The symbiotic relationship between social and TV – strong alone, better together…


As a ‘digitally native’ strategist in a ‘through the line’ agency, bias towards digital and dogmatism about ‘traditional’ advertising is my sworn enemy.

Unfortunately, it’s an easy trap to fall into. In the business press, we’re constantly bombarded with screaming headlines about the ‘death of’ television and print, brought on by the incredible disruption of digital in the industry.

But the reality is much less alarming.

Certainly, media spend should follow consumer behavior and based on latest figures, this is occurring. 1.8m Irish people visit Facebook on a daily basis, and three quarters of us visit YouTube at least once per week. As a corollary, Irish social and digital media ad spend is set to grow to around 43 million euro this year and according to the Marketing Institute of Ireland, in 2014 an average of 24% of campaign spend (non media) was focused on digital.

On the other hand, this growth can lead marketers to think in the simplistic manner that digital is ‘eating’ television advertising and to see a battle for supremacy between the two mediums. But for me, there’s an important distinction to be made – this isn’t a question of ‘either/or’. It’s not about creating a polarising argument about which option is better.

Actually, the most effective answer to ‘digital or TV?’ is ‘a combination of both’.

Most strategists will have read the seminal Binet & Field that looks at over 30 years of IPA Effectiveness Awards covering 700 brands. Though slightly dated now (four years old is dated in this rapidly evolving era!) it outlines how digital plays an especially effective role when it’s partnered with T.V.

TV continues to excel as a brand building medium on its own. Indeed this argument was supported by recently released IAPI and TAM Ireland data.

Profit Uplift

But thanks to growing synergies with online, and changing consumer behaviour it is even more effective when supported with digital activity. The Binet & Field research also found that campaigns focused on brand fame, that get talked about and that invoke emotional salience are by far the most effective for long term profitability. Again, T.V. is the key tool for this – the profit uplift associated with T.V. activity is far higher than any other channel.

But if the conversation can be extended online, a ripple effect occurs. Binet and Field found that adding an online response element to a TV advert boosts the efficiency of TV by a factor of 4x. Given our tendency to share every opinion on social media, it’s the overlap of both mediums that actually creates the best brand effects. From a repetition, cost effectiveness and efficiency standpoint, integration is vital.

We’re also in the era of attention deficit. Whereas previously the TV was the magnetic draw in an Irish living room, now smartphones, laptops and tablets suck attention from the box in the corner and onto the smaller screens.

‘Second screening’ – the process of using a secondary device while also consuming television, has become a default behaviour. According to Google, Irish consumers have an average of 3.1 connected devices and we are rated 6th (out of 46 countries globally) in terms of frequency of multi-screening.

Secondary touchpoint

It goes without saying that fragmented attention requires fragmented media plans and campaign activity. And if we can re-activate people online, this secondary touchpoint has a halo effect across TV too. Even the most disruptive online ad network, Facebook, is seeing the light when it comes to the importance of overlap. It has recently adopted more traditional buying and measurement tactics to woo TV advertisers. Using integrated Nielsen data, ‘Target Rating Points’ buying on Facebook will let advertisers buy video ads on the site based on the percentage of a target audience that will see an advertisement across all channels. The company says that by complementing TV campaigns with Facebook video ads, it can help to extend reach, efficiency, and effectiveness — in other words, more people see it, click to watch, and convert to actual sales.

While T.V represents a proven, wide-reaching, immediate impact, brands are using social as a cheaper megaphone to bolster broadcast campaigns, or to extend the characters and themes they use in TV into a richer, deeper story online – the ‘transmedia’ effect. Though it’s a big, bolshy tech company and has plenty of cash, even Facebook doesn’t see the need to undermine the power of ‘television in tandem’. On the contrary, it wants to facilitate it, and for good reason. According to recent research from Nielsen, a 19% increase in targeted reach was instigated when TV and Facebook ads were combined versus TV alone. This rose to 37% among those under 30, the company stated.

Digital offers scale and reach along with highly effective targeting. Combine that with the brand building impact of TV and a campaign becomes far more impactful – a ‘surround sound’ effect occurs. It’s a symbiotic relationship. This is particularly relevant in a media environment as small as Ireland’s.

The value of T.V. advertising is undisputed. Rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. Michael Wolff argues that it’s ‘a medium of value and exclusivity, unlike digital’ in his excellent contrarian book ‘Television is the new television’. But at the same time supporting T.V. spend with digital is now mandatory and the importance of ‘multi-channel’ campaigns is only going to increase.

Strong alone. But even better together. As marketers we shouldn’t forget that.