This is the latest in our new series, Vantage Points. On a semi-weekly basis, it will tap the perspectives of various lookout points from around the local media and tech sectors. Though the format, frequency and distribution will develop, please contact mbolandATbiakelsey if you have insights to share.
Leveraging Local TV Broadcast Scale and Relevance to Ignite Foundational Change
By Maribeth Papuga
In local advertising circles, the unofficial start of Fall is marked by the TVB Forward conference, an annual NYC gathering of Local Broadcast leaders dedicated to consider the “economic, political, technological, viewer/consumer challenges and opportunities.”
Now in it’s sixth year under TVB President, Steve Lanzano, the recent confab was packed with critical multi-discipline panels. The sessions reminded the audience that despite the onslaught of issues around media fragmentation, inadequate measurement methodology, and mounting legislative and investment pressure; there are reasons to remain optimistic. BIA/Kelsey helped support this year’s conference by assembling a panel of local content and digital experts who are championing multi screen video and providing more relevant and specially curated local market content across the US. A key theme from the panel is that successful innovation won’t come without broadcasters leveraging their scale and relevance in the marketplace.
TV stations serve as the patriarchs of local media mainly because of their core advantage to deliver localism, reach, impact and trust. These four characteristics embody responsibility as well to drive change before the marketplace dictates it for them. Despite looming spectrum auctions, unbalanced regulations, and the changing media/advertising landscape; local broadcasters are the only single body that can best inform and manage foundational guidance for the broader local marketing and measurement ecosystem.
It is the deep experience and commitment to local broadcast standards that provides the necessary pragmatism to direct and lead. But this can only be done by finding a common bridge that encourages transparency and correlative links to local market data and the metrics to inform innovation. To be successful, it may require new partnerships and multi channel hacking sessions to encourage prospective stakeholders that accelerated change demands open architecture to deliver stronger returns and more profound advancement.
My passionate optimism is rooted in local markets as much as it is the stations. As an advertising agency veteran who spent a career defending local market advertising, I put it to the test by becoming a student of economic development and city planning. The initial intent was to formally investigate the unique local market characteristics that underscore economic opportunities marketers and agencies may be overlooking today. Through a diverse curriculum, I rediscovered business applications that validate a cross market transformation being built through collaborative local metropolitan networks and investments that propel data-sharing innovation. Local TV broadcasters have front row seats to this market transformation which only adds to their leadership relevance.
The TVB Forward conference accomplished its mission by delivering both positive and negative perceptions of issues facing local TV broadcasters. While some probably walked away feeling overwhelmed by the confusion and lack of definitive future pathways, it equally confirmed that the industry is quietly screaming out for more discipline and collaborative blueprints. One remark that was likely viewed as a reason to stay on the sidelines had called attention to the fact that the explosion of data and targeting capabilities is actually creating less clarity and will likely dilute future TV network investment in data. While it may be that the TV network investment did not provide payback, the flip side to this story is linked to the fact that nationally aggregated data is less valuable in its current formation. A clear opportunity for local markets to take affirmative action.
For local broadcasters, the benefit lies in the collective value of local market audiences that multiple channels share. In leveraging scale for relevant foundational data standards within and across all US markets, the industry will also encourage more clarity for tool development and investment returns.
The difficult part in this mission will be the willingness for a majority of broadcasters to come together and initiate building the first bridge. Although it may seem easier to rely on current measurement companies, or individual data solution providers to drive change, this tactical play could prove perilous for all participants. A shift to new metrics will not warrant one system provider replacing another, but demands better local market data that is indicative of the unique individuals who inhabit the markets TV stations serve.
Local Broadcasters already know their audiences and the stories that define them. They understand the challenges facing the communities they serve daily, and the unique differences that exist between neighborhoods and households. Data aggregators and household matching in its present form does little to truly display these communities. Who better than TV broadcasters to weigh in and lead development of industry foundational datasets?
The local TV broadcasters have a chance to define a new and innovative framework that encourages collaborative vendor participation but the window of opportunity is limited. It just requires leveraging the scale and relevance to ignite the movement.
Maribeth Papuga is BIA/Kelsey’s newest Executive in Residence. She is a 25+ year advertising veteran with specialization in local market media planning and buying. The majority was spent leading the local practice at MediaVest and predecessor DMB&B.