Don’t give up on TV yet

Targeting has always been the single-minded imperative of our industry, television being the outstanding exception. But television is in the process of taking on a whole new dimension, one that could rewrite what we know about fragmentation, targeting and managing options. Which is important, since our future will surely be characterized by more choice, not less.

Targeting has always been the single-minded imperative of our industry, television being the outstanding exception. But television is in the process of taking on a whole new dimension, one that could rewrite what we know about fragmentation, targeting and managing options. Which is important, since our future will surely be characterized by more choice, not less.

Whatever else it is, television is very much a work in progress; given its role as our principal social looking glass, that may be its eternal fate. And, while its progress through the sleepy ’60s and ’70s could be considered dynamic, it is nothing compared to what we are about to witness. Television, wide awake as ever, is now moving at a fearsome rate.

One important aspect of recent events is the emerging union of channel and content, the stage-setting for which has characterized the worlds of communication and finance during the past few years. True, channel choice and content relevance are not fully synced up currently. But in its starring role, the medium will prevail.

For one thing, the stakes are too big and the players are too rich, smart and powerful to fail. In this, the CRTC was correct in allowing the biggest and best to lead, and, one suspects, even visionary in waiting for them to become sufficiently ‘converged.’

Obviously many recent licences were given on the basis of a business plan and a content concept, with the tacit understanding that appropriate content would follow. That commitment is being lived up to, though progress is slow. And with the exception of some young diginets and a few others, this lag doesn’t seem to be keeping advertisers and their buyers away.

No doubt television channel choice – and content variety – will continue to proliferate (Toronto’s menu grows as this is being printed). No doubt mistakes are bound to be made. But on balance, the growth will be guided by progress in television’s ability to manage the technological and business aspects of channel development and branding. That includes both content creation/tailoring, and message/audience measurement.

While the short-term implications of this are unsettling, especially to those who feel uncomfortable with change, the longer term implications are a bigger, stronger and better industry. Those with the mentality and means to grow with these opportunities are in for an exciting and rewarding time.

Here are some things to look forward to:

Content options will increase, lead by the development of digital technology and more gathering of material from mixed sources worldwide.

Content quality will improve, though ‘quality’ will be less a result of gala production values than of arresting, riveting relevance (sheer substance triumphs over mere style).

Mixed media models will increasingly dominate the landscape and culture. Growth in optimizer development and use will continue until the practice is perfected and it spills beyond television planning into every area of the business.

Content and channel will likely become one and the same, as we continue to leverage the value of ‘destination’ viewing. In this we can all learn by studying almost anything Moses Znaimer has created.

Tools will continue to evolve. Eventually, we’ll be able to measure the true value of custom-tailored advertising carried on customer-tailored shows, viewed by smaller but more loyal and attentive audiences.

Qualitative target issues will increasingly become the key determinant not only of a channel’s distinction, but of its value.

Feedback and data processing advances will alter the way we measure and value everything. Theoretically, we could even see the valuation of ‘target moments’ which could eventually herald minute-by-minute television rates.

Sherland Forde is president of MediaVest Worldwide Canada. He can be reached at: sherland.forde@darcyww.com.