Mention the three letters – CNN – to a shopper in a mall or a CEO in a boardroom, and people will instantly think of TV news. I may be relatively new to the company, but even with my 19 years’ experience in the industry, what strikes me about CNN is that we don’t just talk about TV any more – not to viewers, not to our advertisers and not amongst ourselves. Pan-regional TV such as CNN International is a key component of a cross-platform sell – not a medium in isolation.
This is particularly evident in the Middle East where cross-platform – as opposed to TV-only – represents the vast majority of our advertising deals as companies turn to us as their media partner. Similarly, in media consumption terms, a company that supplements linear programming with digital, social and shareable content is more likely to become a news brand of choice. No media company can afford to ignore this trend; particularly pan-regional media, which rely on an unrivaled scale of extensive, reach figures.
This premise is at the very forefront of the latest EMS (Eurpoean Media and Marketing survey) from Ipsos on media consumption, which amongst other trends, shows that the Middle East is amongst the most digitally plugged-in regions in the world. According to the survey, 80 percent of the affluent population in the region own a tablet, a smartphone and a computer – far higher than the 28 percent of European affluents who Ipsos tracked as using “three screens”.
Add to this that 92 percent of all of the Middle East’s affluent population watch international TV channels every month, and it’s clear that with more devices in their hands, people are seeking out content irrespective of the platform. Consumers are focused on quality and distinctive content, the associated brand, and the interactive and shareable elements within it – and it’s the job of media to deliver what people want regardless of the platform on which it is served.
Digitizing pan-regional media
Looking behind the numbers, consumers are going to digital platforms for more than just convenience; often for a rich experience that complements linear TV elements. Whether it’s a more in-depth infographic or a shareable piece of video, there is an upward trend for digital right across pan-regional media.
It’s usually said that advertisers follow the audiences, but brand partners want integrated solutions for more than just eyeballs. Proprietary research at CNN across more than 140 campaigns shows that when an advertiser invests in a digital and linear campaign there’s a 20 percent uplift in prompted brand awareness and a five percent uplift in purchase intent.
This engagement becomes turbo-charged when the content is shared. A CNN study titled: Power of News and Recommendation found that there’s a strong emotional engagement for both the recommender and the person receiving the recommended content. This is where social platforms from LinkedIn to Facebook augment the affiliation that consumers have with a particularly distinct piece of content and deliver a halo effect for advertising partners, with our study showing that advertising within news content recommended by a friend is five times more engaging.
While TV continues to deliver reach, the role of digital is ever expanding to provide more granular targeting, to increase engagement and further enhance user experience.
Since 2009 we’ve seen a shift of spend, particularly amongst luxury goods, away from print towards TV as advertisers look for greater scale to build brands and reach new audiences on a pan-regional and global scale. Fear amongst TV companies that a similar shift would take place from pan-regional TV towards digital has given way to optimism and enthusiasm as we embrace a platform agnostic strategy.
In fact, digital elements add significant value to TV-led – but increasingly integrated – campaigns that sponsors invest in. For instance, the Qatar Foundation saw its sponsorship of Inside the Middle East, a 30-minute monthly feature on CNN, generate high levels of engagement with 88,000 Facebook likes and 1.8m page views for a special piece on the plans to build the world’s tallest tower – the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah – while another report on putting Egyptian mummies through a CT scan garnered over half a million page views.
In cases like this, the buzz around the content becomes the buzz around the associated brand.
This consumer and advertiser demand for integration, content and engagement will accelerate as uptake of connected and mobile devices increases and consumers become more used to receiving a recommendation via social platforms than any other means. The challenge for the big media brands is how to keep ahead of the curve on matching trends in media consumption with the needs of advertisers to deliver the cut-through in a cluttered landscape.
While media owners and the Middle East’s premium advertisers pore over the latest EMS figures, in reality the capacity of media owners to respond effectively to expectations for integration, content and engagement whilst still delivering reach will determine which pan-regional media will thrive in a world where social and digital platforms are a vital addition to the sheer scale of TV.