TV ad spending will decline in 2019. Is your sky falling?

We’ve all seen the headlines: total TV ad spending will have dropped another 3% in 2019 from $71 billion in 2018. Perhaps you’ve even had to have a meeting about it because… your sky is falling.

Being in the TV marketing world, you’d think this would be of great concern. Behavior is changing, the market is fragmented (more than it’s ever been), consumers are cutting cords and the connected TV marketplace will increase 38% over that of 2018 – all predictions that might be true.

But even if they are, I’m not concerned.

There’s a lot of room to make TV a more effective marketing vehicle for the vast majority of the marketplace. Apparently, I’m not alone in this thought. Recently, Marketing Charts asked 150 agencies and marketers: What would make linear TV advertising a more effective marketing vehicle? Here were the top three replies:

53% of those surveyed said “Better targeting capabilities”

47% said “Drive better ROI”

35% said “Better measurement”

Let’s break some of these down…


Better targeting capabilities will make television more effective.

Maybe. But at the right cost, linear TV targets just fine. We’ve grown accustomed to digital and the assumption that a perfectly positioned digital placement with exactly zero waste is the best form of marketing. I will agree it is a little shocking that we all still live with the archaic nature of a non-programmatic linear environment as we head into 2020. But for the most part, we’re overthinking this.

Because the majority of TV marketers are overpaying for their media, they are needing better targeting capabilities to justify the cost. This is why digital is so appealing to them. We’re not considering effective waste. Envision a living room filled with a family of five. If all of them are silent and glued to their phones, it’s a terrible sight. No one talks to each other anymore! But if the five of them are watching Dancing with the Stars together, it’s a meaningful moment. TV is the only acceptable form of distraction in a social setting.

All other marketing channels pose a lack of opportunity for a discussion and multiple demographic impressions amongst a group of people. We don’t just buy for ourselves. We buy for others. We have conversations about our favorite products, services and experiences. Sometimes we see the same ad way too many times and it aggravates us and then guess what we do… talk with friends about how that ad is aggravating us. Marketers don’t pay for those impressions or discussions. Those are the things that happen in television that don’t happen in digital. Targeting isn’t the holy grail if your costs are properly aligned, and you think strategically about what effective waste can do for your business.


Driving better ROI will make television more effective.

Is this a double negative? I’ll skip this one…


Better measurement will make television more effective.

How is this not the #1 response? TV is a big bet so if you’re going for it, ensure you can measure it properly.

Frankly, it’s been done poorly for too long. TV, of all marketing channels, is understood as the most effective marketing channel when measured and attributed correctly. I can’t even begin to think about how much money Google has made catching response from offline – both activation- and awareness-related. When you understand and correctly measure television, you lean into TV and recognize that betting on the Google/Facebook duopoly feels a bit like a gamble, even to a gambler. I regret to say there are far too many campaigns that aren’t being properly attributed, leading to an overall decline in TV spending.

From my perspective, linear television is growing. I’d consider this a fight for the fittest, as there are plenty of growing TV marketers that have cracked the code. It’s a channel that requires more thought, no doubt, but if your linear television spend is in decline, there’s probably a reason for that. And if that’s the case, I can see why your sky might be falling.