Impressions Matter

TV ad sales organizations are moving as quickly as possible to an “impressions based” world.  This means that rather than selling on ratings, the size of an audience for a particular show or event, advertisers will have the ability to target and pay for the specific consumers they seek to influence regardless of what program they’re watching.

Video, social and other forms of “digital” media have done this quite successfully for years, often at the expense of dollars previously allocated to television ad buys.

The migration to impressions based buying is good for all stakeholders.  Media sales companies can monetize impressions that in the past were overlooked because the shows that attracted those audiences were poorly rated.  Brands and agencies can better target their desired audiences, reduce waste and have greater transparency into the effectiveness of their investments across television and “digital” advertising.

This is why the news in the media industry is dominated by announcements of new products and technologies to deliver on the promise of impressions based buying.  Legacy systems don’t support buying in this way so these new investments are critical.

However in the rush to modernize the process there’s an existential risk for TV sales organizations. Excessive messaging to marketers and agencies that the future of TV sales is about new “products” to deliver impressions overlooks what makes advertising on television unique in the first place.

Watching television makes an impression on a viewer, not just in terms of eyeballs to be counted, but in the sense that the medium creates powerful emotional impressions on viewers.

Context matters.  What a person experiences when watching Monday Night Football or This is Us is profoundly different from that same person’s experience with other forms of media.  Even with the massive expansion of choice and media fragmentation, the communal, lean back experience of television offers the best opportunities to meaningfully connect with large numbers of people at once.

You may be able to reach the same number of people in your target on Facebook or through online video, but the impression made on the consumer is not the same because the TV viewing experience is fundamentally different.

TV makes a deeper impression on the viewer, a relationship is forged, a unique opportunity for a brand to influence and persuade is created.

Not all impressions are created equal, both in terms of what that word means for the media community and for the rest of us.  Investments in better buying and planning systems, or new “products,” are critical.  But if the TV buying community really wants to win back investment, focus more on the impressions made versus the impressions available for purchase.

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