Advertising to Cord Cutters

According to media research company, SNL Kagan , roughly 10% of cable TV viewers are expected to “cut the cord” by 2015.

As a consumer, I’m probably pretty typical. I’ve kept my cable a long time, but I’m watching fewer of the channels, and realizing that it might be dispensable. Even though broadcast TV has fallen in its ability to generate enormous audiences, it is still the most powerful advertising medium.

Americans spend an average of five hours a day watching TV of all types, including watching recorded programs from their DVR, watching live TV and cable programs, and yes, watching on smart phones and other mobile devices.

I can’t quite give up my local morning news. But I’m definitely moving in the same direction as a lot of these high-tech people who not only don’t have access to cable TV but really don’t miss it. It’s become easier and easier to consider as more and more content becomes available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and other providers. I haven’t signed up with any of those other providers yet, but if I drop my $60 to $75 a month cable bill, it’s not too hard to contemplate adding something less expensive in its place – Hulu Plus is only $7.99 a month.

As an advertising professional, I’m interested in understanding how advertisers can get out in front of their targeted audiences without necessarily relying on the vast reach of ad-supported TV.

How can I put advertising messages in front of this audience as they migrate to platforms where traditional commercials have become scarce? Here are some of the ideas I’ve come across, some of which are only options for the “big players,” companies with large advertising budgets, but will perhaps be more viable as time goes on:

1. Make your commercials so compelling and interesting that people don’t skip them on their DVR – and even seek them out as entertainment

TV commercials for new movies are usually “viewing bait” for typical DVR-skippers. The advertisers with the biggest budgets know you can get a lot of interest in a commercial by offering it up during the Super Bowl or other big TV events.

Many advertisers pre-release some of their notable TV commercials before running them on TV – remember the “Darth Vader” Volkswagen ad? Did you actually see it during the Super Bowl for the first time, or had you already previewed it before the game?

It’s funny to reflect on how many people you hear talking about how they watch the Super Bowl for the ads, not the game. Sometimes the ads are more interesting.

 2. Integrate your product into the programming

I’ve seen a lot of interesting examples of product integration. Sometimes it’s clunky, as in this week’s episode of “Under the Dome,” in which two different characters accessed a Windows 8 tablet or phone with a little more screen time than seemed natural.

Sometimes it’s awesome, as in the scene from “Fallen” when Denzel Washington’s character describes his commitment to Budweiser beer. Strive to be awesome when you do product placement.

3. Go where your customers are

If your primary target market is young men, consider running video ads in GameStop locations  – they have their own video programming network, with a huge concentration of the highly elusive “young men” demographic.

If you market to moms at home, look for websites that cater to that audience and where the audience is likely to watch video content. Understanding the viewing habits of the people you want to reach is key to advertising success.

4. Combine all of these techniques

If you find that your target audience likes specific TV or video programming, hook into their interest by looking for other ways to follow them. There are lots of blogs and discussion groups about TV shows, and you can reinforce your connection to that audience subtly by placing display ads in some of the places they go.

Advertising in the digital age keeps getting more and more complicated. The best marketers know that the best results come from identifying and sticking with the most desirable audience for your messages.