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[A version of this post originally appeared in MediaVillage.]

Marketing guru Seth Godin said the formula for building brands with TV was simple: “Find a large market niche that’s growing and not yet dominated. Build a factory. Buy a lot of TV ads. The ads will lead to retail distribution and sales. The sales will keep the factory busy and create profits.” The profits, of course, went to buying more ads.

In the digital age, TV has evolved into a multifaceted tool that can be used to speak to consumers as they flit between stages of the customer journey. A successful TV mix is one where you’re simultaneously generating awareness about your product and you’re catering more specific messages to segments that are most likely to buy.

TV awareness campaigns look very different than those of the past. They perform more efficiently because they’re informed by data and targeting, and instead of providing large audiences for single shows, TV now provides large audiences by stitching together audiences for smaller shows, meaning marketers can reach audiences more relevant to them at scale.

The safe choice: network TV

Digital media companies like to note that TV’s reach isn’t what it used to be. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has pointed out that the social network draws “a Super Bowl on mobile every day.” But network TV executives might counter that a Facebook view is only about three seconds. Some 103 million people watched this year’s Super Bowl, and that audience stuck around for hours. In our fractured media environment, it’s difficult to corral an audience of millions of people to watch anything.

A bigger, and often unheralded difference, is that TV audiences are more engaged with the content than they are for other media. Eye-tracking research by Dr Karen Nelson-Field at the University of Adelaide in Australia, found that in an average second, TV advertising drew twice the active viewing of YouTube and 15 times that of Facebook.

That’s why marketers continue to use TV. As Rich Lehrfeld, SVP, global brand marketing and communications at American Express, told MediaPost, “When we run a heavy TV schedule, we see a lift in sales and product awareness. We need to run two weeks of digital to get the reach of one day of broadcast.”

No wonder most advertisers still think TV is more effective for building brand awareness than online video, according to a Forrester/Association of National Advertisers survey.

The bold choice: aggregating TV audiences

Network TV executives are aware of TV advertising’s power. That’s why despite falling audiences, CPMs rose 10 percent this year, according to Media Dynamics.

TV advertising builds awareness, but there are ways to get more value for your buy than with traditional TV models. One alternative is to use data to find the same-sized audiences for a lower price. The ability to do so is based on the recognition that advertisers no longer need to buy TV shows as a proxy for their audiences; they can target actual audiences that are relevant to the brand. Such audiences aren’t necessarily gathered around a TV set but are consuming content via multiple digital devices.

Put it this way: would you rather advertise during The Walking Dead or advertise to a group of your customers who happen to be watching The Walking Dead and other programming?

Cadent’s network solution, for instance, aggregates inventory opportunities to provide access to national audiences. A fast-food chain we worked with recently wanted to be associated with a high-profile sports event without the premium-package cost. Our network solution delivered a full, national campaign that targeted sports and news network coverage of the event. After running more than 20 ads across the programming, the advertiser got 128 percent delivery of its full media plan.

The upshot is that like other aspects of the marketing funnel, awareness has been transformed by digital innovation into a multi-faceted phase of discovery. There are more ways than ever before to reach an audience with an effective awareness campaign. And TV isn’t a zero-sum proposition – marketers can choose both network TV and aggregating smaller audiences to reach the right person with the right message because these tactics are complementary and work well in unison.

As we’ll see, there are many new ways advertisers can use TV advertising to move people through the purchase journey.

For more on the customer journey, see the series introduction post.

See the next stage of the customer journey, Preference.