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TV vs Digital Video: Trends marketers need to know6 min read

6 min read

This week I attended Google’s TV & YouTube, Independents Day to uncover the latest happenings in TV buying and how this translates into the digital performance world. These are two worlds that are currently fairly removed from each other, so I was intrigued to learn more about how performance marketers can harness digital to supplement TV and the dynamics between traditional TV advertising and digital video.

By way of painting a picture of what we’re exploring, it’s worth bearing in mind that by 2025, Google estimates that half of viewers under the age of 32 will not subscribe to a pay TV service and six out of ten people prefer online video platforms to TV. Digital video’s growing power can be perfectly summed up by last month’s Brexit –  YouTube content such as this video encapsulates the rapidity and reactivity of YouTube.


Adam Smith, Google spoke on how we’re seeing a huge increase in the total viewing coming from online (ie on demand as well as YouTube pre-roll ads) rather than the initial live, scheduled transmission. People are living more flexible, dynamic lifestyles now – it’s a case of making TV fit into our schedules, when we feel like watching it, rather than the ‘appointments to view’ of days gone by.

Despite TV’s wane in the wake of digital’s rapid rise, an average of three hours and 49 minutes of TV is still consumed every day, with 45 minutes of adverts watched per day in the UK. TV is steadfastly maintaining its throne, taking up to 75% of the total media budget for UK advertisers according to Google. Break that down even further and ITV boasts the lion’s share of the market, followed by 4 and Sky.

Moving on to measurement, the key terms digital performance marketers need to know are:

  • ‘Impact’ refers to one person seeing a commercial once.
  • ‘Universe’ refers to the total number of people within a demographic set.
  • ‘TVR’ refers to 1% of the universe seeing the commercial message.

Over to TV trading and this is based on supply and demand, but in a much more static way than digital due to it having to be booked in advance.

Trading is based on broad audience targeting – much broader than we can achieve with online video. Seasonality significantly affects TV buying, for example summertime costs significantly less due to lower demands and impacts than Easter and Christmas. We also see this trend in digital video buying but on a smaller scale, with fewer spikes. Similarly and perhaps not surprisingly, the cost of locations are dependent on cost which varies on demand and impact, London being much more expensive than say Yorkshire.


Oli Jones, Google – Google’s Extra Reach tool looks at the reach of a TV campaign and shows how much additional viewing you could achieve on YouTube by adding it into your campaign plans. You can see the recommended budget to reach this audience on YouTube at the same rate as TV, as well as offering additional coverage cost and what can be achieved with more budget. See this Google report here for more information from its ‘5 ways for planners to get more from YouTube’ report.

Important to note however is that Extra Reach only includes inventory on YouTube, not wider digital video channels (e.g video on demand). It’s also only available on desktop at the moment.

Oli summed up his presentation by sharing a useful targeting tip: if you want to rigorously test YouTube against TV buying, go for the reservation option. This enables you to compare apples with apples because users cannot skip the ad, in a similar way to TV (excluding on demand TV where users can fast forward through the ads). The auction option however (skippable TrueView) is more cost effective, but not such a fair comparison to TV buying.


Rohan Gifford, Google  – Rohan opened with Google’s findings from its study of 56 case studies across eight countries in EMEA showed that the ROI for YouTube campaigns is higher than that of TV when measured at current spend levels. With optimisation over time the campaigns tested all improved to 100% for a higher ROI than TV. YouTube certainly has the edge in terms of campaigns being optimised with the data gathered, whereas TV just cannot compete with this because of its static nature.

Addressing the reports accusing Google of attacking TV, Rohan clarified that Google isn’t saying that brands shouldn’t be spending on TV, but it is saying that brands should be considering YouTube more when budgeting, because it clearly works! The main challenge in doing this is addressing low understanding and comfort around spending more on YouTube (and in general digital video buying), which needs to be worked on in order for marketers to take advantage of these benefits.

In terms of YouTube buying metrics, here’s some common terms demystified:

  • ‘TrueView’ – are skippable ads on YouTube (you can skip the ad after five seconds, and the advertiser is not charged). They’re only charged if the whole ad (or 30 seconds depending which comes first) is viewed.
  • ‘View Through Rate’ – the percentage of TrueView ads that are not skipped.
  • ‘Brand lift’ – brand lift experiments in YouTube allows a robust analysis of how impactful your YouTube campaign is on the user remembering your brand.

shutterstock_293731811Oli also addressed that top of mind recall shows that once you reach over six views of a video, ad user recall of the brand is significantly higher. This could indicate that the historic assumption that viewing an ad three times is requisite to make an impact has increased to six. Important to note is that this would be based on the media saturation users see online now, where there is so much media to consume it requires more impressions to make an impression on a user.


Chris Terry, Google  – Buying TrueView on Google’s DoubleClick ad platform allows you to see performance holistically across your other digital channels (PPC, display, affiliate and so on). This is beneficial because the style of buying fits that of display more than that of search, something that due to TrueView sitting within AdWords hasn’t been an option before. Now that it is available in DoubleClick, the more branding-driven marketers can embrace this type of campaign.

We now have active view for TrueView as well, which shows you the percentage of time the video was fully watched – a metric that is essential for video impact analysis.  Another new development is the ability to pull GRP (Neilson Gross Rating Points) data into DoubleClick, allowing an even closer comparison in performance to TV. You can read more details on this functionality here.

The ability to tell a story for your brand through connected user journeys is also another bonus of YouTube – the magic lying in being clever with what the user is shown next, based on their action.

For example, if they view the whole video ad you could show them a different video ad following it, whereas if they skip it you could either exclude them from your campaign or serve the same ad again to see if it has an impact the second time around – powerful stuff! And again, another reminder that video advertising doesn’t need to be static anymore with the power of online.