In an uncertain 2023, are broadcasters forgetting creative selling?

Written by
Alex Persky-Stern
Published on
January 30, 2023

Broadcasters are facing an uncertain 2023. Streaming competition, declining ad revenue and a looming recession have converged to create a particularly tough macroeconomic environment.

The industry has already begun to brace itself for the road ahead. December 2022 saw a wave of layoffs and hiring freezes. Brand names like NBCUniversal and Vice Media plan to slash spending through 2023. Across the board, even the most bullish management teams are setting themselves up to do more with less. 

The news hasn’t been exclusively bad. Among the painful restructurings and downsizings, we are also seeing smart and strategic moves to adapt through strategic innovation. FAST channels are on the rise, and providers are moving away from SVOD to a more fiscally robust AVOD approach. There is a major focus on addressable TV and harnessing data analytics to offer advertising partners an edge in targeting and performance insights. 

Despite this, many broadcasters have seemingly overlooked the need to significantly sharpen operations in one surprising area: the sale itself. This feels like a miscalculation. Even the most streamlined and effective media operation won’t have much luck if they can’t get the attention of potential partners. 

There is little doubt that many of these operations have established robust and well-oiled sales pipelines with the value propositions and talking points to match. However, In 2023, it’s smart to assume that having a robust offering won't be enough. Media providers need to be ready to differentiate to earn advertiser dollars by showing how they create value for the advertiser, and quickly. In a sea of similar pitches competing for heavily-taxed attention spans, there’s no such thing as too short or too compelling.

One unexpected tactic has been emerging as a potent differentiator: spec spots. 

A spec spot is a 15 to 30 second “sample commercial” that gives a prospect an idea of what an ad could look like. In radio, spec spots have long been used as a sales asset. Until relatively recently, it wasn’t logistically feasible to bring them to video-based sales. 

However, with advances in technology, it’s possible to make lightweight commercials at scale for every prospect - and it has found a foothold in the modern environment.  Sample commercials in sales pitches give advertisers the chance to visualize their ad campaigns, experience the value of TV advertising, and incentivize them to opt for that channel. The representatives that use spec spots report requests for edits to the spec spot itself (which keeps the conversation going), increased buy-in from clients, and stronger relationships based on the more proactive creative-first approach. 

There is no single measure that will “2023-proof” media. Success in the industry will be hard won through a combination of disciplined financial management, smart maneuvers, and likely some good luck. Selling with spec spots is not a panacea, but it is a powerful tool at a time when that will be needed more than ever. Through creative sales, traditional broadcasters can show prospects the potential reach and impact of their ads, differentiate from competitors, and build trust and credibility when it matters most. 


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