It's been the cry of internet platforms for over a decade now: TV advertising is inefficient, and it stinks. Move your dollars now! But the dollars haven't moved. In fact, as a percentage of media mix, TV has been growing over the past few years. Why? The answer is simple: psychology.
There are two sides of the coin that are preventing online advertising from reaching its potential: brands' and users' psychology. The good news is we can adjust and overcome these challenges.
On one side, brands are sticking to what they know because as cable TV becomes more fragmented and targeted, gross rating points (GRPs) go up, and it works. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. On the other side, internet users' psychology maintains a certain expectation of how they consume content, leading to a direct disconnect of TV-style ads with internet intentions.
The value-added theory: Brands' psychology
Brands have been buying GRPs since the 1970s when they were invented by Mediacom. Ever since, the joy of multiplying the frequency of a 30-second ad by the percentage composition of your target audience in the program block for which you are buying has earned the hearts of media buyers everywhere.
Online marketers attack this atrocity of measurement, screaming of how imprecise it is and how people are spending more and more time browsing the internet. The TV buyer's response? Guess what -- time spent watching TV per person in the U.S. has gone up by nearly 25 percent over the past 15 years.
Even if the GRP measurement is a bit imprecise, brands are rational (not necessarily correct) to continue increasing their investment in TV because the audience is there and staying longer. The average U.S. person spends four hours and 20 minutes per day watching TV, compared to the two hours and 35 minutes they spend online per day.
If you are fighting for online budgets, stop trying to convince brands that the opportunity is in the growing time online. It's easily rationalized away by looking at increasing TV viewership. To instill change, online pushers must consider the value-added theory.
The value-added theory was created by Neil Smelser, issuing that social change requires six steps to achieve completion. Generally, the theory states that you must have stakeholders who are equally aware of a problem and the strain it causes on the current system. Once the problem is clearly defined, there must be events that spark change and collective action.
So far, brands have not been convinced yet of step two -- that there is strain on the current system because online marketers focus them on where the time is currently being spent. To merely respond to the nagging of online marketers to move dollars, brands often oblige by repurposing their TV assets into online channels. This doesn't work.