The TV model is starting to change and there’s little secret why: in 2017, digital ad spending will exceed TV for the first time ever. As always, TV advertising is unique because of its emotional appeal, the power of long-form visual storytelling, and its ability to draw mass audiences at specific times. But as media automation technology becomes adopted, marketers implement data science techniques, and audience attention is fragmented across multiple screens, the pressure on the TV ad model to adjust is on the rise.

The big question, then, is what is the best approach for closing the gap between TV and digital ad buying? And the answer lies in the largest anthropological dataset to have ever been collected: social media. Social data, with its “limitless focus group” of 2+ billion people, offers television marketers the biggest, most granular, most customizable dataset they’ve ever had. Here are just a few reasons why it could be the game-changer:

  • Sequential Messaging
    Linking TV and social also has the benefit of sequential messaging. Once a TV ad airs on a program, people who post about that program in linear viewing can be encouraged to take action with targeted social ads.
  • Audience-Based Buying
    While true addressability for TV will require new infrastructure from MVPDs and networks, social enables immediate audience-based buying capabilities. Data can be collected in real time on real behavior, eliminating the lag time of traditional measurement approaches. The massive sample size of social media—billions of people versus 40,000 households—can be sliced and diced to provide actionable insight on a very granular level. All this means that marketers can quickly create and address new audience segments to reach new markets.By enabling audience-based buying, social makes it possible for TV marketers to target diverse customer segments with higher specificity. And, because social data is highly customizable, advertisers can define custom segments which can be built out into TV audiences at a respondent level whenever they want.A brand seeking to grow market share by purchasing programs with which a competitor’s audience is engaging. Or, a brand wanting to reach people interested in fishing with a particular message could do so by using those who have mentioned “fishing” or are engaging with the interest on social.This was proved out when a major motion picture utilized social audience segments for TV advertising on Turner networks to target people who demonstrated interest in similar films and TV content. The socially-optimized TV ads on Turner programming drove nearly 3X more social engagements compared to other cable advertising during the same period demonstrating how social can drive to improved TV targeting immediately and without improvements to TV infrastructure.In addition, a brand can segment and understand what creative messages would resonate among its audiences by identifying its various social affinities.
  • Automation
    Again, true automation for TV will require advancements from MVPDs and networks. However, social can help in the ecosystem that will make data-driven TV marketing possible and ultimately more efficient and effective. Automation will help brands achieve the scale needed to match the right ad to the right person at the right time. Social data helps close the loop to automated buying because social data delivers insight into the planning and measurement of TV advertising, and can be automatically collected and processed.

There’s no doubt that TV advertising will evolve pragmatically. It is unique in ways that other mediums simply can’t match, including the ability to reach a mass audience at key times with the power of visual storytelling. But online advertising is leading the way in targeting, efficiency, reporting, and measurability. And marketers are increasingly being required to close the accountability gap between TV and digital. Fortunately, social media can be the bridge.