TV advertising is an industry that needed reinventing even before the Internet came along. To be more precise, media buying is the part of the advertising industry that desperately requires a makeover.
For the most part, media is a blunt instrument as a way to advertise. Buyers are offered baskets of viewers based on survey estimates that give them demographics and geography and not much else. Plus the commercials, especially in spot TV, often don’t run where they were originally promised.
One TV rep firm president once told me “our job is to sell television vaguely” and that his business was “creating discrepancies and cleaning them up”. Discrepancies are ads that didn’t run as scheduled and need to be rescheduled.It’s as if you were booking a trip and found out that instead of going from New York to LA, you went to Chicago twice. And you didn’t find out until after the trip was over.
This is the Six Million Dollar Man – we have the technology – we could fix him. But will we? Most TV viewing is done through cable boxes that at least know where they live. More importantly, TV is steadily shifting over to be an on-demand medium, either through actual on-demand streaming or via a DVR.
If the cable companies agreed to take on the role of Double Click for television, helping their content partners insert commercials in real time based on real criteria, the process of TV buying could become far more efficient and generate more money for the media with fewer commercials. Commercial clutter is choking free TV.
Will this ever happen? Hard to say, but NBC being bought by Comcast could be a step in the right direction.