We’ve yet to see evidence that TV viewers are abandoning the tube for the Web. But advertisers are getting ready to do so: Not because they don’t like TV, but because strike-weakened ratings mean they need to find other ways to reach their audience. Andrea Kerr Redniss, head of digital buying and planning for Optimedia US, a unit of Publicis Groupe whose clients include T-Mobile and Sanofi Adventis, explains the upcoming shift.
Silicon Alley Insider: We’ve heard that ad dollars are going to leave TV because of the strike. When will that happen and where will they go?
Redniss: In some cases you are starting to see it now. TV’s overall unique audience is down and ratings are down. Many of our clients are looking at the middle of February and knowing they are going to be significantly behind in terms of delivering [ad impressions]. We are looking to make that up in digital. If we can get the impressions on television, we want to stay there, but we are at a point where we are going to have to make some calls, take some dollars back and reallocate them.
SIA: Is there enough online inventory to accommodate the shift? And does it make sense to create some sort of online “upfront” so advertisers can reserve space in advance?
Redniss: I have never been a big proponent of the TV upfront. It forces people to buy in a format I don’t think is necessary anymore. As a whole, online has a surplus of inventory. Sure, Yahoo will tout that it sold out its home page, and MySpace will say it sold out sponsorships. Gaming sites reaching men may sell out. But we can still reach them on a news site or generic sports site.
SIA: What about network shows streamed online?
Redniss: If I want to align with a program — “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Heroes”, for example– and they had streaming capabilities, that will be sold in the television upfront. There isn’t much pre-roll online video available in the scatter market.
SAI: If more TV ads move online, does this mean we have to watch more annoying pre-roll ads with online video?
Redniss: The pre-roll ad impression has more impact on a consumer than a 30-second TV spot. It’s up to the advertiser to make engaging ads that aren’t as annoying and publishers need to put in frequency caps, so you aren’t forced to watch the same ad ad-nauseum.
SIA: What do you think happens to the television upfront? Will it happen if there aren’t any new scripted shows?
Redniss: It will be interesting to see how it works out. The problem is clients are going to be reluctant to reserve time if there is no programming. Advertisers will have to buy impressions against demographics, which I don’t think the marketplace wants to do. Or, they are going to have to hold back until the networks have content to talk about.
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