Finding Clarity in a TV Era of Overwhelming Choices

by Bob Ivins, Chief Strategy Officer at TVSquared

If you recall, American psychologist Barry Schwartz famously wrote a book on the paradox of choice. He argued, “eliminating consumer choice can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers”. Can this also hold true for TV, an industry that has more choices than ever for consumers and advertisers alike? Is there a way to make the myriad of choices seem less overwhelming?

My thinking was triggered by something that Kemal Bokhari, GM of Data and Analytics at Dish Media, recently said on a panel at Advertising Week NY. He spoke about the need to be flexible and agnostic about the partners he and his team work with on behalf of advertising customers. In other words, let the brand decide which data sources and identity partners to use. And, to be fair, I’ve traditionally been firmly in this camp. After all, no one wants to say no to the brands that, of course, are bringing the money.

Still, his comments triggered a memory for me, which made me more carefully contemplate the complexities around having, arguably, too many choices—and the possibility of another way. Years ago, I took two of my three children to Hamleys, the renowned toy store in London. The promise for this trip was one toy each (any toy). Naturally, the kids, who were about four and seven years old, respectively, at the time, were thrilled. But what ultimately played out was a nightmare. One child ended up crying because she couldn’t decide, while the other lost out because he ran floor by floor, scouring every inch of the store. Ultimately, neither ended up with a toy; there were just too many options. 

To an extent, I feel we might have a similar conundrum right now in the “data-driven linear TV ad stack”.  Ad sellers, like Kemal, are encouraging brands to make decisions about sourcing segmentation data, matching partners/clean rooms, measurement partners and activation partners, etc. It all could very well be too much. I’m not here to compare the brain development of a child to that of the savvy media buyers we all work with, but maybe we offer too many choices. Maybe we need to make a few commitments, eliminate some of these choices and simplify the process altogether. By doing so, we as an industry would be empowered to optimize the workflow and drive operational efficiencies across the ecosystem. We don’t want to end up in a “that’s it, we are off” situation, where no one goes home with a desired toy.

In his book, Schwartz identifies a strategy for making good decisions:

  1. Identify     the goal/s
  2. Evaluate     the importance of each goal
  3. Identify     the options
  4. Evaluate     how likely each option will achieve the goal
  5. Pick     the winning option
  6. Modify     based on what you learned.


The main goal media buyers airing on TV is, of course, to make sure their ad buys are working as efficiently and effectively as possible, across platforms, by reaching and connecting with audiences who are receptive to their messaging and product. To do this, they need to be armed with the most accurate and transparent data possible and empowered to measure, optimize and attribute buys—whether they’re airing via linear, streaming or a combination of the two.

We all know this by now – it is not rocket science – but in the context of being flexible in an environment dominated by choice, we might consider picking the winners that have the best chance of achieving media buyers’ goals.





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