As an increasing number of streaming networks emerge and the trend of cord-cutting continues, it’s no surprise that linear television’s reach continues to decline – now reaching only 42% of total households. In fact, in Q3, linear TV reach was at its lowest of any quarter in the past two-and-a-half years. The total amount of minutes watched on linear also continues to drop, down 8% since Q3 2020.
This drop in reach and viewership can result in an increase in frequency waste: reaching fewer viewers and oversaturating those you do reach. However, the good news is that despite moving away from linear, audiences are utilizing more screen time than ever.
Many of the most popular TV programs reside on ad-free streaming platforms or premium cable networks. Recent shows such as Squid Game, Loki, and Ted Lasso, as well as modern classics like Game of Thrones, Dexter, and Stranger Things had massive audiences unreachable through linear TV buys.
But, with a creative approach you can leverage new methods and tactics to triumph in today’s television landscape. With the ability to reach these audiences by directing all or portions of budgets towards digital media, Connected TV (CTV), and even social media walled gardens, advertisers can actually engage these elusive audiences despite their attention going to ad-free or premium environments. This is known as incremental reach.
What is incremental reach?
What exactly is ‘true’ incremental reach? Samba TV defines incremental reach as engaging households who are otherwise unexposed by a traditional or linear ad through CTV and digital.
Many traditional methodologies that only measure incremental lift classify everyone into two categories: people who have been exposed to your ad and people who have not. But what if you could reach a nearly identical audience who would have been exposed to a TV ad, but no longer give their attention to linear programming in favor of programming via on-demand or ad-free platforms? This can now be achieved through an omniscreen strategy that targets specific TV audiences on their phone, tablet, laptop, or CTV apps.
When you utilize a large and representative TV dataset, you can measure incremental lift from a campaign by mapping the group exposed to an ad against a population that looks identical and watches the same category of TV shows, with the only variable being that they have not seen your ad.
By identifying when TV ads are airing and who has been exposed or not exposed to an ad, you’re better able to deliver relevant digital or CTV ads. This complete approach to identifying and targeting allows advertisers to capitalize on audiences missed by linear TV exposure to achieve significant and effective incremental reach.
What does this mean for TV ad campaigns?
As linear ad campaigns see declining exposure, we see more challenges for advertisers in reaching households with minimal or no exposure to these traditional linear-first campaigns. In the last year alone, we have seen a 22% increase in households with paid subscriptions to four or more streaming services – meaning 46% of all U.S. households now have multiple streaming options* outside of linear TV. As viewing continues to shift towards streaming on CTV apps, advertisers need to leverage the precision and rigor of digital to reach their audience at scale.
One of the key omniscreen targeting use cases for advertisers has been based on linear TV ad exposures. But what if potential viewers are shying away from linear TV and simply not being exposed to these ads at all? How do you tell your story? Fear not – you can capitalize on cross-device retargeting alongside a viewer’s journey to conversion. Advertisers can now reach those elusive viewers on their digital devices through proven data-driven strategies rooted in incremental reach.
Get smart with incremental reach targeting
An omniscreen approach allows you to tap into a myriad of strategies without the need to overspend on premium TV inventory. Here are three ways to achieve that incremental reach.
Retarget elusive and underexposed audiences
Retargeting audiences inherently underexposed to linear TV campaigns such as cord-cutters and light TV viewers allows you to focus on an underexposed population less likely to be exposed to a traditional linear campaign. This can help to maximize your incremental reach and optimize frequency of households you may be missing through just linear targeting.
Utilize digital and mobile targeting
Allocating a significant budget for messaging on addressable digital devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets maximizes your share of attention and competitive advantage. Second-screen attention cannot be ignored when planning your campaign. We continue to see successes of more than 200% lift in ad recall and conversion when second-screen targeting is leveraged across campaigns.
Be strategic about tentpole events
Tentpole events present their own challenges: limited inventory, prohibitive pricing, and declining viewership across many linear-only categories. Why spend massive chunks of your overall ad budget to expose audiences and beat out competitors during linear tentpole events when those audiences are easily addressable through a more affordable and complimentary digital strategy? Incrementality can be achieved with a divide and conquer game plan that makes the most out of targeting these premium audiences wherever their attention may be. Stay above the noise and within budget by targeting viewers during and after the broadcast through CTV apps and digital devices.
This is not to say you should all but abandon or ignore a linear strategy altogether. Rather, the key to optimizing ROI is to augment it with digital to truly maximize your reach and achieve a more holistic approach. The days of utilizing a traditional “spray and pray” approach to achieving incremental reach is now only resulting in incremental waste by oversaturating frequency on households already exposed to your linear buys and missing key potential audiences who have moved their attention to CTV apps. Plan your strategy ahead, optimize as you go, and use real-time insights to maximize your spend through true incremental reach.
* U.S. Households With 4 Streaming Services Doubled in the Last Year TheWrap.com (2021, June 15).
This post has been updated as of May 9, 2022.