Will digital content (at last) replace TV? Yes, but no.

Pedro Jesús González

14 September 2023

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Almost 10 years ago, I started thinking about how digital content coexisted with TV consumption and how we could measure it.  For years, both grew steadily, mainly at the expense of time spent on other activities (I recently read, for example, that we spend less and less time thinking).

However, all the evidence points out that we have reached the point of no return:

  • Digital content creation keeps growing. The population pyramid has a big impact on this, as younger generations create content adapted to social media codes, characterised by being more concise, quickly consumable and natural. 
  • Consumption of digital content is on the rise, both in terms of social networking and video games, which at 8 hours per week is double that of TV.
  • The average consumption of TV is at a historical low, felling below 50% in July for the first time.


Let’s talk about TV: Who watches? How much is invested?

Let’s dive into the TV consumer habits. Beyond the averages, it is possible to draw more significant conclusions about TV consumption in our country by looking at the details. For example, the US market for streaming video keeps growing, which may be attributed to the widespread adoption of digital connectivity that took place as audiences dove into new content options in mid-2020 to stay occupied as the COVID-19 pandemic set in.


Perhaps the most interesting data, however, is the demographic. Although this is a simplification of reality and there will of course be exceptions, adults around their fifties made up a majority (51.5%) of TV households in the third quarter of 2022, suggesting that younger generations prefer different types of content. However, baby boomers are a more tech-savvy generation than previously thought. At Good Rebels, we have been studying their habits for years and have uncovered their great potential in the digital world.


Currently, data shows that the global market for digital investments is anticipated to increase by 13.62% (2023-2027), reaching a market volume of €5.05 trillion in 2027. This contrasts with the situation of radio, which over the last decade has received investment far in excess of its time of use.  For its part, investment in TV remains stable to slightly declining, as it continues to enjoy positive inertia.


AI, digital ads and the boom of automation. 

I launched my first Facebook Ads campaign in June 2011. Those were different times: micro-targeting, bidding, pay-per-target… It was all about tailoring messages and ads to specific platforms. A reality that is practically non-existent today and that, with a few exceptions, no longer pays off.  “Let the AI decide for you“, I remember hearing, back in 2017. 

But, why this paradigm shift? Firstly, there are thousands of variables that Meta or Google know about users that are non segmentation options: if you click here and log in, you might be surprised. Secondly, Meta and Google have long assumed that they have infinite ad inventory (time spent per active users). 

In other words, ad platforms no longer need us to give them detailed segmentation: 72.3% of digital advertising is already automated (and growing), and most of the time we just tell them what we want to achieve and give them some creativity to work their magic with. Prominent examples include Google’s Performance Max and Meta’s Advantage+, which can adjust creative in real time. 

This means that digital advertising will increasingly become a “black box” that won’t give us solid insights based on a “test and learn” approach: everything will depend on the algorithm’s decision at a specific moment in time, the conditions of which will not be repeated.

Thus, it seems that there is not much future for segmentations, formats, placements or bidding decisions. Nor for creative, which will be done in an almost automated way using tools outside the social network, creating a constant flow that feeds the algorithm and allows it to test different formats. 

Paradoxically, AI has made digital ad buying look more like TV.  The main difference is that in the case of television, the system does not optimise, and in the case of digital ads, it does so constantly and almost autonomously.


Measurement and brand recognition.

At the beginning of 2023, A3Media Group announced that it would start charging for advertising on a CPM (cost per mille) basis, which, incidentally, was a missed opportunity to respond with a “welcome to the internet” banner. 

The main problem here is that we are comparing apples and oranges. Yes, we consume more digital content than TV content. But a TV impression is very different from a digital ad impression, because user attention and content saturation couldn’t be more different. 

As a result, only between 5% and 20% of digital brand recall campaigns deliver results 48 hours after an ad is seen. 

Despite this, social is the second most effective channel for brand recall among our clients.  Maybe this is an indicator that we should stop working with impressions in the digital landscape and start looking at metrics related to brand recall.


A brief conclusion.

In my opinion, the future (which is already the present) is to continue working on the integration of measurement systems, the industrialisation of the production of pieces through AI, creativity and true engagement at a relational level (and not so much at a visual level), and trust – there is no other way – in the algorithms of large digital platforms

You might think that this means giving up part of the value proposition of most brands. But while I personally agree, it is also true that more and more people prefer to let algorithms make decisions for them

So brands that were once built to generate preference on a shelf (or similar), and for which an impression was synonymous with a certain level of attention, will have to adapt to a context of oversaturation and evolve to capture the attention of users in a feed. And this necessarily involves a brand-building strategy based on micro-moments, from the bottom up and not the other way around.

How do you achieve this? At Good Rebels, we have been anticipating the evolution of digital media for more than a decade, accompanying brands on their journey through social networks with a comprehensive perspective on digital marketing. We know the medium and we know the challenges. If you’re looking for a way forward for your digital strategy, we’re here for you!