CBS Study: TV Trumps Digital in Spending and Reach

Data in hand, networks make their case this sales season

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With television advertising facing a new challenge from digital media, the industry is compelled once again—for the first time in 25 years—to tout TV effectiveness, this time with the help of new data analytics tools.

It's a common message to advertisers: If you want the biggest bang and reach for your buck, stick with television instead of shifting your ad dollars to digital.

Following last week's joint study that showed TV is the most effective advertising medium, today CBS joined the fight by presenting the findings of its own study. In cross-platform campaigns, TV soundly trumps digital in both spending and reach.

Speaking at the Advertising Research Foundation's Audience Measurement Conference in New York City today, David Poltrack, chief research officer, CBS, shared his network's findings on the cross-platform dynamics of 315 brands' TV and digital campaigns, based on Nielsen's cross-platform ratings (XCR).

Of those 315 brands that ran both digital and television campaigns on the system (including insurance, automotive and consumer packaged goods), the average target reach for the campaigns was 67 percent: 53 percent saw only television ads, 9 percent viewed both digital and television ads and just 5 percent saw digital ads only. Similar results occurred in category-specific breakdowns as well:

"It's clear from this that advertisers are not significantly reducing their television commitments and replacing them with digital commitments," said Poltrack.

Coupled with last week's Turner/Horizon study, the CBS data shows the networks are taking an aggressive approach during this year's upfront negotiations as they try to stem the migration of advertising dollars from television to digital. Poltrack said both studies highlight that "nothing's more effective than television, television's as effective as ever, and advertisers A) aren't abandoning it and B) certainly shouldn't be abandoning it."

Poltrack advocates advertisers use digital as a "supplemental element. Digital has value, but it does not replace television and certainly should not be funded by reducing the television budget," he said. "What we argue is the money for digital should either come from investment spending, expanding the advertising budget or it should come from other, less productive parts of the marketing budget."

And of course, that's a message that CBS wants out there loud and clear as negotiations heat up in this year's upfront market. Making a big upfront splash is important to the network as it guns for the top spot in adults 18-49 next season; CBS previously made the case to advertisers that it delivers more consumers across almost every product category than any other network.

In today's Audience Measurement Conference presentation, Poltrack also argued that "precisely targeted" digital campaigns are nowhere near as precise as one might think. "Of the targeted digital campaigns we're seeing, the best ones are delivering 40 or 50 percent of the target group. They're not delivering all of the target audience," he said. "So no matter how small your target is, if you want to saturate your target, if you want to reach everyone in your target, then the only medium that is able to do that effectively is television."

Poltrack compares the networks' newfound urgency to reinforce the power of television advertising to what occurred in the late '80s, when the advent of supermarket scanner data prompted marketers to shift money out of advertising into promotion. In response, the television industry and advertisers conducted the famous 1991 study, How Advertising Works. "That demonstrated that in fact advertising is much more effective on a return on investment basis, and that these promotional expenditures were not paying out on an ROI basis. That turned these things around, and the money came back into television advertising," said Poltrack.

"Going into this upfront, we introduced our Campaign Performance Audit approach, and Turner and NBC took their approaches as well, and started to really invest as much of this data we can get," said Poltrack. "It's coming out now, and it's very supportive of the argument that we have."

Poltrack said a key strength of both the CBS and Turner findings is "they're actually based on how advertisers are actually using media and how they're combining television with digital. It's working, it's effective and no one is running away from television."

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.