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TV’s Moustached Asshats and the Inevitability of Innovation

Change is the status quo. It never stops. And yet, often anchored inside of that change like a rock in a river, is a stubborn system of power that prevents things from really taking off to the next level.

Usually that rock goes unmoved because the powerful use these things to keep a predictable order, to keep the money flowing come hell or high water and to prevent the speed of transformation undermining the position of the powerful and upending the marketplace entirely. 

In TV land many think Nielsen’s age/sex/GRP currency is the problem. What an easy target. They extort big fees from networks for the ability to sell against a standard that groups a red state soccer mom with a single urban vegan yogi.

But really if you think about it, the problem is bigger than that.

Selling the old way is easier. It requires less education and less risk, even if it holds back progress.

One problem is the moustached asshat executive that doesn’t want to take a risk of change because it’s scary. Change could mean restructuring an organization to optimize for performance, change could mean ultimately the end of a fruitful career milking the old-fashioned cow. If the moustache asshats think about it, NOT changing is actually scarier.

Another problem is the big agency systems clawing onto power it sees ebbing away as brands arm themselves with the truth data enables and growing capabilities to do buying, planning and measurement in house. Innovation is winning, at the expense of the old way.

For the 20-something media buyer, it’s still easier to buy GRPs and sell clients on old systems. So many agencies beat their chests about their innovations and plan against a GRP all the same. And while in fairness, many agencies are heading down a path of innovation, they need to demand change not make innovation an edge case.

Faux innovation replacing one broken idea for another is better than standing still but is not enough.

For instance, there are a bunch of shitty start up vendors that acquire a bunch of rough capabilities, smash them together and set up a smoke screen enough to leave those wanting a taste of change only the flavor of ash after getting burned. These companies are enabled by ad-hoc agency models and their poor performance pushes people back to the old way.

Let’s be real: “old TV” has run out of time.

While TV/agency execs milked the money on the old way as best they could for as long as possible, the AI-enhanced platforms starting eating up the attention economy. Ad-free Netflix, data-rich Amazon, immersive gaming platforms, social networking and now smart streaming aren’t just knocking on the door, they have let themselves in and are dancing on TV’s kitchen table.

But I didn’t write this out to just bitch about mustached asshats, (though I enjoyed that). The punch line is that amid that chaos, and all these problems there is a real chance to do something next level. TV is still the device people share in their living rooms. It’s still the best vehicle for delivering sight sound and motion, for breaking emotional ground at scale.

And so now we are starting to see things like addressable linear inside of TVs via Project OAR and Nielsen the also now ad-tech vendor. There is a rapid acceleration of advanced advertising departments and multi-platform experiences coming from networks.

There is business outcome measurement linking ads to performance. There are cross-platform ad buys yielding great results. People can buy a TV, connect it to the internet and have 200 free channels. Sports experiences are being re-imagined.

Like it or not, that rock in the river is eroding fast which means the next few years will transform the TV economy.

Now there will always be those that hide behind a rock and grow a mustache, milk an old cow dry and get lost in a smoke and mirror world (trying to use all the analogies to close this damn ramble), but in the end, we can probably all agree that playing it safe has never been more dangerous.