TV today is more than scheduled programs that broadcast over cable.

It’s streaming content from Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO Max. (One-fourth of all TV minutes are viewed via streaming, according to Nielsen.) It’s YouTube and TikTok videos. And yes, scheduled programs broadcast over cable.

And viewers are no longer reliant on their TV screens — though today’s TVs are internet-connected, voice-controlled and smarter than ever. They also watch video on smartphones, tablets, watches. They stream through gaming consoles and Fire Sticks.

According to Leichtman Research Group, Inc., 87% of TV households in the US have a connected TV (CTV) device, like a SmartTV, streaming player (i.e., Chromecast), game system or another device that enables TV streaming.

And this number doesn’t account for those who use phones to watch content. Nearly all Americans — 97% — own a smartphone (Pew Research Center) and, in 2020, Neilson found more US adults consumed media via smartphones than both live and scheduled TV.

For marketers, this evolution of TV offers up some previously untapped benefits.

TV's All About Data, Data, Data

In the past, marketers used basic demographic info to target their ads — with age and gender the primary categories. Today’s smart tech, along with third-party streaming apps, collects much more data in comparison, including:

  • Location
  • Demographics, such as age, race, gender, marital status, etc.
  • Content watched, even DVDs (through automatic content recognition, or ACR)
  • Time spent watching content 
  • Devices used to watch
  • Third-party apps used
  • Web browsing habits

And with that data comes a lot of opportunities. Marketers can use it to better target prospects with relevant ads and retarget people who’ve shown interest. They can ensure cohesion across channels and devices — a user moving from Netflix on TV to YouTube on a smartphone, for instance.

Or, like the Kaplan Group, a commercial collections agency, they can use the information to continually optimize campaigns.

Dean Kaplan, CEO, told CMSWire, “We collect data on how long a viewer spent watching the ad, which elements they clicked on and whether they shared the ad. This data is used to help us understand which parts of the ad are working and which are not.”

With this knowledge in hand, said Kaplan, the company can tweak its campaigns accordingly and improve conversion rates.

So TV marketers have more data than ever before. But what does that data look like when funneled back into video ad campaigns?

Related Article: How Evolving Smart Tech Is Changing the Customer Experience

Interactive Ads Lead to Better Engagement

In the past, when a TV ad would play, it would show a video for 30 seconds or so, and that would be that. If someone wanted to learn more, they’d have to pick up the phone or remember a URL.

But that’s not the case with modern TV.

Today’s ads have the ability to be interactive. Viewers, using a remote or their fingers, can click a button that transports them to an online store, or participate in a short story or enjoy a quick game.

Learning Opportunities

“Interactive video gives leads a reason to actually want to click on your ad and engage with your business,” said Sean Nguyen, director of InternetAdvisor, an internet service provider (ISP) search tool. Even if that lead doesn’t go further, explained Nguyen, having them interact with the ad makes it more memorable.

In the past, InternetAdvisor has used interactive ads to ask users which ISPs they think service specific areas.

“This sort of ‘quiz’ format has improved ad engagement a lot compared to the ads we ran before,” said Nguyen. “And we’ve seen a 60% increase in traffic to our website from those ads as a result.”

Joshua Rich, CEO and founder of Bullseye Locations, an integrated location solutions provider, said his company uses interactive ads to allow users to pause, mute or skip ads entirely.

“Compared to the traditional ads,” said Rich, “these interactive ads have driven 40% greater time spent watching the marketing videos and made them roughly around 30% more memorable.”

Kaplan has seen similar benefits with interactive campaigns. The Kaplan Group uses call-to-action overlays on ads that link to its website. “We have found that our interactive ads increase viewing time by 37% and generate a 5x higher click-through rate compared to traditional video ads,” said Kaplan.

With such good results, the answer is clear: viewers like interactive content, and they’re willing to engage with it. And, when fueled by data-backed insights, marketers can ensure the content is highly relevant to each individual, increasing the likelihood of a click.

TV Marketing: Are You Missing Out?

“Evolving TV has been changing the digital customer experience,” said Rich. “Today’s customers are now able to be fully connected and online…24/7.”

And that’s a good thing, he added. “This has helped businesses to expand their reach and get their brand message across widely,” he said.

And as tech evolves, who knows? We could see TV ads that inspire a whole new kind of interaction — like AR goggles leading branded, real-world scavenger hunts or fully-immersive VR worlds.

But one thing is for sure. Brands who fail to tap into TV marketing — or hesitate on increasing budgets — could miss out on the rewards.