Telstra CMO calls for shake-up of TV commercial models

Panel of marketing leaders debate the ongoing value of TV as a media channel as well as finding the balance on digital and data-driven marketing

Joe Pollard
Joe Pollard

Telstra’s CMO says a shake-up of the commercial model for TV is vital if free-to-air providers hope to stay relevant to marketers being lured away by more fashionable digital options.

Speaking on a panel at this week’s ReThinkTV conference in Sydney, Joe Pollard pointed out the commercial model and way TV is sold has not changed in decades, even as digital transforms every other aspect of marketing.

While agreeing TV remains a valuable go-to-market channel, Pollard said TV providers must take a hard look at the way audiences are being aggregated and the types of partnerships and offerings they provide brands.

“In a world of disruption and digital players, the way TV is viewed, the commercial model and everything about it, including the length of TV breaks, have not changed,” she said.

“There is no better group of people producing great content that people want to watch, but the model of how you aggregate those audiences to serve them up to us as advertisers and viewability … that needs to be re-engineered.”

As a marketer, Pollard said her focus is less about channels, and more about “how to reach our audience and know that I have”.

“We know it now with Telstra TV, that the aggregated viewership of the catchup services is bigger than Netflix and YouTube. But I have to buy all that separately and it’s secondary,” she said.

“We don’t necessarily think about whether it’s YouTube or Facebook, it’s about what my sight, sound and motion dollars, and how do I find my audience in the most effective and efficient way. If it came up that it’s 100 per cent on free-to-air, I’d spend all my money on free-to-air. But the actual model needs to be revisited in view of disruption.”

Pollard also said there needs to be more realisation that TV networks are content partners that produce great content distributed on as many platforms as possible. This has been the case with Telstra’s work with Channel Seven around the 2016 Rio Olympics, she said.

Driving content-led partnerships with TV providers is also the focus for Airtasker. The services marketplace provider’s CEO and founder, Tim Fung, said it is doing “spots and dots” with 45-second and 30-second commercials, but that the emphasis is on contextually integrated content. He noted Airtasker’s partnership with Better Homes and Gardens as a key example.

“We have come to a point now where we feel the key thing we do is create relevance by recognising, tangible and contextual,” he said. “That’s critical for us because we need to be showing relevance and creating and educating users on the context where Airtasker sits. It’s an awareness play.”

Digital and data versus TV

Panellists were also asked to comment on the hype around digital versus the value of TV. Fung agreed “it sounds smarter to gee up digital, with all that data and transparency”.

“While all of those things are true, it’s geed up way more than it’s true,” he claimed. “Most companies aren’t so elite that they can absorb and turn all that data into results. We’re data led and we definitely take cues from what the data tells you, but if you’re driving your business on trying to optimise against that metric, you’ll end up not building a very good business.”

Pollard was quick to support the continued “artistry” of marketing, saying it’s just as important, if not more, than the data-driven science.

“If you were to listen to what data told you what to do all the time, I think you’d end up with crap marketing,” she said.

“In the last five years, as the science tools have been elevated, the industry has sometimes forgotten the artistry that goes into developing a great campaign. Where is just knowing it’s right in your gut? Or knowing you’re going to ignore some of what the ROI stuff is telling you because you’re a consumer of media and just know it’s right?

“The data should drive your inputs, the insights, what’s going on with the customer, what’s going on with popular culture and media trends. You then have to craft a fantastic idea, and distribute it very well, enhanced by data.

“That balance of the artist and the data and how it all weaves together and how they interplay and interact is what we focus on. The industry is getting too obsessed with data as the only point.”

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