices, comprehensive measurement is critical to understanding how consumers are spending their viewing time so that they can optimize media plans and provide an exceptional experience for clients.

The Future of Advertising

The future of advertising is fragmented. This leaves agencies on the front lines scrambling to pull and analyze data from an increasing number of sources.

The best brand strategy is built on finding opportunity—identifying content that key audiences engage with and gaps that competitors have overlooked. As more channels, services and formats continue to emerge, siloed metrics will no longer provide enough insight.

To identify opportunities and develop strategic media targets, advertisers and their agencies need a way to see and understand the entire landscape, not just pieces of it.

Learn More

Nielsen’s Total Content Ratings provides one deduplicated audience number for video content across all platforms. It’s the solution agencies have been waiting for.

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