According to Business Intelligence “The TV business has had its worst year ever. Audience ratings have collapsed: Aside from a brief respite during the Olympics, there has been only negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011, according to Citi Research.” While the national network news seems to be sponsored by pharma companies consumers are consuming media elsewhere and time shifting their favorite shows because repetitive tv commercials are downright annoying.
About 5 million people ended their cable and broadband subs between the beginning of 2010 and the end of this year. Time Warner Cable, for instance, lost 306,000 TV subscribers in Q3, and 24,000 broadband web subscribers, too. And Tom Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, told Wall Street analysts he was “surprised” that 1.3 million of his 5.5 million customers don’t want TV — just broadband internet. “Our broadband-only growth has been greater than I thought it would be,” he said.
For the first time ever, the number of cable TV subscribers at major providers is about to dip below 40 million.
So why are ratings in decline?
We’re at the beginning of a major historical shift from watching TV to watching video — including TV shows and movies — on the internet or on mobile devices. Why? Because consumers just don’t have the time to sit in front of the TV when shows air; they would rather watch programs at THEIR convenience and with mobile devices and DVR’s that means time-shifting.
What does this mean for DTC ads ?
(1) TV is still good for building rapid awareness but the COPD and Cialis spots that are running are nothing more than annoyances to audiences who are tuning them out. Marketers need to concentrate on measuring awareness within target audiences and then concentrate on the channels that pull consumers into the brand.
(2) Digital marketing has to be more flexible to move consumers from awareness to taking action. The idea of creating a website and then using media dollars for SEO and online ads is irrelevant. Marketers need to understand the potential barriers to getting treatment and focus on real-time digital marketing initiatives to get consumers into their physician’s office.
(3) Increased frequency, today, is a waste of money. You need to understand the effective frequency and think “what is the next step to pull patients into the brand?”
Above all do not believe that digital marketing is less expensive than TV and don’t fall for the BS reports of DTC spending dollars increasing. Rates for TV are increasing and a lot of the current TV ads are being purchased in discounted bundles.
Will DTC marketing be able to make the transition from ads that intrude to marketing that pulls ? That remains to be seen.