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September 2020 | by Jessica Nelson
The roll-out of YouTube’s new subscription TV streaming service has caught the eye of digital political consultants, who are spending increasing time and energy focusing on communication with “cord-cutters” — those who do not have TVs or do not subscribe to a pay-TV service.
The number of those cord-cutters is growing, and the trend is accelerating. And practitioners say the opportunity connected with digital TV bundles like YouTube TV — which will allow subscribers to stream the broadcast networks and about 40 other channels for $35 per month — could accelerate major change in political campaigns.
When the service launches in a few months, subscribers watching TV online will see the same advertisements as a regular TV watcher in the same zip code, according to a YouTube spokesperson. However, the company plans to introduce expanded ad opportunities over time.
So at first, the service will expand the size of TV audiences to include some voters previously unreachable on that medium. But eventually, assuming YouTube TV introduces more dynamic digital advertising tools, some operatives believe YouTube’s popularity could turn the online pay-TV service into something of a headquarters for finding cord-cutters and advertising to them individually — another step toward addressable “TV as mail, with targeted ads,” as one consultant put it.
“YouTube’s huge, the second-largest search engine after Google. So if they can piggyback on that the same way Instagram piggybacked on Facebook toward exorbitant growth, they’ll quickly dominate the space,” said Joe Mansour, a Republican digital strategist and partner at FP1 Strategies. “… I think the upside could be that this is going to be a way to more effectively — and at a greater scale — serve advertising to cord-cutters.”
“We can do this now, but the scale is more limited, and the reach here is potentially significantly greater [than on other platforms],” Mansour said.
YouTube TV comes along just after a 2016 election in which digital campaign spending topped over $1.4 billion, according to a Borrell Associates report in Campaigns and Elections. It was a huge increase over 2012, as campaigns have gotten more sophisticated about reaching out to cord-cutters (and the number of those voters grew).
“This will only accelerate the move that already exists from TV to online for advertising,” said Phil Musser, the chairman of IMGE, a Republican digital firm based in Alexandria. “Just as we saw in 2016 for Fortune 500 companies where they spent more on digital ads than broadcast last year for the first time ever.”
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