Q&A: What every marketer needs to know to drive tune-in

Matt Weisbecker unpacks the complicated TV landscape and explains how marketers can drive better tune-in

Platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video make it seem as if there’s no end to the amount of TV content that’s available these days. While that’s good news for TV junkies, it’s daunting for TV marketers who need to gain viewership for their programs. It can be frustrating with what to watch as well for a consumer, so many options and yet how often do you find yourself saying “What should I watch?” or “What was that show my friend mentioned?”

To understand what really drives tune-in, our teams at Epsilon-Conversant analyzed dozens of tune-in campaigns that reached more than 14 million TV viewers in our e-book: 5 ways to drive tune-in with digital marketing.

We sat down with Matt Weisbecker, VP and general manager of media, sports and entertainment at Conversant, to talk about how TV marketers can adjust their approach in a changing industry.

Get even more insights in the e-book: 5 ways to drive tune-in with digital marketing

We’ve seen the TV industry change a lot in recent years, but what specifically has been the most challenging for TV marketers?

Matt Weisbecker at Variety Summit

Matt Weisbecker: The biggest challenge for TV marketers today is audience fragmentation of both how consumers consume content and—because of that fragmented consumption—how to reach them.

There used to be the four major networks; then cable came along, and channels increased to the hundreds; and now with streaming platforms, there are thousands of options to consume television content.

It’s just getting more difficult than ever to reach people and build an audience around linear tune-in. In the case of driving tune-in the networks themselves had tremendous reach. Although they do still have great reach on occasion, it is significantly less than it was just 20 years ago. They are not the only fish in the sea anymore when it comes to where people go to be entertained.

Now that their own audiences have shrunk, network marketers need to reach people in more places. They need many more platforms and channels to reach the same amount of people, and it’s gotten more complicated to do that and truly understand unique reach and frequency as they plan their media across so many platforms. Now with technology and precise data at the individual level, it’s gotten easier.

Where should TV marketers start when they’re trying to increase their tune-in rates?

Weisbecker: Develop campaigns that can actually be measured against tune-in. If you can’t see if the campaigns actually affected tune in, you can’t be effective. But you need good tech and data to do be able to do this.

At Conversant, we focus on meaningful measurement toward the end goal—in this case tune-in—not impressions or clicks. Our clients see the tune-in rate and lift that they’re driving for each program that they promote, which is more impactful.

What’s a strategy or variable that TV marketers may not be thinking about when it comes to driving tune-in?

Weisbecker: I would say the creative that’s used to market the show—specifically the format they’re using—is incredibly impactful, but often overlooked. In the entertainment industry, video is king. TV marketers tend to believe that the best way to get someone excited about their show is to see a promotion of the show in video form. They often aren’t considering display advertising because the general belief is that it won’t work as well and get a consumer interested.

In our report, it’s actually a combination of video and display that drives the best tune-in results. There’s a better tune-in rate and a higher average lift when video ads account for 55–65% of a campaign, so incorporating display in a significant way effectively drives tune-in, and it brings cost efficiencies you would not see with video alone.

Graph - Mix of video and display drives higher tune in

With many of the TV shows that we market, we assume that people have been exposed to that program before and have some awareness. We may have already served them a video within the actual media campaign, and with the fourth or fifth exposure it makes sense to switch to display.

Popular programs, like “Modern Family” or the Oscars, don’t need video to explain what they are. There are shows and franchises that have enormous familiarity, awareness and large marketing budgets behind them. The awareness is going to happen elsewhere, but we have a chance to break through all the options and push people to watch live and at a specific time.

As an example, if we’re building an audience based on viewing specific ABC shows and simultaneously running a campaign for a specific ABC show, there is a high chance those people already know about that show. We just have to remind them it’s on at 9 p.m., and a display unit or a full-screen interstitial can be much more effective than a video, especially when it comes to cost.

Keep in mind that this strategy does not necessarily hold true for a brand-new show that someone has never heard of. But it could help to promote that show in its second week after it has some awareness.

Although they’re part of the same media and entertainment universe, TV and movie marketers aren’t always categorized in the same buckets. What are the differences between digital marketing for TV versus movie theaters?

Weisbecker: They’re actually pretty similar. The creators of the content don’t typically have direct access to the consumer. Movie studios have a big budget for a film, but they rely on an exhibitor to sell the ticket to the consumer. TV marketers have the same situation with studios creating the program, and the cable company or the streaming service delivers it to the consumer, with or without ads.

These two industries are similarly aligned since the producers creating the product are not selling it to individuals. The media and entertainment industry is somewhat unique in that way.

But now streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video are starting to create their own content, building a media and entertainment version of direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands. It will be interesting to see how the TV industry shifts as more of these brands own the creation and distribution channels for content in the future.

What can we learn from other verticals that media and entertainment can pick up?

Weisbecker: Retail is a great industry to learn from. I recently had an opportunity to sit with Wanda Gierhart [CMO] from Cinemark who came from retail and brought that experience to media and entertainment.

Take loyalty platforms, for instance. There were not a lot of loyalty platforms in media and entertainment a few years ago, but they were popular in retail. They have come into the media and entertainment space in different and innovative ways, some with promising results.

How can TV marketers prepare for the future of the industry?

Weisbecker: Continue to learn, and don’t be afraid to fail. Personally, I think failing is really learning what does not work, and that is important in an industry changing as quickly as this one is.

In a fast moving changing industry, disruption happens at a huge scale. No one has a crystal ball to prepare for the future, but you can make yourself aware and learn about what’s going on today.

Testing and learning is really the most important thing here. Be prepared to fail—and embrace that failure—because you can’t navigate the future of this industry with a perfect campaign every time. Some will fall flat, and that’s okay. It’s a learning experience and a way to prepare for the future. With every failure, you can learn just as much as you can from a success.

What is the main learning that TV marketers should take away from this report?

Weisbecker: Using data to understand audiences is something that we have been doing for quite some time at Conversant.

What is new is the tremendous scale and accuracy behind these campaigns. Ten years ago, we could only do this with very small groups, so it wasn’t as accurate. Today’s data has scaled and caught up with the vision, so the insights that we’re gathering are meaningful and impactful.

The scale we’ve shared in this report is significant: It’s not hundreds or thousands of people we’re reaching with these campaigns. It’s millions. That kind of scale drives insights that you can trust.

To learn more insights about driving TV tune-in, download the full report.