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4 Critical Capabilities for Indie Agencies Adding TV

A version of this article was originally featured on AdAge.

Saying that the media world is in a state of upheaval is an understatement. The pandemic accelerated an already brisk rate of innovation as consumers found new ways to spend their time with TV and other media. Four years later, we’re seeing the impact of those changes across the advertising ecosystem.

As media changes, so do advertisers’ needs, and brands still rightfully turn to their agencies to guide them through the present and into the future. The challenge, of course, is that agencies need to simultaneously master the present and innovate for what comes next. 

This is hard even for major holding companies with massive R&D budgets and in-house cross-channel experts. For the independent boutique agency, innovation and future-proofing the business are necessary for survival. 

A critical juncture

Despite asserting and maintaining their value, agencies face a rapidly changing advertising industry. Cookie deprecation is upending the traditional method of buying digital programmatic advertising. Even with another postponement of Google’s plans, change is coming eventually. Agencies that built their business by helping mid-tier clients leverage programmatic need to build new strategies and solutions.

Another major force is the continuing growth of convergent TV. Consumers are spending less time with linear TV and instead choosing to access TV content via an internet connection. For most viewers, this includes a mix of subscription streams, ad-supported video on demand, and FAST channels. As a result, ad spending on connected TV will top $30 billion this year.

Embracing a New TV Era

While these forces might cause concern for boutique agencies, they paint a very clear path forward. It is the agencies' job to do the best they can to navigate the uncertain future of cookies, identifiers, and programmatic display advertising. One way to do that is to help clients find measurable results in a different channel—in this case, TV.

Now, TV advertising has gotten complex, with more and more avenues for putting ads in front of viewers. However, that doesn’t mean TV advertising is out of reach for independent agencies. There are four key areas of focus that can help agencies truly crack into the new TV era and reap the rewards.

  1. Convergent TV While streaming gets all of the attention, there are still plenty of people watching linear TV and seeing the ads. A Convergent TV strategy is an agnostic approach to video consumption. It acknowledges the continued importance of linear TV and the growing aspect of streaming, connected TV, and online video. Remember, linear also includes the three vMVPDs, YouTube, Hulu, and Sling, which have more than 10 million subscribers combined.

  2. AI Rather than indulge in pearl clutching about potentially lost agency jobs, AI should be seen as a critical tool for boutique agencies to level up and compete with larger holding companies. There’s no better starting place than using AI to help plan, buy, and measure media. This is especially true for agencies that rely on a performance model; using historical data, AI models can generate media plans that will continue to drive outcomes, even across new channels like TV. These more advanced models can blend the kind of direct, private marketplace, and programmatic TV ad buys that will deliver the performance that brand clients expect.

    AI can also assist in developing shoppable or interactive creative. While shoppable TV is not proven yet, agencies should be running trials.

  3. Measurement  Agencies who have built their reputation on helping brands achieve performance across programmatic and social will likely need to offer the same capability on TV as well, which requires measurement. This goes beyond simple Nielsen ratings data and instead looks at true outcomes. Does a TV ad produce a measurable difference in revenue? How does that compare to the budget spent in search, social, and digital display? Agencies need to answer these questions.

  4. Direct media execution In the fairly recent past, holding companies had a monopoly on national TV advertising because they could bring the upfront buys and negotiate the rates. But the rise of viewership opportunities has created more inventory than ever before. The channels that consumers are watching need to fill their ad space, and an influx of viewer data is making it easier than ever to deliver campaigns that perform. Even better, advancements in TV delivery can ensure competitive pricing for agencies, eliminating fears of TV being overly costly. Networks, agencies and brands all benefit from direct publisher integrations that leverage programmatic technology for delivery, even if buys are purchased directly from the platform or publisher. 

Embracing the now

Rather than turning their heads from TV and AI and condensing themselves to programmatic display, search, or social, boutique agencies should spend 2024 busting through the glass ceiling. 

Viewership and ad spend are going to CTV, and will continue to do so into the future. Building a digital-like in-house TV offering allows indie agencies to improve their client retention, mitigating churn, rates by expanding their service offering, and playing to win by participating in more RFPs from brands looking to put together more holistic cross-channel efforts. 

While programmatic may throw a wrench in some agencies' revenue plans, the ability to sell linear and CTV can change the entire landscape. The ability to offer brands access to an emerging channel can put indie agencies on a level playing field with the holding companies, making 2024 an even bigger year in the ad industry.

Mike Fogarty headshot

Mike Fogarty

Coffee obsessed, passionate gamer, father of three, and a rock/metal enthusiast. Oh, and I oversee Agency & Enterprise partnerships at Tatari.


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