Crawford says TV stations must clarify offerings and further automate buying process–just to “stop the bleeding.”
In the world of media buying, Kathy Crawford, president of local broadcast at MindShare, is widely considered the dean of spot TV. In this interview with TV Newsday’s Jean B. Grillo, she addresses audience engagement, automation and what stations must to do to at least maintain their share of national advertising.
What do stations need to do to attract more national spot TV business?
I am always surprised by this question because, while stations ask it all the time, they really don’t want to know the answer. They would rather maintain the status quo and hope that the inevitable doesn’t happen and, of course, it does. This was true when they were faced with local cable, Spanish language and now the digital environment. Naturally, when it all came crashing in, the stations were left with “what happened?” I could spend a long time on this subject, so let me just touch on a few things without delving into them deeply and in no order of importance:
We have to clean up the back room. As ratings go down, the number of spots to be estimated, purchased, maintained, billed and paid gets higher and higher.
We have to decide what we want to be when we grow up. Are we one station or three, and if three, how many more ratings get siphoned away? How are they bought and sold? Are ratings the right methodology to measure? Are we selling TV and Web and what else? Is the way we are buying now the right way for the future? We all need some answers.
Engagement and ROI are big issues for advertisers this year. What do stations need to do to demonstrate how effective their commercials are? How engaged their viewers are?
Very few stations are selling product placement or any extension of a 30-second spot. Yes, we have Web sites, but that isn’t the only thing a station can do to earn a client’s budget. We have learned a lot from our network partners and we need more of that on the local level, albeit local stations have less local-only inventory. Right now, without a Web address or a phone number behind the commercial, we don’t have a way to measure real ROI. Unless there is an offer that can be acted upon, we can’t measure much, except, perhaps, leads or product purchase in the case of DR. Now, do stations have the staff to build ROI models for clients? It isn’t just about promotions. So, in reality, it isn’t only the stations that really need to get this together, it’s the agencies and clients as well.
Are any stations selling time in their digital channels yet?
Yes, a few of them. And that is too bad because we don’t know yet what most of the stations out there are going to do with their digital channels. Of course, we also don’t know what they are called, or whether we can actually put them into our systems.
Are advertisers changing the way they use spot TV?
They are beginning to, but please understand that the term spot TV includes cable and many clients are interested in VOD and the interactive side of television—thus, the interest in Web components to a broadcast buy.
What percentage of a spot buy typically goes to broadcast TV and what percentage goes to cable?
Few clients of ours break it out that way. We much prefer buying spot TV as one unit, including Hispanic. We shouldn’t buy any media type in a vacuum. The LPMs have clearly taught us that viewing has changed and we must identify and go where the audience is.
At the AAAA Media Conference in March one automation expert predicted that spot TV sales could rise 25% once back-office operations are fully automated. Does that sound right to you?
No, it certainly doesn’t. But it will stop the bleeding to some degree.
As I just discussed above, the system we are using in both the process as well as the computer system is antiquated and requires many workarounds. For example, we cannot put Web components to a buy into our system. We have to jury-rig it, and on and on—ratings, preemptions, Web, et cetera. So, we have to now define how we are doing business today and in the future and then commit to building that. But this will take a lot of work and we need to get started.
What do stations have to do at this point to make buys easier?
Get electronic immediately. It is no good to just send an invoice electronically. We need contracts, revisions, make-goods preemptions, downloads of NSI data (or LPM data). While I recognize that we live in a Wall Street world, we need to move. It is getting too late and right now spot TV is the most labor intensive of all the media types.