TV Viewership is Changing in Hampton Roads

Is your ad strategy on course?

If you’re a business in Hampton Roads weighing your advertising options, traditional TV (broadcast and cable) continues to provide huge reach and impact. But how people consume various media, and more importantly how their video viewing habits are shifting, is essential for you to know to effectively plan where your advertising dollars should be spent.

Microsoft Word - proofed_TV Viewership is Changing in Hampton Ro

Nielsen numbers show that US consumers still watch over four hours of traditional (Nielsen calls it “live”) TV every day. But that number has dropped from four hours and 29 minutes per day in 2013 to four hours and 11 minutes over the past two years. The pace is precipitous and consistent. The amount of DVR viewing has held pretty steady, but the amount of time spent on smartphones has nearly doubled.

Three very important points to keep in mind here:

  1. The shift to online/streaming viewing is generationally driven. A recent report from ABC showed that 28% of TV watched during prime time by 18-34-year-olds is online streaming or video on demand, compared to 11% for those age 25-54. Microsoft Word - proofed_TV Viewership is Changing in Hampton Ro
  2. This shift will accelerate. Smartphones are already in the hands of 80% of US consumers, but the lion’s share of mobile online TV is viewed by only 20% of those folks. This is not an “80-20” rule that will stand. As network apps and “TV anywhere” gain awareness, that number will experience a hockey-stick effect. Add to that the fact that nearly 60% of households now have an Internet-connected TV, and the opportunities to stream video skyrocket.
  3. These are no longer individually unique media consumption behaviors. People don’t consume one medium at a time. Look around in a restaurant, airport, doctor’s office—or your own family room. Who is looking up, and who is looking down at their mobile device? Nielsen reports that 84% of smartphone and tablet owners use those devices while they’re watching TV. YOU NEED TO BE IN BOTH PLACES.

The graphs here are published data from Nielsen’s “Total Audience Report.” It’s a great deep dive to understand what’s going on in the world of media consumption. But to help understand what’s happening, and what will happen with TV viewership locally, I reached out to some local media experts for insight.

The bulk of ad spending for local broadcasters and cable still ties to traditional TV advertising: :05-:60 spots inserted into linear broadcast (that includes cable) programs. And, of course, the stakeholders feel that will continue. “Local newscasts (including weather, traffic and high school/college sports) remain some of the highest-viewed programming on local broadcast televisions in any market.” Says Doug Davis, president and CEO of WAVY. “Newscasts provide a daily, engaged viewer for local advertisers…a viewer who is watching the news…not DVRing it.”

Kari Jacobs, WVEC president and GM, agrees. “I believe TV viewing will remain strong largely due to locally produced news, live sports and big events (e.g., the Oscars). It will be interesting to see which (streaming) delivery methods (Netflix, Roku, etc.) will excel.”

But Gordon Borrell, CEO and president of Borrell and Associates and nationally recognized expert on local market media trends, is a bit more pragmatic. “The fact is, people are watching more ‘video’ than ever, but it’s the old model—broadcast TV—that’s in trouble. I wouldn’t recommend that a TV advertiser necessarily cut back TV. Rather, I think an advertiser needs to determine the appropriate mix of media available today that is needed to support whatever promotion they have at the moment.”

Local broadcasters, as well as Cox, have long offered digital advertising packages and online content to help you diversify your media mix and reach their viewers online. “We certainly recognize the impact digital has on traditional viewing patterns,” Jacobs adds, “and our digital options for content and advertising options reflect this change and will continue to evolve.”

But with the shift to streaming and on-demand viewing through Internet-connected devices, advertisers are clamoring for a way to measure their text boxvideo advertising investment that makes sense online and offline. That shift is underway. Sharon Fanto, vice-president of Cox Media, explains. “Most [advertisers] want to measure how they reach consumers with a metric of impressions rather than simply gross rating points (GRPs). Those impressions are found on multiple screens across multiple devices, which makes sense since consumers are spending more time with video on multiple devices. Our focus has to continue to be making it easier for our clients to reach consumers wherever they are, on whatever device they are using.”

This shift in planning and measurement from GRPs to impressions, cost-per-impression, and ultimately cost-per-conversion (sale) tied to your impressions are what ultimately open the door for effective cross-platform planning. Hopefully, all media reps, planners and buyers are headed in this direction because digital advertising options will drive it.

An impressions-based video strategy can level the playing field in comparing costs for reaching TV viewers in a mass broadcast audience vs. an individually targeted and streamed insertion online. Add to that the efficiency that real-time bidding (the ability to set budget limits on how much you are willing to pay for each individual impression) online can bring, and you have the ability to make your video advertising achieve results that you could never afford in a broadcast-only world.

Your online-to-broadcast mix percentage will vary based on your objectives as well. In Borrell’s words, “TV is the number one medium for branding. No one can touch it.” But if your goal is to drive online engagement, having at least a companion digital video strategy is vital. The Virginia Dental Association, in a statewide campaign that has been running for the past three years, has been able to increase traffic to a targeted page from 200 page views a month to over 500 A DAY by integrating a targeted digital video campaign. That’s how effective it can be.

Bottom lines:

1. If you are a local advertiser whose ad strategy is heavily leveraged in TV, and you are not already consistently and diligently deploying a SIGNIFICANT online video component to your strategy, you are behind the times.

2. If you’re are a local business that has not been able to afford TV advertising because of budget or geographic scope, you could be losing ground to competitors who have learned to geographically and demographically target video messages online to your prospects and customers.

Video advertising is king. It carries more emotion and credibility than any other medium. Consumers will find it wherever they go. More and more, they are going online with devices in hand. Your media mix needs to recognize that.

Outdoor Stands the Test of Time

Outdoor stands the test of time–and technology.pic4

Billboard, the most well known facet of out-of-home (OOH) advertising, has long had a bad rap in Hampton Roads. Many communities have enacted and currently enforce strict signage regulations that severely limit the number of locations and their availability. Still, even with the seismic shifts in media consumption brought on by untethered Internet access, OOH remains an impactful and efficient medium for location-based and brand messaging. As more boards convert to digital signage, the limited space can accommodate more total advertisers in rotation. The future of buying that digital space – in fact, all OOH – will continue to get caught in the wave of technology change that is programmatic planning and buying, but that is a topic for a future conversation.

To get a broader perspective, I reached out to Rob Smithwick, VP of OOH media strategy for EMC Outdoor, to answer a few questions about the comparative state of OOH in our market.

Q: How does Hampton Roads compare with other markets its size relative to billboard saturation?

A: Hampton Roads struggles with billboard coverage in its largest cities: Virginia Beach (containing about one-third of the market’s population), Chesapeake and Hampton. These cities’ laws governing locations are so strict that finding approved and available locations to build on is very difficult.  Many years ago, Virginia Beach created laws to remove all boards through attrition. As time passed, and roads were widened, boards were lost forever.  What good locations do exist in these cities are expensive due to demand. Coverage is “good” in comparison to other markets / cities in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News and Suffolk.

Q: What does the conversion to digital signage look like?

A: The space owners have converted their BEST locations to digital, just like they did when Trivisions were the newest option (mechanical, three-sided, rotating faces).  Those “best” locations provide more advertisers the ability to reach their targeted traffic / demographic by offering up to eight “spots” per complete rotation. Each spot stays up for eight seconds as a national average, in most cases nationally.  Some space owners run six advertisers at 10 seconds each. Both would allow each ad to be seen about once per minute.

Q: What percent of boards are digital?Kathryn Moore, Media Director for Seventh

A: On a percentage basis, the number of digitals may seem low, but keep in mind that the space owners are only converting those boards with the highest client demand and traffic, so their impression counts are good.  In Hampton Roads, about 4% of the total number of boards are digital. That percentage will certainly grow over time.  The cost of the construction and installation of digital faces is coming down with the national demand.

Q: What has that meant to the industry?  What should advertisers expect in terms of cost/exposure with digital v. static boards?

A: Digitals have basically expanded the quantity of “faces” in the best locations. There are no production or installation charges; you can change creative throughout each day, week, 4-week period or day-part, and much more. In my opinion, there are downsides.  You now share that space with other advertisers, so your Impressions are lower than buying a comparable static board, because of the increased number of advertisers. Additionally, the space owners have determined that they can charge a premium for each “turn” on each board.  While it is less than buying its static neighbor, per 4-week period, it is not one-sixth or one-eighth of the rate. If a static face in the same area has a cost of $8,000 per period, one digital turn, with the same traffic, would likely be $4,000 to $5,000 per period.

Q:  Any comment on overall spend – up or down here, and here vs. nationwide?

A: BilWonder what your billboard design wouldlboards in Hampton Roads are about 15% more expensive than other comparable markets, and evenly placed coverage is a struggle. You have to buy a little deeper (or more boards) to achieve your TRPs.  That is why we offer alternatives like trucksides, gas pump tops and transit in Hampton Roads, and other markets with similar challenges.

Q: Anything different about outdoor here that advertisers, big or small, need to know and be aware of in planning their advertising?

A: There are good billboard opportunities to be found.  Like most businesses, occupancy drives rate, so checking on availability often, buying at the right time and finding the best locations to reach your target audience is key. Don’t buy boards that you, your family and friends see.  Buy boards that your POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS see. Keep your target in mind.  Leave your ego out of advertising. Again, considering other Outdoor Media options may be helpful, and there are many in Hampton Roads.  Most advertisers stop at Billboards.

 

Bottom line, as a part of an integrated strategy, OOH is a traditional medium that bears strong consideration in your media mix. Digital conversions should continue to help provide inventory relief. While not comprehensive, these maps will give you a good feel for locations across the market.

Hampton Roads Poster Map-EMC

Hampton Roads Digital Map-EMCHampton Roads Bulletin Map-EMC(1)

The Technology Is Pretty Simple

 It’s the Stuff That’s Complicated

Just ask a digital media buyer.Chevy Guy

Technology and stuff sure make us marketing executives sweat. The whole world found that out firsthand when Chevy’s Rikk Wilde crashed the MVP party with his now-famous #technologyandstuff description of Madison Bumgarner’s new Chevy truck. And of course it wasn’t the technology or the stuff that had Wilde beading up with sweat, it was the national stage.

But the Chevy exec and lifelong baseball fan drew national attention to a big topic, one the digital advertising and media world grapples with daily: finding a way to make high-tech advancements simple enough for everyone, even really high-powered people like marketing execs, to understand.

In local market advertising, even a fairly big local market like Hampton Roads, VA, advertisers grapple with the question of how, when and where to shift marketing dollars into digital media, and how to know when that strategy is working. While pay-per-click advertising can be pretty straightforward if the consumer is properly motivated to click, digital display advertising has fallen out of favor. Measuring response has been difficult, primarily because of the way it has been bought and tracked.

Enter #technologyandstuff.

The highest-tech, most cutting-edge system and tool within digital media buying is a sophisticated system called a Demand Side Platform (DSP), which allows an operator to buy media programmatically and bid on digital advertising inventory in real time.

Whew. See? Sweat beads.

You can read a great blog describing some of the DETAILS of the stuff that makes up programmatic buying here, but let me tell you that what the technology does is make sure that the advertiser’s ad only shows up when a targeted customer is actually surfing. And the advertiser only pays what he or she has bid for that targeted customer. And then all this stuff measures what is working best, and the buyer tells the technology to do more of that. The same stuff measures what is not working so well, and the buyer tells the technology not to do so much of that.

While I don’t exactly expect you to follow all of that particular technology and stuff explanation, I can tell you that as an advertiser you should gain an understanding of programmatic buying.

In one form or another, it will become the way advertising is bought and sold going forward.

It is automated advertising buying compared to manual buying, and it will drive the efficiency and measurability among all types of advertising. And that includes traditional forms like broadcast and cable, outdoor and print.

Even some of largest local advertisers will admit that, although they have a very diverse media mix and an ongoing focus in driving social as well as real-life connections to their brand, the plans are not very well coordinated, and they lack the ability to measure how effectively their digital advertising is working. Technology is going to continue to open up more media mix opportunities. Find someone to help you understand the stuff, and you’ve got the secret ingredient to make it work.

 

Will Your Customers Unlock the Door?

There are 728,800 potential problems every day in Hampton Roads.

Market a message of trust and deliver on it.

A man at your door with a van in your driveway. If you’re the consumer, as a marketer I know two things about you for sure: 1) you have a problem, and
creepy Guy With Shirt2) the biggest decision you will make is whether or not you are willing to open the door. If you’re a marketer in the home services category, everything involved with your marketing strategy and your advertising campaign has to deal with these two fundamental precepts.

The sheer amount of advertising weight aimed at this category would seem to indicate that a huge chunk of the 1.5 million adults living in 728,800 households across Hampton Roads must have a problem every day. The most popular broadcast-media dayparts in particular are chock full of HVAC, plumbing, pest control, kitchen remodeling, carpet cleaning (name your favorite problem) spots every day.

A man (OK, could well be a woman…I didn’t create the category name) at your door with a van in your driveway. Really, by the time the van is in your driveway, you’re most likely going to open the door. The decision was essentially made prior to or during the phone call you made to the company. According to Bill Day (@Bill_Day_) with consumer research company Frank N. Magid Associates, whether you will be comfortable opening the door and letting this company, or person, in your house is the first and most emotional decision you will make. The marketer and the business owner must project and establish a level of trust. When the consumer has a problem, he or she will make a decision to invite that company to his or her home based on an existing perception of trust for the company or brand.

That relationship, an urgent response based on brand perception, is at the core of why a company like Michael and Son, one of our market’s most persistent promoters, spends so heavily and so consistently. I talked with Eiman Bassam, founder of ESB Advertising based in Northern Virginia, and agency of record for Michael and Son. “We don’t know when someone will need us, so we have to stay top of mind,” Bassam said. For that reason, it doesn’t do any good for the company to focus on specials or sales.

“Price,” Day said, “is one of the least effective tactics for convincing consumers.” Magid’s Advertising Performance Research — a series of dozens of local studies done on markets from coast to coast with local consumers — bears out the most important attributes of advertising for this category:

What you say.

How you say it.

Where you say it.

“And production quality counts,” Day added. “Being your company’s own TV spokesperson is not for everyone.” Without naming names, I believe we have some in our market that could be putting themselves at a disadvantage on this point. It’s not hard to test commercials in a focus-group setting.


What you say, and how you say it.

Make no mistake, this is a business category driven by marketing. Think of 728,800 households with potential problems; the best marketer is going to win here. For a company that’s not based here and has only been operating here for about three years, I believe Bassam and Michael and Son have a winning formula. Maybe you didn’t know that Michael and Son isn’t locally owned. That “and Son” in the name makes it sound small-biz and local-yocal. The brand imagery and truck design is not over the top, and the advertising is well produced for the category but not expensive in look or feel. And even a highly recognizable voice talent, unique in sound, conjures an image of a helpful office person as opposed to a professional announcer. “Absolutely that’s on purpose,” Bassam said when I asked. “We have to look local from afar. When 70% of the decision-makers are women, we know we have to be trustworthy.” And consider the jingle/slogan, “If you can’t, we can.” Well at least they give me credit for trying.

Where you say it.

The most recognizable and the largest service-industry companies are fairly visible in traditional channels: @123bugfree, @MichaelandSon, @OneHourVirginia, @RSAndrewsinc, @VB_Plumbing (Atomic), and others. And most in the category spend a considerable amount on search marketing, which is necessary. But 2015 marks the point when advertisers will be spending more in online video and display marketing than search due to the advanced-targeting capabilities that behavioral data-tracking, ad exchanges and real-time bidding bring.

If you own or operate a business in this category, you should be considering what a more profound digital strategy could do. TV works well aDigital Advertisingnd will continue to work well in driving brand awareness. Not all players in this category can afford TV, but those who do should be looking to align their messages across all screens — TV, PC, tablet, and mobile. New data and technology advancements make that very possible and effective. If your budget doesn’t place you on TV, it’s even more important that you learn about new online-targeting tactics that can raise visibility of your brand. These advancements make it more efficient than ever to be top of mind for the right target.

So will the consumer unlock the door? It’s a matter of trust. Trust in you, and in what, how, and when you say it. And it all makes the assumption that the man (or the woman) at the door doesn’t look like Freddy Krueger.

If you have questions about anything in this article, feel free to post or contact me at jdelatte@seventhpoint.com

Let’s Make Good Things Happen

Helping United Way connect with young, impassioned and socially savvy citizens.

United Way South Hampton Roads

I’m beginning to despise the term “Millennial.” Members of this generation have been cast as spoiled and self-centered.

In truth, the Millennial generation is a hardworking and passionate group, very committed to their personal causes and more than willing to participate and belong, if you communicate and engage in ways that are relevant to them. At the same time, this group is living with high student debt in a world of salary caps and escalating costs of things like health insurance. They want and need control over their time and treasure when it comes to charitable giving.

With roots dating back to 1923, the United Way of South Hampton Roads (UWSHR) has staying power. Its army of staff members, donors, and volunteers works with companies and agencies to “help solve problems too big for any of us to solve alone.” But, as with most non-profits, connecting with and engaging the younger (call it the future) generation of donors is a challenge.

For the past four months, my colleagues and I have been working with UWSHR to tackle the challenge of building a communication strategy that reaches this group and tells the United Way story through channels and in ways that connect.

A study conducted by Achieve and the Case Foundation and published by Stanford found four key insights about how this generation of Americans connects, gets involved, and gives.

  1. Millennial preferences are becoming more than just preferences; they’re becoming the norm for all donors. The Millennial style of communication involves authentic stories and visual presentations that are concise, mobile-friendly, and delivered online via social media and video platforms.
  2. Organizations must invest time and resources into helping Millennials feel and experience the cause. Millennials are consistent in their desire to see exactly how time, talent, and dollars translate into people helped. They want their contributions—no matter what type or amount—to achieve actual results for a cause.
  3. Organizations must inspire Millennials to work through and with their cause, rather than for their organization. Ultimately, they want to lend their knowledge, expertise, and time to help the people or issues the organization touches—not necessarily the organization itself.
  4. Millennials can be an organization’s secret weapon when it comes to spreading the word about a cause or issue. Tools such as social media and peer fundraising put cause-marketing departments in the hands of this group. Because they’re aggressively taking on this unofficial marketing role, they are contributing to grassroots-oriented movements.

Working through this initiative meant taking stock of current usage of social platforms. Three critical planning elements emerged here:

1) Be sure to utilize the platform or outlet to deliver the type of content (visual, connective, responsive) that is most relevant to that audience.

2) Deliberately plan outbound messaging to communicate events and successes, stay engaged, and encourage volunteers to engage during live events.

3) Monitor messaging to engage and reward those who spread the word of the organization’s initiatives.

To help all of this happen, UWSHR now has a social media strategy map and plan, an event plan to give its annual Day of Caring (#dayofcaring)

United Way Viral Video

Take look at the humorous side of giving.

a large social footprint, and, from the fun side, a series of tongue-in-check online-only (read “viral” here) videos that take its “Good Things Happen When You Give” campaign way over the top. All of this content gets shared and circulated via social channels to help connect and inform younger, more digitally savvy donors and volunteers, and you can find some of it on the UWSHR Facebook page, their YouTube Channel, or on their website at unitedwayshr.org.

The role of UWSHR is to “bring people and organizations together to solve problems too big for us to solve as individuals.” The challenge of connecting Hampton Roads’ passionate Millennial givers and volunteers with a mission as critical and impactful as that of United Way is a cause we can all engage in. Forward this note and like United Way wherever you are!

Read more about the United Way/Seventh Point partnership here.

 

Creating Demand

 How to gross people out and keep mattresses moving in Hampton Roads

I’ve often wondered just how many mattress stores a town needs. Seems more and more like mattress stores in Hampton Roads are competing with Starbucks and 7-Eleven for the title of “most stores per capita.”

Mattress Firm, which bought the locally owned Mattress Discounters stores in 2010, now lists 28 stores across the metro area and nearly 1,500 across the US. Sleepy’s took the market by storm starting in 2011 and now lists 21 stores across the DMA. The firm, which has over 900 stores, mostly in the northeast, purchased the Mattress Discounters chain (separate from the locally owned company) from RoomStore in 2012.Advertising with fear

Add to that a half-dozen Original Mattress Factory stores and large and small furniture retailers along with several other outlets and you’ve got a mattress dealer on every corner. So what drives all of this demand?

If you’re Mattress Firm, you don’t wait around until people are ready to buy. You create the demand. You tell them when and why they should buy their next mattress, even if the message gets a little scary, creepy or gross.

The execution of “Replace Every Eight” is the Mattress Firmperfect example of creating FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in the marketplace and stimulating sales. People who buy a mattress with a 10- or 15-year guarantee expect the mattress to last that long, but hit them with a message that says your mattress is soaked in “gallons of sweat, pounds of dead skin and millions of dust mites” and they might just replace their mattress sooner. Eeeww.

Most mattress advertising centers around getting a better night’s sleep, which is the top reason people replace their mattress, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Consumer Reports recommends changing every five to 10 years, and The Better Sleep Council (BSC) says every five to seven years. So replacing a mattress every eight years, as a benchmark, probably isn’t so far-fetched. But now I’m only worried about sleeping better (the number one reason the BSC says five to seven years). Mattress Firm’s creative team found the happy middle ground to capitalize on a great (no pun intended) alliteration opportunity. All that gross stuff will accumulate(8), so don’t procrastinate(8). Cute and clever.

But scary. Scary is motivation. It carries across media channels, it sticks in your brain: eight years’ worth of dust mites crawling around chewing on pounds of … well, you get the picture. FUD is a powerful, effective advertising tool (no product does this better than mouthwash). In many cases it’s based on fiction, not science or reality. So good for Mattress Firm in this case to at least have some real advocates to lean on.

TV Advertsing Postage Stamp

Hampton Roads–Is your TV advertising losing its edge(s)?

Make sure your spots are running as you expect.

Quick disclaimer: This is one of those posts with the true intention of helping all parties. High definition TVs have become mainstream, but merging all of the technologies involved means that sometimes commercials aren’t running as designed. Everyone involved wants the best result every time. More eyes, and more awareness will help.

Read on.

Here’s the quick math from Nielsen: 718,930 TV Households in Hampton Roads. Around 75% of those households have at least one TV that’s high-definition enabled (widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio), and 77% subscribe to some type of HD subscription service (cable, satellite, Netflix, Chromecast, etc.). So if you’re a TV advertiser, the vast majority of households are watching your commercials in HD on a widescreen format.

TV Advertising Full Screen

Here’s the view when your image fills the HD screen.

But are your spots always filling the screen? Are you using the full real estate your spot was produced to fill?

According to some of the market’s most prolific videographers and producers, nearly ALL the video produced for commercial TV for the past several years has been shot in HD and produced in widescreen format for HDTV. Yet I find it amazing the number of spots that appear on HD channels that are either “clipped” on both sides, reducing the image to the smaller, standard definition (SD, 4:3 aspect ratio) image, or reduced in all directions, creating a “postage stamp” impact with a black frame all the way around.

Why does it happen? How do you avoid it? How can you make sure it doesn’t happen to you? Well, the bottom line is the only practical way to really know it’s NOT happening is to keep a human eye on your spot schedule as it runs.

Because cable and satellite providers still carry some channels in SD at the old 4:3 aspect ratio, advertisers either need to provide a version of their commercials that have been edited down to the SD width, or allow the broadcaster/cable

TV Advertising Center Cut

Image “Center Cut” to fit the 4:3, standard definition screen.

system to shrink the entire image to fit, which results in the “letterbox” black bars at the top and bottom of the image. Since some programs, and even some ads, run intentionally this way, you may well be conditioned to not even notice.

According to Mark Johnson, Chief Engineer at WAVY-TV, the problem can happen a couple of different ways. 1) Since all

commercials are digital files, they must be uploaded, labeled and encoded properly by the advertiser, production house, or agency. Then the directions or “tags” need to be accurate as to which version of which spot runs where. 2) The proper spots must be loaded into the commercial insertion systems with the proper directions. When a system finds a mis-match it defaults to “fill” the screen, top or bottom, with those black bars that, to me, symbolize wasted screen space and wasted ad dollars. The other factor that can affect how spots (and programs) look on air is actually how the viewer has his/her own screen formatted, which none of us can really control.

“All of the spots are looked at before they go on air” said Johnson, “but we can’t always tell how the advertiser intended the spot to look.” Cutch Armstrong, Director of Marketing and Client Solutions at Cox Media Virginia, says that each spot is uploaded to the Cox system in Atlanta and viewed by technicians before airing. With both Cox and WAVY, as well as most video providers, the file upload process goes through servers located centrally (national or regional locations) and are added to the schedule through an automated process.

TV Advertsing Postage Stamp

“Postage Stamped.” Full 16:9 frame, but reduced to fit the 4:3 width.

The bottom line is, if a spot is running counter to how the advertiser expects, the first time anyone notices may be when the spot runs live.

Armstrong says it best, “Everyone wants the best possible result. They want their stuff to run perfectly every time.” But the systems can create difficulties. “Cable systems and broadcast networks require certain ‘codecs’ [file types] in order to be compliant with the diverse format standards set by the networks.” Most stations or outlets post the requirements and codecs on their websites and can tell when a file is uploaded improperly (Armstrong sent me an 11-page document, as well as a one-sheeter that Cox Media uses.)

So preventing it comes down, quite simply, to attention to detail. The computer systems do not malfunction; they respond to incorrect inputs and the result is painful. Spots have to be produced, labeled, trafficked, scheduled and inserted properly. I’ve resisted the temptation to add actual examples to this post, because this is not intended to be a finger-pointing exercise. It does happen often, and if you want examples email me at jdelatte@seventhpoint.com.

The only way you know it happens is if you see the spot run. I guarantee, if it happens the broadcaster or operator wants to know. Cox (who also handles commercial insertion for Verizon in Hampton Roads) has set up a specific inbox, VAStopClipping@cox.com, for customers to notify the operator of any problems. We’ve actually created systems to monitor and spot check schedules for clients. It is possible to receive actual air-checks of every spot that runs from third-party services such as Kantar Media or Media Monitors, but the cost could obliterate the ROI of your campaign. Instead, have someone set up spot checks of your schedule on various channels using a DVR, then scan the spot breaks and verify that the spots are running correctly.

Of course human error happens, and a spot that runs in the wrong aspect ratio is not a wasted spot. But until HD formats completely replace SD and until one universal codec becomes standard, the potential problem will exist, and as an advertiser you want to maximize every inch of the screen.