Brantley Davis Says “TV Here To Stay” In Washington Business Journal

Recently Brantley Davis, president of Brantley Davis Ad Agency, was featured in the Washington Business Journal’s piece “Greater Washington ad executives talk TV trends.”See his thoughts below about the future of media and what’s in and out.

Greater Washington ad executives talk TV trends.

By Carolyn M. Proctor  –  Data Editor, Washington Business Journal
Nov 25, 2022

The number of eyes glued to network television and the number of ears tuned to local radio stations are both shrinking, and have been for some time. It’s clear where those eyes and ears are going, as increasingly more young adults prefer streaming and podcasts to traditional outlets. The majority of seniors, meanwhile, still tune in to the evening TV news, so while the changes are obvious, it’s no clear-cut conclusion that TV and radio are dying.

Who’s keeping closest tabs on these trends? Look no further than ad agencies. It’s their job to know who’s paying attention to which media so they can make sure their ads are targeted to the right audience.

Bearing that in mind, we reached out to some of the region’s advertising executives to learn more about what they’re seeing on this front, and what their strategies are concerning television and radio these days.

What’s changed – and what hasn’t 

It’s tempting to observe these audience changes and reach the conclusion that network TV and radio are phasing out or no longer important — but ad execs would tell you: Not so fast. They both still have a crucial place in media, it’s just more complicated.

“Twenty years ago, media planning was simpler. For mass reach, we bought TV and targeted specific demographics based on TV programming. And if we wanted to target specific audiences more surgically, we chose from various radio formats,” said Brantley Davis, president of Brantley Davis Ad Agency. “But today, media has fractured. As a result, a much higher level of sophistication is required to plan media, not only because of the wide variety of options, but also due to legitimate questions about the efficacy of newer media.”

Davis said he now allocates about 15% to 30% of media budgets to digital and social media when targeting the 25- to 54-year demographic. That’s a big change from 20 years ago, when TV and radio could easily take 100% of those budgets. Cable TV, Davis said, is still going strong, especially news and sports, and broadcast TV isn’t a slouch.

“TV still offers efficient mass reach and delivers proven results for advertisers,” he said. “In the midterm elections, more money was spent on broadcast TV than any other media, again.”

Looking at certain media types as “older” misses the point, as Sarah Spatafora, media director for LMO pointed out.

“It really boils down to where our target audiences are consuming media now and what media types are showing growth among those demographics — and less about how those media types are perceived as older or more analog,” Spatafora said. “Inherently, we know that if we’re strategizing for a campaign aimed to reach older consumers or consumers in more rural communities where broadcast television and radio consumption is high, including TV and radio in that campaign will be crucial,” she said.

Where we’re headed 

“Commercial TV, like radio, will always have a place in the mix. They just no longer are the only ingredients of the mix,” said Matt Smith, CEO of SmithGifford. “Mass media is what’s dead. Having one place to reach everyone is dead.”

Alicia Gehring, vice president of media for White64, said the average adult still spends about six hours a day watching TV — the difference is they’re not only watching TV, but also looking at digital devices at the same time. Attention is just more fractured.

And that, experts acknowledge, makes the job more a challenge.

“We cut the research in multiple ways in order to understand audiences and create a target audience universe,” said Jacqui Hannigan, head of media for RP3 Agency. “We ask: What is our creative message, what is this format and/or programming that might work for our client’s message, and what geography and mindset is our target audience in? Every media channel is a consideration.”

She still sees network TV and traditional radio as the “tried and tested” ways to reach an audience outside of digital media, especially during big events like the Super Bowl, or the local and national morning shows that people of all ages still watch every day.

Gehring said she still looks to TV for “appointment” programming like special events, news and sports — and radio as the first fragmented medium available by frequency. 

“We now look to partner both linear stations with their digital counterparts,” she said. “Radio also provides opportunity for local tie-ins and amplifications with their on-air talent and promotions, heard on either or both linear and digital platforms.”

As for the future, it seems likely we’ll see some consolidation of all these subscription-based video and audio outlets, as networks and streaming services look to centralize their access to consumers “and ultimately take a bigger piece of the advertisers’ media budgets,” Spatafora said.

But for all too many, human nature isn’t likely to change.

“People will continue to turn to their top three to five favorite channels to consume media, video or audio,” Gehring said. “But they will have many to choose from, and we will need to consider that full universe to reach them.”

“This is without a doubt the most exciting time to be in the communication business. It’s full of innovation and creativity. No rules are set. I know this makes many uncomfortable. We are in the business of now.” — Matt Smith, CEO, SmithGifford