It’s no secret that media consumption has changed drastically in recent decades.

No longer do families gather in front of the television at night to watch a program together. Today, people watch TV on their own devices and on their own schedules.

We also know that mobile video is rapidly on the rise. Cross-platform ad campaigns—those that combine TV and online advertising—get the best results.

Despite audiences’ continued shift toward digital, TV still has a greater reach—and so it gets most of the ad money. In 2013, advertisers spent $78 billion on TV ads, compared to an estimated $5.72 billion in 2014 for online video.

The numbers game says that in order to increase ROI, you must get your ad in front of as many eyes as possible. But the real key isn’t reach or frequency, but relevancy: that is, defining your audience, speaking directly to them, and finding the right way to engage with them.

Why Relevancy Matters Most

In 2010, Old Spice was a brand in decline. Competitors in the body wash market—many of them promoting a personality that was young, hip, and sexy—were gaining ground.

Through research, Old Spice’s ad agency discovered that women were responsible for more than half of all body wash purchases. The result was the enormously popular campaign “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” which captured 75 percent of all conversations in this category.

In addition to several TV commercials, they launched an interactive digital campaign that created personalized videos for fans who had commented on social media sites.

A critical part of the campaign’s success was the ad agency’s research in uncovering the viewing habits of their target audience. They were able to capitalize on existing online behaviors (watching videos on YouTube, for example) rather than create new ones.

“With any young target audience you have to find new and interesting ways to engage with them, and with young men that means digital has to be part of your portfolio,” the account director said in an interview.

In contrast, an ad that reaches a high number of viewers can fall flat if it’s not relevant to the audience.

When 112 Million Viewers Aren’t Impressed

Traditionally, the Super Bowl has been seen as an advertiser’s Holy Grail. For an exorbitant fee ($45 million for 30 seconds in 2015), they’re guaranteed a captive audience (more than 112 million viewers in 2015).

But more isn’t always better, especially if the audience’s state of mind isn’t taken into consideration. Nationwide learned this the hard way with its 2015 Super Bowl ad “Make Safe Happen.”

Critics blasted the company for airing a “downer” during an upbeat national sports event.

Arguably, the message and delivery is similar to some of the most effective social marketing campaigns, such as AT&T’s “It Can Wait” documentary.

But ultimately, Nationwide’s commercial was ineffective. It had high reach, but low relevance.

The Rise of Screen Agnosticism

Many audiences consume media through whatever method is most convenient for them—whether it’s live television, a DVR, or streaming video on their tablet.

They may binge-watch an entire season of a show over a weekend, or they may watch one episode of a web series on their tablet each night before they go to bed.

They may even watch traditional TV, browsing the web on their mobile device during commercials.

It’s called screen agnosticism, and about half of all American viewers are thought to be in this category.

Screen agnosticism has complicated our understanding of the viewing process. It is all the more critical now for marketers and media buyers to focus on research, understanding not only their target audience’s viewing habits, but demographic, contextual, and temporal considerations as well.

Right now, digital’s power to deliver targeted content and track the results is superior to television’s measuring techniques.

But as TV and digital continue to converge, experts say, we’ll eventually be able to directly measure all ads in real-time, including cross-referencing viewing data with online activity and purchases.

Ren Scott Creative examines market research, target audience demographics, and campaign goals to place your ads where they’ll be seen by the right people. Contact us today for a quote.