The changing viewerscape

James Milward explores how TV consumption is changing and what it means for marketers.

By James Milward

There is no doubt the TV consumption landscape is currently undergoing a great upheaval.
Linear, appointment TV is suffering and messaging on the medium is becoming more diluted. The way people can now receive, digest and share information is rapidly barrelling toward social and mobile platform-based usage with many divergent properties competing for audiences.
We’re seeing four key properties – social, second screen, addressable and on-demand TV – emerge as strong audience contenders, presenting a considerable challenge for marketers to find new ways to create value for their advertising dollars.
In this case, though, change is actually good. What we’re seeing is an evolution from the network to “networked.” Marketers need to look no further than altering their messaging strategy from one major medium to a network of media.
If we’re honest with ourselves, as much as users are able to disregard banner ads on the web, people have been going to great lengths for years to avoid watching traditional TV ads. Even while watching a show, a viewer might flip through a magazine, check their BlackBerry and post on Facebook.
Adding complication, the technologies and platforms used change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up.
As a result, marketing models must move away from trying to capture the captive audience, and become brand enablers of behaviour. Once we accept the fragmentation, there’s a reward in doing so: the considerable data and key alignment with multiple audiences that can occur.
The following are some of the most interesting developments that will be key to embrace:

On-demand TV watching, including Netflix, Apple TV and online streaming sites, along with torrents and Megavideo, will continue to cannibalize traditional appointment viewing. While this decreases the ability to advertise in traditional 30-second commercial blocks, it opens a huge opportunity for marketers to help audiences connect with this free content. Doing so could offer a huge appreciation towards the brands involved.
The trick is finding ways with online services, set top boxes and a price point that everyone can live with. The good news is engagement when watching on-demand content is greater and less distracted. As a result, the ability exists to create proprietary ways to deliver much more relevant video advertising and to do so in a manner that generates much higher recall and purchase intent than other video advertising services.

Social TV and second screens
Integrating social networking audiences and second screens into TV content is a vital way to address disconnected user behaviour.
MTV VIP Pass offers a feed of various behind-the-scenes cameras with a picture-in-picture of actual live broadcasts. When Reese Witherspoon accepted her 2011 MTV Generation Award, an overhead camera showed her while the audio corresponded with the behind-the-scenes cameras. Layered over top of the screen were social chats, live polls, MTV’s photos and my favourite — a “share this first” window. This feature is ingenious, as it highlights video clips from the broadcast shortly after they air, prompting users to share them on Facebook or Twitter. It’s an immediate and effective way to kick-start content-sharing at the moment people care the most about it.
VIP Pass highlighted about four hours of coverage during the MTV Generation Awards. During these hours, the key content sponsor Sprint was featured prominently directly where people were engaging, offering alignment and visibility previously not possible on TV in a 30-second spot.

Addressable TV
Allowing TVs and other home devices to be wired with addressable ads will be more powerful in helping direct ads, rather than placing them into regular broadcasts in the hope people won’t hit the mute/fast-forward button.
Using technologies like Rovi, data can begin pouring out from analytics to IP addresses that reveal geography. On top of that, metrics can output direct psychographic and demographic information.
With these kinds of data, genre-specific ads are a possibility – for instance when selecting a family show, audiences would see family-based ads. This allows suppliers to merge TV ads with online-based marketing techniques, and bring together web metrics for TV campaigns, with real-time dashboards that can be monitored and manipulated, as well as create metadata for each individual show.
Adapting the marketing landscape to this overall paradigm shift is a fundamental change that will take time and be confronted with hesitation by ad agencies and TV networks concerned with losing money. But once we’ve accepted the reality of user behaviour and the mind and skill sets are achieved, the opportunities will be abundant.

James Milward is the founder and president of Secret Location (,
a Toronto-based digital agency and production company specializing in strategic insight and storytelling for brands, agencies, broadcasters and producers.