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How to reach the ‘screen-neutral’ younger viewer

Video viewing time is robust amongst younger audiences; smart TVs are boosting consumption and this return to bigger screens has positive implications. 

TSW's Associate Director - Digital, Sam Vandermark, explains...

A recent news piece in advertising trade mag Campaign reported that “YouTube viewing on TV doubles in one year”. But what does this really mean in the context of wider viewership and what are the implications for TV advertisers?

The article didn’t mention what the proportion of watch time was last year, so although it may have doubled, it still undoubtedly makes up a relatively small proportion of overall watch time compared to mobile, tablet and desktop which are much more established devices for video consumption.

It’s not that surprising that this method of viewing YouTube is on the increase though. The rise of smart TVs is an inevitable contributing factor to its growing consumption via TV – making the channel much more accessible. But there are unanswered questions around how YouTube ads consumed via TV might have a different (perhaps even greater) impact than those consumed via smaller devices. In the context of rising immersive content such as 360 degree video across social platforms (like Mark Zuckerberg’s baby’s first steps video released on Facebook in panoramic adorableness), it might be that a return to bigger screens will be preferable for some audiences to enjoy these moments in all their glory, which is much more akin to a traditional TV-like experience.

Putting aside hypotheses on why YouTube viewing on TV has doubled, the fact is that TV viewership is fragmenting, particularly amongst the younger audience for whom a screen neutral method of viewing is an integral part of everyday life. Thinkbox’s research on TV viewing figures from 2016 stated;

“16–24s in the UK watched an average of 3 hours, 25 minutes of video a day in 2015, with TV accounting for 57.5% of the total. They watched over twice as much Broadcaster VoD as the average (7% vs. 3%), twice as much YouTube (10.3% vs. 4.4%) and twice as much SVoD (8.7% vs. 4%).”

Essentially younger audiences are spending much more time than the rest of the population consuming video through non-traditional TV, and are doing so on smaller screen devices 38% of the time (compared to 20% for all adults).

Ultimately video viewing time isn’t decreasing, it’s simply that the medium on which this viewing time is spent is diversifying, and there is ongoing cross-pollination of content/platform accessibility. YouTube is continuously being realised as an effective part of this viewing mix by advertisers; its ability to be bought and optimised on a real-time basis makes it an easy platform from which to extend audience reach efficiently. Under the TrueView payment model, advertisers only pay for engaged views, and Google boasts 93% viewability of its ads (40% higher than video across the web).

Agile, screen neutral planning is key 

Millennials are evidently more accustomed to screen neutral consumption, and the rest of the population is quickly following suit. This is why a traditional TV planning approach is no longer agile enough to fulfil advertisers’ needs of reaching the right audience in the right context.

TSW’s AV planning and buying methodology embraces screen neutral audience behaviour, with a similarly neutral budget allocation approach simply designed to maximise clients’ DR and Brand Performance. Notice how we don’t talk about “TV planning and buying” – the fact is that buying TV on its own is becoming irrelevant as an advertising channel.

Campaign’s article also quotes Eileen Naughton, former Google MD for UK and Ireland Operations, who said:

“Brands should be spending 24% of their TV ad budget on YouTube if they want to target 16- to 34-year-olds.”

That might well be true from a reach perspective, but what about performance? 1+ cover and efficiency of buying your audience is key but surely where you place your ad budget (no matter who you’re targeting) depends on how each channel performs in terms of driving the required response from the target audience.

Agile, screen neutral planning is key

TSW’s agile AV approach is underpinned by sophisticated spot level attribution of incremental web response to AV delivery, which includes accurate alignment of all AV channel performance metrics. This allows for neutral and flexible optimisation across both TV and video (AV) channels, meaning budget is placed where it makes most sense for client deliverables. Crucially though this isn’t something determined as part of a client post-campaign analysis, but is driving forward in-campaign optimisation and re-allocation of spend towards results.

TSW places huge emphasis on understanding performance increments gained through a cross-channel AV approach, where our clients have seen the benefit of up to 7% additional reach (and better response) by shifting a proportion of their budget from TV into platforms like YouTube. Along with the industry’s ongoing focus on programmatic TV (through the likes of Sky AdSmart and TubeMogul tech innovations), this makes the need for a truly cross-platform reach and frequency measurement system even more critical for advertisers and agencies. But we’re not entirely there yet.  

In terms of YouTube specifically, as it becomes more widely accessible through channels like TV, Google’s walled gardens of attribution will have to come down to allow for better integration of performance metrics for AV advertisers. Essentially, for effective 1+ cover of your audience, you need to be accessing them across all screens – focusing on one or two means advertisers are missing out on valuable OTS, so planning and optimising across screens is vital to allow brands to keep up with user behaviour.

Call Matthew Pover on +44 (0)1761 234 824, +44 (0)7734 982 478 or email

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